Starting the conversation about substance abuse.

Many young people try drinking or drugs to experiment, have a good time, or even treat an existing medical condition. But regardless of why they’re used, substances can become addictive and dangerous. As a young person, alcohol and drugs affect your brain development, and you’re more likely to develop an addiction quicker than an adult.

If you’re concerned about your substance use, now is the time to do something about it—before the habit gets worse. The longer you wait to address the issue, the more likely you’ll experience long-term damage or risk getting into trouble. Talking to just one trusted person is a simple way to start understanding what you’re going through and getting the help you deserve.

Warning signs of substance abuse.


Even if your friends drink, use the same drugs, or a doctor prescribed you the pills, addiction is a serious problem. The sooner you recognize the signs of addiction, the sooner you can get treatment.

Ask yourself the following questions, and check the ones you say “yes” to. If you check even a few of them, then it’s a good idea to talk to someone.

How to find the right person to talk to.

No matter how alone or isolated you feel, there is always someone that is ready and willing to help. If you don’t feel ready to talk to a substance abuse professional, that’s perfectly fine. Start by telling one trusted person you feel comfortable with and you know will be a good listener.

The right person doesn’t have to have personal experience with substance abuse—he or she just needs to take your thoughts, feelings, and concerns seriously, and help you take the next step.

Your trusted person may be a:

Family MemberTeacherCoachSchool CounselorChurch LeaderClose Friend

How to start the conversation.

There’s no right or wrong way to tell someone you have an issue with substance abuse. But there are steps you can take to make the conversation easier to start and more productive.

FIND A COMFORTABLE PLACE AND TIME. This could be a coffee shop, school, home, or anywhere that you can have some privacy away from distractions.

PLAN WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY. Write down how you’re feeling or practice the conversation in front of a mirror.

BE READY FOR QUESTIONS. The person you’re talking to will probably want more information on your situation. Be honest and share as much as you feel comfortable.

DON’T RUSH THE CONVERSATION. This topic may be challenging for the person you’re talking to, so give them time to listen and process what you’re saying.

DON’T TRY TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM ALL AT ONCE. Remember, this is just the start of the process.

BE PROUD. It takes courage to tell someone about substance abuse.

What you can say:

quote-marks I think my substance abuse is getting out of control, and I don’t know what to do.

quote-marks This is hard for me to talk about, but I think I have an alcohol or drug addiction.

quote-marks  I’m worried that my substance abuse is getting worse.

quote-marks  My substance abuse is getting in the way of my life. I think I may need help. 

What to do after the conversation.

Hopefully after your first conversation, you’ll feel a sense of relief and hopefulness. Be sure to keep things moving in a positive direction, even if dealing with feelings of remorse or regret.
big-one Stay in touch with your trusted person and keep him or her updated on how you feel.
big-two If the first conversation didn’t go the way you had hoped, don’t worry or give up. Try finding another trusted person that may be better suited to help.
Make healthy lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and sleep.
If you’re ready to take the next step to receive a diagnosis and treatment, talk to a substance abuse professional or organization.