Posted: 02 December 2011

Looking Out for your Mates – Top 10 Tips when communicating drug or alcohol worries

Recent media speculation around ecstasy deaths in the UK have caused unease amongst its users. Here at GDs we have created tips on how to look out for your mates.

The 2010/2011 MixMag survey identified that half of you have mates whose use of drugs and / or alcohol worries you. Those worries might have to do with what they are like when they are using, the impact upon their relationships with others, their preoccupation with use or the effect on their physical or mental health. What was really good to see was that you often spoke to your mates about your worries and although we cannot be certain what the worries were or exactly what you said to your mates, often your intervention seems to have helped them, while only rarely impacting negatively on your friendship. Mates are in good position to identify, support and motivate change in their friends because mates look out of each other.

The next time you are worried about a mate, Global Drug Survey thinks you should say something. Showing you care is always a good thing and friendship provides a safe place for change to begin.

To help you here are our top 10 tips of how to raise the issue, what to say and when to say it.

1. Before you say anything, remember that how you feel about your mates and what they are doing to themselves and others through their use of drugs or alcohol can influence what you say and how you say it. Being angry, judgmental and derogatory about an issue may discourage them listen to you or take your concerns seriously.

2. Get informed about the drug before you say something

3. When – Try not to raise your concerns in the middle of session or a night out when one or both of you are intoxicated or about to rack up another line. Obviously if you are worried about someone’s immediate safety, then do raise the issue on the spot. Try to pick a time when you are both straight, are somewhere without distraction, are in control of your mood and have enough time to have a conversation.

4. Why – Problems with drugs, if they are spotted early, are often easier to address – just by pulling back, slowing down or taking a break. Trying to do things when someone is depressed, ill or dependent on a drug is harder, so the earlier you think about saying something the easier it will be for someone to change.

5. Where – Don’t start the conversation in a crowded placed or where you are surrounded by other mates, It’s too easy to deflect the issue on to others or to feel like they are being picked on. Maybe pick a time and place when you are engaged in another non-drug related activity e.g sport or over lunch.

6. How – Start by being positive about that person – their qualities, the reason you are mates, your history and how they have looked out for you.

7. What – Express that you are worried, but you are not sure if you need to be. Make sure you focus on behaviours or actions, not the person. For example, reflect back to a recent event or series of events that made you worried and ask for their view. Ask them what they think.

8. Don’t get into arguments about their drug use, yours or others. Everyone is different, some people run into problems earlier or more easily than others. The conversation is about your concerns for them. Don’t expect change to occur over night and if they get angry leave it and come back to it another time.

9. Lead by example. If you are regular drug-using friends you might want to offer to share period of reduced use to support them.

10. End your conversation by saying thank you. Tell them that you only mentioned it because you care and that you can imagine it might not have been easy to listen to. Say you hope if they ever have worries about you they they would say something. Offer to help and support in any way you can.

Dr Adam R Winstock / Dr Luke Mitcheson (Global Drug Survey)

Check out last years survey results here.