If you are concerned about a loved one’s alcohol and drug use, check out this content for how to help.


Where to start?

As queer folk, our chosen families play an important role in our lives by nurturing and supporting us. When we’re concerned about a loved one’s alcohol and drug use, figuring out how to help can feel overwhelming.

Here are some tips that can help us prepare.

Do we say something or let them figure it out in their own time? How do we even start a conversation with them about our thoughts and worries? It’s important to remember that not everyone who uses alcohol or drugs wants or needs help.

We know that having a conversation with loved ones can be challenging and can make everyone feel anxious. We may find that our loved one isn’t concerned about their drug use, or they may not be ready for change.  If we do want to have a conversation with a loved one, sometimes it can be helpful to prepare for the conversation.

Start the conversation

Pick a time and place to talk where we won’t be interrupted and will have some privacy. This shows that we care about maintaining trust in the relationship and want to have an open dialogue. Some people find it less confronting to talk while walking or driving together instead of sitting face-to-face – and it’s best to only start the conversation if our loved one is not too intoxicated.



We might be concerned about our loved one’s alcohol and drug use, but the extent of this concern varies depending on the context. Many experts agree that the impacts of a person’s substance use are best measured by how that use is impacting their life, and the lives of people around them rather than by measuring the impact by the quantity or types of drugs someone is using.

We can define what we think the impact of our loved one’s drug use is by using ‘I’ statements to show that we’ve noticed changes in their life and ours and to express our worry for them.

For example, “I’m a bit worried because…” or “I’ve noticed that lately…” and give the person a chance to express their views and opinions.

Try to listen to them and give them a chance to respond.

The person may not agree with our concern about their alcohol and drug use and might become upset or angry. If this happens, don’t give up! — our loved one may need more time to think about what we’ve discussed.


Avoid expressions like “drug habit”, “suffering from addiction”, “addict”, and “manipulative” – which are terms that are loaded with stigma. Stigma can negatively affect people who use drugs and our actions and language can make them feel unwelcomed and unsafe, or even stop them from seeking the services they may need. Choose words that are welcoming and inclusive rather than words that reinforce negative stereotypes.

Actively listen to their thoughts, feelings and opinions. Remain non-judgemental. Ask calm and respectful follow-up questions. Understand that people’s experiences of and motivations to use drugs are varied and unique, and they may not want to reduce their use.



If our loved one doesn’t want to reduce their use or explore other ways to get their needs met then it’s important to communicate clearly what our boundaries are. Boundaries help us and our loved one know what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to substance use and our relationship.

Reflect on what our boundaries are, establish them clearly and be consistent in maintaining them.

  • ‘’I can’t catch up with you when you’re using drugs, but we can catch up at other times.’’
  • ‘’It’s important to me that you don’t use drugs in the house, do you have a trusted friend’s house that you can use at?’’
  • ‘’I can’t give you any money, but I can support you in other ways.’’

It can be helpful to remind our loved one that boundaries are an attempt to maintain a relationship between us both and that we want to support them in a way that also maintains the relationship.


How can we support their journey?

If the person wants our help and support, that’s great! Consider providing practical and emotional support, such as delivering meals, and providing them with information on support services they could contact and check in regularly.

Be patient and remember that reducing or stopping drug use can be difficult. There may be many ups and downs on their journey. Celebrate our loved one’s goals and achievements, and keep supporting them even if they lapse or relapse.


refusing help

But what if they don’t want to access help or get support?

Ultimately, it’s the person’s decision whether to access professional help and support. Some may find it hard to ask for help at first but may want to reach out later. Try not to ‘nag’ them as this will likely discourage them from opening up or asking for our support in the future.

Self Care

Supporting a loved one with their substance use can at times be emotionally taxing. Here are some tips to help us look after ourselves:

  • Look after our physical and mental health by eating well and keeping active;
  • Seek support from our friends and family;
  • Contact one of the support organisations available;
  • Take a break from the person if we need to. Maintain our boundaries but always let them know when you’ll be available again

The Australian Drug Foundation has a great online tool to guide us through supporting someone to reduce their drug use.


Sections of this content have been sourced from the Australian Drug Foundation and Health Direct.
The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied upon in that way.