Rationale for learning speed refusal skills

As previously stated, in the early stages of modifying use of speed, it is important to consider avoiding high-risk situations completely. However, it is acknowledged that avoidance is not a long-term solution, nor is it always a practical one. One particularly unavoidable situation might involve a person offering your client speed. There are a number of strategies that can make saying no easier. Discuss the following elements of speed refusal with your clients.

Non-verbal measures for refusing speed

(Monti et al., 1989)
  1. Make direct eye contact with the other person to increase the effectiveness of your message.
  2. Stand or sit up straight to create a confident air.
  3. Do not feel guilty about the refusal and remember, you will not hurt anyone by not using.

Verbal measures for refusing speed

(Monti et al., 1989)
  1. Use a clear, firm, confident and unhesitating tone of voice.
  2. "No" should be the first word out of your mouth. A direct statement is more effective when refusing the offer.
  3. Suggest an alternative (e.g. something else to do/eat/drink).
  4. Request a behaviour change so that the other person stops asking (e.g. ask the person not to offer speed anymore).
  5. Change the subject to something else to avoid getting involved in a drawn out debate about using/drinking.
  6. Avoid using excuses and avoid vague answers, which will imply that at a later date you may accept an offer to use.

Exercise 1: Rehearsing speed refusal

(Monti et al., 1989; NIDA, 1998)Top of page
  • Select a concrete situation in the recent past, where the client was offered speed.

  • Ask the client to provide some background on the person involved in the situation (the 'offerer').

  • For the first role-play, have the client take the part of the 'offerer', so they can convey a clear picture of the style of that person, and the therapist shall model the speed refusal skills outlined above.

  • Discuss the role-play. The therapist should say, "That was good, how did it feel to you?" Be sure to praise any effective behaviours and offer clear constructive criticism.

  • Repeat the role-play, with the therapist playing the role of the 'offerer' and the client playing himself or herself.

  • Discuss the second role-play using the same guidelines as above.
Give a copy of the "Refusal skills reminder sheet" to the client. Go through the refusal skills at the top of the page to help summarise the previous exercise.

Explain the rationale for learning and practising refusal skills to the client. Use the following information:

"It is often difficult to refuse someone who is offering you speed. This is particularly the case if you don't want to offend the other person. It can be tough to say 'no', particularly when you have said 'yes' before. But, equally important are your feelings and your goals, so it is a good idea to practise what you might say in these situations before they happen. To help you say 'no' comfortably, take some time to prepare some responses you might make to different people who might offer you speed."
Ask the person to complete the exercise, and nominate some responses they may use when confronted by 'a friend they used to use with', 'a co-worker', 'a party', or other potentially 'high-risk' situations. Write down the exact words the client feels they can use in each of these situations, using the key principles. This sheet can then be taken with the client.

Note – if appropriate, the client may want to practise saying these responses out loud during the session, or you may like to conduct a role-play around one of the nominated scenarios.

Refusal skills reminder sheet

Tips for responding to offers of speed:
  1. Say no first.
  2. Make direct eye contact.
  3. Ask the person to stop offering speed.
  4. Don't be afraid to set limits.
  5. Don't leave the door open to future offers.
  6. Remember there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. Assertiveness means being direct but not bossy, being honest but not big-headed, and being responsible for your own choices without forcing your opinions onto others.
Top of pagePeople who might offer me drugs and what I'll say to them
  • A friend I used to drink or use with:

    What I'll say to them:

  • A co-worker:

    What I'll say to them:

  • At a party:

    What I'll say to them:

  • Other:

    What I'll say to them: