A friend with weed is a friend indeed?

If you want to help a mate with a cannabis problem, having a conversation with them is a good place to start.

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So you might think ‘a friend with weed is a friend indeed’, but are they really? You have this friend and they’ve always liked a bit of weed, a few joints or a bong every now and then. Lately though, using weed has become quite the habit, in fact you think they may even be addicted to weed. You’ve noticed weed seems to be taking up more and more of their life. Your friend has lost motivation, spending most of the time either trying to score weed, smoking it or just recovering from the last big session. You want to tell them you’re worried, but don’t want to end up in a heated argument – and if you’re a bloke, you probably don’t want to go all soft on them. So, how do you talk to your mate without it sounding too preachy or awkward?

Start a conversation: A friend with weed is a friend indeed

First things first, you’ll need to get yourself educated. Your friend will be put off pretty quickly if you don’t know what you’re talking about, so get started by gathering a bit of information about the drug first. This can be done by some basic exploring on the NCPIC website, our factsheets are really easy to understand so this would be a great place to start. You can also either download or order our Concerned about someone's cannabis use? Fast facts on how to help booklet. Once you have a little knowledge under your belt, then you can clarify exactly what worries you about your friend’s cannabis use and why.

This step is also really handy because more-often-than-not, people who have developed a not so socially acceptable habit start on the back foot, always ready to defend and justify. Weed smokers are known for adamantly defending their drug of choice, and will come at you with comparisons to other drugs, history of medical use, or even that driving is safer because stoned drivers go slower. Be prepared for this, avoid the sticky subjects and have the facts in mind – just don’t get caught up in a useless debate!

If you think your friend is addicted to weed express your concern

Opening up about something like this can be really tricky, but it’s not impossible. Showing you are genuinely concerned can be quite powerful, so let your friend know how you are feeling and why. If you feel uncomfortable talking about it, let them know! Admitting you feel nervous or worried might help your friend understand where you are coming from, and can even help reduce the tension in the situation – why not throw in a bit of a joke to break the ice and reduce some of that weird awkwardness? They might react in a defensive or resistant way at first, that’s ok – this is a tough topic to talk about for you, and a tough topic to listen to for them. Stick with it even if it takes a while, or more than one attempt, you are not wrong to express your concern.

Choose your language carefully

This conversation could easily end up in a debate about the pros and cons of cannabis use, missing the point entirely. Instead of getting caught up in a war of opinions, its best to keep your tone neutral. Stay away from listing the broader harms associated with cannabis, even if you think they are addicted to weed, and stick to how you see it directly affecting the person you care about. Maybe you think they have become withdrawn socially or their motivation has been a bit off lately. Mentioning the specific changes you have noticed will have a lot more impact than giving a lecture on all the harmful aspects of smoking too much pot.

Before starting, think about your mate and not only what you love about them, but what they pride themselves on. Are they the ‘fun guy’, ‘the killer athlete’, ‘the nurturer’? Let them know that since they started using they are less ‘that guy’ they thought they were and that’s what’s got you worried – ‘Mate, you’re not around when we do the fun stuff anymore and it’s not as fun without you, is something going on you need a hand with?’

Tone is really important

Even if your friend does become agitated or annoyed with you, remaining calm will prevent the situation escalating into a bigger argument. Making sure you use caring, non-judgmental words and body language is key part of ensuring your friend doesn’t feel attacked or as if you disapprove of them.

It’s also crucial that your friend feels listened to, whether you agree with what they are saying or not. So if they want to talk about the reasons why they use and the benefits they believe cannabis has for them then really listen, you don’t need to provide a detailed argument against. This shouldn’t be a debate, but a time for you both to share your concerns and understand where the other person is coming from.

Whether you feel like your friend has taken on board your concerns after the conversation or not, it’s ok. You’ll have taken a really bold and positive step to help them and show that you care. The true and lasting impact of the conversation might not be obvious yet, but even if it just means your mate is thinking about the issue from another perspective then it will have been a job well done.

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