What to Say to a Friend Who May Be Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

Do you know someone who's addicted to drugs or alcohol? It hits close to home for a lot of people. It's estimated that about half of all Americans know someone who struggles with or has struggled in the past with substance abuse.

Because drug and alcohol abuse changes the way the brain functions (like reduced impulse control and judgement) and can be very complex, your loved one's addiction is not something you should try to stop or control yourself. It's an illness that needs professional treatment (find resources for that below). But if you are concerned for their health and safety, there are things you can say to show support.


Should You Say Something About Their Addiction?

Yes, if you feel comfortable.

Darry McDaniels supports friends speaking up. He had a very public life in the '80s and '90s as a member of Run-DMC. But privately, he struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. He said the people he hung out with encouraged and celebrated his substance use. However, as his substance use increased and worsened, McDaniels told Dr. Oz he really wished those close to him had different reactions.

"You got to acknowledge it and you know that you have to go pull that person out of that situation," McDaniels said. "It's all about saving lives. People need to realize there is a better situation. ... Jack Daniels and Jim Beam — it's not going to help. ... Let's not celebrate addictive or abusive behavior. ... Something's wrong with this picture. We need to realize harmful behaviors."

Watching for these signs and symptoms of addiction may help you decide whether to address behavior you see in your loved one.

Tips for Talking About Their Addiction

Remember that people become addicted to drugs or alcohol for many different reasons — whether it begins as casual use or starts with a medication prescribed by a doctor. And because their brain function is being altered, and they may also be dealing with mental health issues, it can be an extremely difficult process for them to stop. So it's important to focus on

Here are some other things to keep in mind for the conversation:

  • Focus on facts instead of opinions
  • Stay patient and calm
  • Don't yell or get angry
  • Don't judge or criticize
  • Don't expect this one conversation to fix everything
  • Listen
  • Offer resources for help

Resources for Professional Help

There are many places a person can get treatment for addiction, including at home, at the hospital or in a residential facility. Here are just a few groups that can help your loved one find a treatment option that's right for them.

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Use this locator to find state-licensed treatment facilities near them, as well as mental health and opioid-focused treatment.

HelpGuide

This nonprofit offers a look at what to expect when joining an addiction or mental health support group. They also have tons of other user-friendly pages on understanding types of addiction and mental health struggles.

American Addiction Centers

Helps people find treatment programs, hotline numbers, and help paying for treatment.

Here's Dr. Oz's Mom's Regimen for Fighting Her Alzheimer's

Here are the tools she uses to help manage the progression of the disease.

Personal photos courtesy of Dr.Oz

When Dr. Oz found out in September 2019 that his mom, Suna, then 81, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, he was gutted. He wondered how he missed the signs and what he could do next. Like so many caregivers, he had to recognize that his mom was not going to get better. But he also knew that he wasn't alone: There is an Alzheimer's diagnosis every 65 seconds.

Dr. Oz immediately contacted his friends and colleagues and crafted a treatment plan with two of the country's top experts in the field: Richard S. Isaacson, MD, a neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and the founder of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic, and Dr. Rudy Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard and the founder of the "Alzheimer's Genome Project," who co-discovered the first Alzheimer's gene.

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