My friend has a problem with weed. What can I do?

My name is Louise and you spoke to my school at the end of last year.  Your speech really got to me, and got me thinking, I have a friend, and his whole life now revolves around weed. The other day he told me he only smoked 8 cones, (he thought that was a good thing) he told me he usually smokes around 25 a day. He has told me he wants to stop smoking, but it has become the focus of his life that I don't think he can do it. Our friendship has started to become very rocky lately and I'm starting to think it must be because of the weed. He seems to be paranoid, and gets angry very easy. He even hangs out with me less, because he is off smoking weed, and when he is finished he is too tired to hang out. What can I do?

Thanks for the question Louise ... it sounds as though your friend is certainly getting into real difficulties with cannabis (weed, pot, marijuana). When a young person is smoking as much as he is they are certainly not using the drug for 'fun' - they are most probably smoking it to 'block out' feelings or 'self-medicate' because they believe that cannabis will help them in some way. That can be a real problem, particularly for a young person.

Unfortunately it is almost impossible to stop someone doing anything they want to do unless they make the decision themselves. The good news with your friend is that he has told you that he wants to stop smoking weed (he can most probably see that it is causing him problems). That is a huge step and you now need to make a decision whether you want to try and help him or not. You've contacted me for advice so I would imagine that you do, but it is important to acknowledge that almost certainly won't be easy!

My first piece of advice is for you to gather as much information as you can and find out where help is available in your local area. The best place to go in the first place is the Alcohol and Drug Information Service in your state and territory (you can find the number for where you live on the DARTA website). This is an anonymous and confidential telephone helpline manned by trained counsellors who will be able to give you advice and information on cannabis (or any other drug) and how to help your friend.

If you are going to approach your friend and discuss your concerns the most important thing you should do is to plan carefully what you are going to say to him. Tell him what is worrying you and make this as specific as possible and focus on how his weed smoking has affected you. Don't talk about how anyone else feels, just you ... e.g., "When you were stoned you became very paranoid and angry. Sometimes I feel scared when you get angry." Although it can be extremely difficult, don't accuse or argue. There is every possibility that the friend may get angry and react in a negative way. Don't ever put yourself in a situation where you could get hurt. You say that your friend can get angry when he is stoned - if you think even for a second that he may lash out in some way - don't confront him and if you are speaking to him and his behaviour starts to get scary, stop the conversation immediately and leave.

This sounds really harsh but the reality is that as hard as you may try to get your friend to stop smoking weed, it may never happen – no matter what you do. This can be really difficult for some young people to deal with so make sure you do the following:
  • talk to a responsible adult about your concerns (or if you don't feel comfortable doing that call the helpline as suggested above). As much as your friend needs help, you most probably needs someone to talk to as well. It's tough being a young person worrying about a friend. It sounds really corny but 'a problem shared is a problem halved' - you will feel better talking about it...

  • it sounds like this is actually starting to happen but limit the amount of time that you spend with your friend. If he keeps smoking weed and you're with him he is putting you at risk of a range of harms, particularly the legal consequences associated with illicit drugs.
I hope it all works out for you and your friend ...

First published: September 2013
Updated: February 2018