Resources & Tools
- 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 you need to drink and/or use drugs in order to have fun.
- You turn to alcohol and/or drugs after a confrontation or argument, or to relieve uncomfortable feelings.
- You need to drink more or use more drugs to get the same effect as previously.
- You drink and/or use drugs alone.
- You have periods of memory loss.
- You have trouble at work or in school because of drinking or drug use.
- You make promises to yourself or others that you’ll stop getting drunk or using drugs but are unable to keep them.
- You feel alone, scared, miserable, and depressed.
If any of the above are true, you may have a problem. To get help, see Get Help Now. For more information, see the Resources listings.
Adapted from JUST THE FACTS, published by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Do We Have a Problem in Our Family?
If so, you are not alone. According to a Gallup poll, one of every four Americans says that drinking has been a problem in his or her home. And that doesn’t take into account millions of families affected by drugs other than alcohol — like cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and prescription drugs.
And it’s not just teens. People get very concerned when a child or teenager uses drugs because of the profound damage they can do to their bodies and futures. But substance abuse problems can occur in any family member, including a sibling, spouse, aunt, uncle, cousin, parent — even a grandparent.
- How do I know for sure that it's addiction or alcoholism?
It’s difficult, but the rule of thumb is this: It’s addiction or alcoholism if the person has had negative consequences resulting from his or her substance use — yet continues to use compulsively anyway. The following are warning signs:
- Strained relationships
- Legal problems
- Money problems
- Accidents or DWIs related to substance use
- Health problems
- School/work problems
- Depression/suicide attempts
- It's affecting our whole family!
It will. Family members of a substance abuser often experience:
- But the problem is so obvious. Why doesn't he/she see it?
That’s a question that’s stumped millions of family members through the years, because one of the actual symptoms of chemical dependency is a mental process called “denial.” The person is unable to see that his or her substance abuse is a problem — even while evidence is piling up around him or her.
- If this person really loved us, wouldn't he/she stop?
Unfortunately, love has nothing to do with it. Drugs that cause addiction change the way our brains work by disrupting the mechanisms by which nerve cells transmit, receive, and process information. After repeated dosings, the affected circuits need more of the drug to function. The person now craves the thing that is ruining his or her life.
- So what can I do?
Talk to the person, formally or informally, in what’s called an “intervention.” (See How to Approach an Intervention.) Don’t wait for your loved one to “bottom out,” have a car crash, or develop some serious health problem before you address it. Remember, addiction is treatable. And there are sensitive, trained healthcare providers who can help you decide how to proceed. — Donna Boundy
This article is an excerpt from the Family Guide for MOYERS ON ADDICTION: CLOSE TO HOME, produced by Thirteen/WNET’s Educational Publishing Department. The entire guide is available, free of charge, by downloading it to your computer or requesting a copy by mail.