Supporting a friend who’s overcoming an addiction

Student support group

University is an exciting experience, but it can also be a challenge. There are many new experiences to enjoy and things to do, but it also means that you’ll be thrust into new situations that you’re unfamiliar with.

That includes meeting new people and making new friends, some of whom might be going through experiences you’ve never encountered, such as recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Drug use is on the rise among young people in the UK, and alcohol can also be a struggle for students who find themselves drawn into an alcohol-fuelled social life. If you’ve never encountered someone with an addiction before, supporting them can feel like a challenge, but there are many ways you can help them and show them that you’re still their friend.

Communicate with your friend

When you first find out that your friend is working to overcome an addiction, it’s important that you talk to them about it. You might want to find out more about what they were taking, or what their triggers are so that you can notice them and help them to avoid a relapse. Talk to them about how long it has been since they drank alcohol or took drugs, so that you can understand more about their personal rehabilitation process.

Help them to find the support they need

Most addicts need professional help to kick their habit, so if your friend isn’t already receiving support then help them to find the option that works best for them. They don’t have to stay at a hospital to get support: there are now many innovative rehabilitation options on the market.

If your friend wants a non-residential rehab solution that they can fit in around their life, then a ‘dayhab’ programme such as Help Me Stop might be the perfect solution for them. The programme is designed to be fitted around studies, work and more, so your friend can overcome their addiction without pausing the rest of their life.

Create temptation-free experiences

Overcoming addiction can be lonely, especially if you’re a student who’s trying to stop drinking alcohol or taking drugs. As such, you should try to organise lots of experiences that don’t involve the risk of alcohol or drugs being present, so that your friend doesn’t feel left out. These experiences might include trips to the cinema, picnics or study groups, for example.

Make their home a safe haven

If someone is recovering from an addiction to alcohol, then it’s important that they don’t live in a space that is filled with temptation. In shared accommodation, it can be hard to get banish signs of every vice from the communal areas, but you should work with your friend and their housemates to ensure that they live in a safe home where they can recover. If they can’t make their existing home safe, then help them to find new accommodation where they can recuperate.

Avoid bad influences

At university, you are likely to encounter fellow students who like a drink or take recreational drugs. If you find that some of your other friends are not supporting your friend and could negatively impact on their recovery, then try to avoid them. This will help your friend to overcome their addiction without being influenced by their peers.

Learn the signs of a relapse

The journey towards recovering from an addiction is unending, meaning that even someone who has been doing well for a long time might eventually regress. As a friend and ally, you should learn about what your friend’s relapses might involve and how you can tell, so that you can get them the help they need, when they need it.

Every person is different, but there are several general signs of a relapse, so learn about these and try to find out your friend’s individual warning signs that things aren’t necessarily going to plan. This will allow you to help them through this experience and support them as they get back onto the road to recovery.

Get their emergency contacts

If your friend has a relapse, or needs urgent help, then you need to have their emergency contacts on hand. Ask your friend for their next of kin’s contact details, and the phone number of their support system, so that you can quickly reach everyone they’d want to be there for them as soon as anything bad happens.

Supporting a friend through an addiction is an ongoing process. This list of tips is by no means exhaustive, but it should hopefully help you to feel less overwhelmed by the situation and give you an insight into what you can do to give your friend the help they need.

Image credit: Vadim Guzhva/

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