I have the opportunity to spend almost every day with teenagers. The teens that I work with are brave, passionate, and loyal. They do everything they can to look out for their friends.
Teens often come to me when they are worried that one of their friends is abusing drugs or alcohol. Many of my clients feel conflicted about whether or not to tell their parents saying, “I don’t want to get them in trouble.” This is a common feeling rooted in a genuine care for the other teen.
When teens trust me with this information I know that they are trying to do what is best for their friend and I suggest a few key things:
Keep Yourself Safe
It is incredibly difficult to help a friend when your physical safety, your emotional safety, or your reputation are in jeopardy. If your friend is participating in risky behaviors it’s okay to hold boundaries with love.You can say something like,
“Because I care about you, I don’t feel comfortable using drugs with you. Let me know when you want to have fun and hang without getting high and I’ll be there.”
Before putting your safety on the line, ask yourself, “Will I be able to help my friend if I am participating in their drug/alcohol use?" It is important to your friend's safety that you are in the right state of mind to get them the support they need.
Your Concerns are Rooted in Love:
Feeling like you are going to “tell on,” your friend is incredibly difficult. It is okay to feel overwhelmed or anxious about whether or not your friend will be angry or upset with you. When you are considering whether or not to ask an adult for help always remember that your concerns are rooted in love and care for your friend. It is brave to ask for help, and you wouldn’t be doing it unless you truly cared for the person you are supporting.
If anyone questions your motives you can always revert back to the phrase of, “Because I care about you, I knew that it was important that I asked for help.”
Bring in Reinforcements:
At the end of the day it is never your responsibility alone to make your friend stop using alcohol or drugs. There are many trained professionals who take joy in helping teens achieve sobriety. If someone you know is struggling, make sure to reach out to a teacher, parent, school counselor or therapist. Making the choice to bring in reinforcements will give you the support and courage to help your friend.
For more information on alcohol or drug use abuse check out the National Institute of Drug Abuse for Teens Page.