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Worried about someone’s drug use

It’s hard to know what to do if you’re worried about someone’s alcohol or other drug use. It’s particularly concerning if you think someone you’re close to is mis-using alcohol and other drugs and not telling you about it.

Experimentation with drugs

Blurred lightsIt’s not uncommon for young people to experiment with alcohol and other drugs. Experimentation may not necessarily lead to problems.

If you’re concerned about someone’s use of alcohol or other drugs it can help to calmly talk to them about your concerns. Engaging them in a confrontational way may only push them away.

Helping someone you think is using drugs

Helping someone who isn’t ready to change their behaviour may be difficult, and the decision for them to get help is ultimately theirs. Sometimes we may get so concerned over someone else’s drug use that we may not be looking after ourselves.

It’s important you keep yourself safe. It may help to talk to someone you trust about what’s going on and how you feel. This can be a family member, teacher, school counsellor or youth worker.

Speaking with an organisation that specialises in drug and alcohol issues and treatment can help you work out how best to approach the issue.

If you approach the person you’re concerned about there are several things to consider before doing so:

Be informed

It’s a good idea to have a general knowledge of some of the reasons for using drugs, the effects and how to use them safely. By doing this you’re more able to stick to the facts. You may want to check alcohol.

Discuss alcohol and other drug issues openly

Let the person you’re concerned about know you’re open to listening to them without being judgmental. This may encourage them to discuss their drug use with you. Asking them what they think about the way the media discusses and portrays drug use may be a helpful conversation starter.

If they know you’re open minded on the issue and have thought about your own use they may be more likely to feel comfortable discussing it with you.

Talk about safer use

Show the person you’re concerned about where they can get information about safer drug use.

What to do if someone says they have a problem

Acknowledging drugs are a problem may be a big step. If someone has come to you saying they have a problem, you may be able to help them by finding out what help is available in your local area. Your GP, counsellor, hospital, community health centre, or youth worker are all people who may be able to help. Look in the Golden Pages for details of these people in your area.

Affected by someone’s drug problem?

Sometimes it’s sensible to seek help and advice yourself if someone’s behaviour, due to an alcohol or other drug problem, is impacting on your life.

You may feel overly anxious or protective of the person with a problem or their behaviour towards you may be threatening or violent. Remember you can seek support and advice for yourself. A counsellor, doctor or youth worker are people who may be able to help you.

More information for information and links to other services.

Narcotics Anonymous –  a non-profit fellowship of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem.

Merchants Quay Ireland – provides a range of services for people affected by drug use and the associated problems of HIV infection, crime, homelessness, unemployment and poverty. Call them on 01 5240160

BeLonG To – Organisation for LGBT young people. The service is the only one of its kind in Ireland and is a first response to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) specific dimensions to drug use. Call them on 01 670 6223 or email

National Drugs Awareness Campaign –  provides advice, guidance and information on a wide range of issues relating to drugs.

Drug Treatment Centre Board – the longest established treatment service in Ireland. Call them on 01 6488600 or email

This article was last reviewed on 15 March 2017

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