Practice How to Discuss Substance Use

Talking with those around us about alcohol and other substances can reduce negative health consequences, improve family and work life, and promote overall well-being. One Degree: Shift the Influence empowers each of us to be the influence and help change the lives of those we care about.

For the Adult-Youth Conversation Toolkit, click here.

Not sure how to begin?

Sometimes we avoid topics because we aren’t sure how to approach them. These conversations matter.

It is possible to have positive, open conversations that will make those you care about feel supported. No need to be an expert, use some of these simple, evidence-based techniques.

Ask open-ended questions

  • Ask about what is going on in their lives
  • Discuss stress or worries they may be facing

Asking questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no is a great way to get people to open up

Listen with empathy

  • Be sure to keep a nonjudgmental tone
  • Make sure they know you are there to listen

When someone feels understood and knows you are listening, it is easier for them to talk openly


  • Instead of giving advice, ask questions
  • Help brainstorm ways to make healthy choices

Showing them that you care and want to understand their perspective helps to build trust

Keep the conversation going

You started the conversation, now keep it going. Let them know you are there to listen, support, and problem-solve.

Explore other helpful resources

More Substance Use Resources

Colorado Crisis Services

When you don’t know where to start, start here.

Alcohol & Your Health (NIAAA-NIH)

Your drinking habits may be impacting your health.

Lower Risk Drink Limits Wallet Card

There are many reasons to drink less.

Curb Your Drinking (Harvard Medical School)

Many people may benefit from cutting back on alcohol.

Excessive Alcohol Use (CDC)

Over 90% of excessive drinkers binge drink.

What is a hangover? (NIAAA-NIH)

Drinking can lead to painful side effects.

Alcohol Use & Your Healthcare Provider (CNN)

“Drinking checkups” at doctor visits are the new normal.

Alcohol & Pregnancy (CDC)

Drinking before, during and after pregnancy can have an impact.

Women’s Health & Alcohol

Women’s Health & Alcohol, to talk with a virtual nurse to learn more about how alcohol impacts women’s physical and mental health.

Drinking & Breastfeeding (AAP News)

Exposure to alcohol in breast milk linked with children’s reasoning deficits.

Colorado Household Medication Take Back Program

Dispose of medications in a safe and responsible manner.

Self-Screening Tool Site

Determine how substance use could be affecting the health of you or those you care about.

SAMHSA Treatment Locator

Explore treatment centers near you.

Health First Colorado

Get connected to the care you need.

Peer Health Assistance Program

Programs for healthcare and mental health professionals experiencing substance use, mental health and/or physical health problems.

Tough as a Mother

For mothers struggling with addiction.


There are many ways to take care of ourselves. Practicing mindfulness can help us lead happy, healthy lives.
Learn More at: or

Responsibility Grows Here

Responsible use is smart use.

Envision:You: How To Have The Talk

How to have the talk with your LGBTQ+ friends about their mental health.

Twelve Talks

Visit for key facts, data, conversation starters and local resources on important topics to discuss with teens in your life.

Parity: What You Need to Know

How you can get your care covered.

Information on Parity, presented by the Kennedy Forum.

Parity: What to Look For

Recognize violations of insurance rules.