Drug abuse is the use of any of a wide range of substances in a way that causes problems with your health, relationships, academic work, or other responsibilities. Drugs could be anything from marijuana and prescription medications (e.g., ADHD medications or narcotic painkillers) to methamphetamines, inhalants, steroids, or cocaine. For most drugs it is easy for occasional recreational use to escalate into a bigger problem of physical or psychological dependence. You may be concerned about a friend's use and want to help them avoid developing an addiction or otherwise having drugs negatively affect their life.
Signs that someone may be developing or have a substance abuse problem:
- Regularly using drugs to manage stress or avoid problems.
- Neglecting important areas of life because of substance use or after-effects (e.g., too hung over to attend class; choosing to stay home alone to use drugs rather than hanging out with friends).
- Increasing frequency or amount of substance use.
- Expressing cravings or need for the drug; going to extremes to obtain it.
- Mood swings, hostility, or dangerous and excessively risk-taking behavior.
- Changes in relationships and social withdrawal.
Learn more about the use and abuse of
drugs, including marijuana and prescription medications.
When you first started living together, one of your roommates would occasionally smoke marijuana at social gatherings and only on weekends. As the semester has gone on and he has become overwhelmed with schoolwork and stressors in his personal life you have noticed that he has been smoking more (very often on weeknights) and avoiding going out with friends so he can stay home and smoke by himself. You know his use has had a negative impact on his grades. What do you do?
Make the first move:
- Talk with him about the changes in his behavior and your concern for him.
- Don't be accusatory; focus on your concern about his health and wellbeing.
- Discuss the problem during a time when he is not high so you are more likely to be "heard" and can have a straightforward conversation.
- Listen and find out what else is going on in his life that may make it hard to cope without drugs.
- Encourage him to seek professional help to learn other ways of coping and work to cut back on his substance use.
- Expect him to get angry, defensive or be in denial – it is hard for people to acknowledge that their substance use may have gotten out of control.
- If your friend continues to deny having a problem, do not force the issue. Accept that they may not be ready to change. Try to end the conversation in a way that will allow you to come back to it at a later date.
We express our appreciation to the University of Arizona C.A.T.S. Life Skills Program for allowing us to use modified versions of their STEP UP! Program content in this USI campus initiative.