Straight Facts About Drugs and Alcohol

How Can I Tell If a Friend or a Loved One Has a Problem With Alcohol, Marijuana, or Other Illicit Drugs?

Sometimes it is tough to tell. Most people won't walk up to someone they're close to and ask for help. In fact, they will probably do everything possible to deny or hide the problem. But, there are certain warning signs that may indicate that a family member or friend is using drugs and drinking too much alcohol.

If your friend or loved one has one or more of the following signs, he or she may have a problem with drugs or alcohol:

  • Getting high on drugs or getting drunk on a regular basis
  • Lying about things, or the amount of drugs or alcohol they are using
  • Avoiding you and others in order to get high or drunk
  • Giving up activities they used to do such as sports, homework, or hanging out with friends who don't use drugs or drink
  • Having to use more marijuana or other illicit drugs to get the same effects
  • Constantly talking about using drugs or drinking
  • Believing that in order to have fun they need to drink or use marijuana or other drugs
  • Pressuring others to use drugs or drink
  • Getting into trouble with the law
  • Taking risks, including sexual risks and driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Feeling run-down, hopeless, depressed, or even suicidal
  • Suspension from school for an alcohol- or drug-related incident
  • Missing work or poor work performance because of drinking or drug use

Many of the signs, such as sudden changes in mood, difficulty in getting along with others, poor job or school performance, irritability, and depression, might be explained by other causes. Unless you observe drug use or excessive drinking, it can be hard to determine the cause of these problems. Your first step is to contact a qualified alcohol and drug professional in your area who can give you further advice.

How Can I Tell if I Have a Problem with Drugs or Alcohol?

Drug and alcohol problems can affect every one of us regardless of age, sex, race, marital status, place of residence, income level, or lifestyle.

You may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, if

  • You can't predict whether or not you will use drugs or get drunk.
  • You believe that in order to have fun you need to drink and/or use drugs.
  • You turn to alcohol and/or drugs after a confrontation or argument, or to relieve uncomfortable feelings.
  • You drink more or use more drugs to get the same effect that you got with smaller amounts.
  • You drink and/or use drugs alone.
  • You remember how last night began, but not how it ended, so you're worried you may have a problem.
  • You have trouble at work or in school because of your drinking or drug use.
  • You make promises to yourself or others that you'll stop getting drunk or using drugs.
  • You feel alone, scared, miserable, and depressed.

If you have experienced any of the above problems, take heart, help is available. More than a million Americans like you have taken charge of their lives and are living healthy and drug-free.

Messages for Teenagers

  • Know the law. Methamphetamines, marijuana, hallucinogens, crack, cocaine, and many other substances are illegal. Depending on where you are caught, you could face high fines and jail time. Alcohol is illegal to buy or possess if you are under 21.
  • Be aware of the risks. Drinking or using drugs increases the risk of injury. Car crashes, falls, burns, drowning, and suicide are all linked to drug use.
  • Keep your edge. Drug use can ruin your looks, make you depressed, and contribute to slipping grades.
  • Play it safe. One incident of drug use could make you do something that you will regret for a lifetime.
  • Do the smart thing. Using drugs puts your health, education, family ties, and social life at risk.
  • Think twice about what you're advertising when you buy and wear T-shirts, hats, pins, or jewelry with a pot leaf, joint, blunt, beer can, or other drug paraphernalia on them. Do you want to promote something that can cause cancer? make you forget things? or make it difficult to drive a car?
  • Face your problems. Using drugs won't help you escape your problems, it will only create more.
  • Be a real friend. If you know someone with a drug problem, be part of the solution. Urge your friend to get help.
  • Remember, you DON'T NEED drugs or alcohol. If you think "everybody's doing it," you're wrong! Doing drugs won't make you happy or popular or help you to learn the skills you need as you grow up. In fact, doing drugs can cause you to fail at all of these things.

How Can I Get Help?

You can get help for yourself or for a friend or loved one from numerous national, State, and local organizations, treatment centers, referral centers, and hotlines throughout the country. There are various kinds of treatment services and centers. For example, some may involve outpatient counseling, while others may be 3- to 5-week-long inpatient programs.

While you or your friend or loved one may be hesitant to seek help, know that treatment programs offer organized and structured services with individual, group, and family therapy for people with alcohol and drug abuse problems. Research shows that when appropriate treatment is given, and when clients follow their prescribed program, treatment can work. By reducing alcohol and/or drug abuse, treatment reduces costs to society in terms of medical care, law enforcement, and crime. More importantly, treatment can help keep you and your loved ones together.

Remember, some people may go through treatment a number of times before they are in full recovery. Do not give up hope.

Each community has its own resources. Some common referral sources that are often listed in the phone book are:

  • Community Drug Hotlines
  • Local Emergency Health Clinics, or Community Treatment Services
  • City/Local Health Departments
  • Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Al-Anon/Alateen
  • Hospitals

Source: National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information

Reviewed by athealth on February 8, 2014.