How do I know if I have an alcohol or drug addiction problem?
The signs of alcohol and drug problems include an increasing craving for alcohol and/or other drugs, and an increasing consumption of these substances. The need to find and consume substances becomes a primary concern for an individual who may have a problem. It begins to interfere with his or her personal and professional performance and with his or her interpersonal relationships. Other physical symptoms of abuse and/or addiction are specific to certain drugs. Some questions to ask oneself may include:
Have I ever suspected that I needed to cut down on my alcohol and/or drug use?
Have I tried to cut down or control my use and been unsuccessful?
Have people in my life criticized me or been irritated by my substance use?
Have I felt bad or guilty about my substance use?
Do I use drugs and/or alcohol to make me feel better?
What is addiction?
Addiction is a complex brain disease. It is believed that the drug and/or alcohol affects the brain’s ability to function normally. Addiction is characterized by compulsive, at times uncontrollable, drug and/or alcohol craving that persists even in the face of extremely negative consequences, such as job loss and interpersonal problems. Attempts to stop using drugs and or alcohol are often met with relapse. Addiction can also be evident in the binge drinker who drinks only on occasion, but faces negative consequences as a result of his or her binge.
What is the best treatment for alcohol and drug addiction?
Treatments for addiction works–recovery is possible! Usually treatment includes behaviorally based strategies integrated into individual and group therapy. Treatment for some drug addictions, such as heroin addiction, could include a combined treatment of medication and behaviorally based strategies. Addiction treatment is very individualized – what works for one person may not be effective for another person. Many different types of treatment exist, from hospital-based programs to community-based support groups. The most appropriate level of care recommended for the treatment of each individual should be made by an addiction specialist after a thorough evaluation.
What is “detox?”
Detoxification, commonly called “detox,” is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug (including alcohol) while managing the symptoms of the withdrawal. It is not a treatment, but rather the first step in a treatment process that should include behaviorally based strategies and, possibly, medication. The physical symptoms of withdrawal, which may include restlessness, diarrhea, vomiting and cold flashes, vary by individual, as does the length of the withdrawal process.
How long does addiction treatment take?
The length of addiction treatment is highly individual. It is not uncommon for individuals to experience more than one treatment experience on their journey to abstinence and recovery. It is believed by many in the treatment community that recovery is a lifelong pursuit, meaning that managing one’s recovery from alcohol and/or drug problems must continue over a lifetime.
I’m concerned that my family member has a problem with drugs and alcohol. What can I do to help?
Ultimately, the person with the problem needs to get to the point where he or she makes the decision to seek help. This can be very frustrating for friends or family who must see the self-destruction of his or her loved one. As a family member, you can tell your loved one how concerned you are. You can also provide him or her with information, including general information about addiction and information about local treatment options. You can even accompany the individual to a treatment program. Generally, however, it is considered unwise for family members to continuously shield their addicted loved one from the consequences of their actions (i.e., give them money, take over their responsibilities), since it is the consequences that will ideally lead the addicted individual to get help.
My family member’s alcohol and drug addiction problem is causing me a lot of stress. Where can I find help for myself?
Family members and friends of addicted individuals can feel a tremendous amount of stress due to their loved one’s problem with alcohol and/or drugs. They feel persistent worry, fear and frustration. It’s very important for friends and family members to take care of themselves—even if they can’t take care of the addict in their lives. Family members may also seek out treatment themselves to receive support and assistance caring for themselves and setting boundaries as their family member’s addiction escalates. In some cases a “family intervention” can be planned to provide loving but honest feedback to the substance abuser that may prompt him or her to enter treatment.