Understanding drug and alcohol problems
There are many reasons why people start using drugs and/or alcohol. Sometimes recreational use becomes more and more frequent until it becomes a serious problem that affects someone's daily life, their health and their relationships with other people. At this point they may have become addicted to drugs or alcohol and are no longer able to control their use.
For others, substance use may be linked to traumatic past experiences or current issues. Genetic and social factors can also play a significant role.
How can I tell if I have a problem with drugs or alcohol?
Some of the signs that your use may be problematic include:
- You find you need to use more frequently to get the same effect.
- You’ve built up a tolerance.
- You have cravings and urges during the day.
- You regularly drink or take drugs to deal with a hangover or withdrawal symptoms.
- Your use of alcohol or drugs is starting to affect your relationships with family and friends –perhaps you’re having more arguments, or loved ones tell you they’re worried about you.
- You forget what happened the night before; you feel embarrassed or ashamed of your behaviour.
- You find it difficult to sleep or to get up. You wake up in the early hours of the morning feeling unwell and your motivation to go to work or complete tasks is low.
- You plan activities around alcohol or drugs – it’s not a night out unless you drink or take drugs to excess.
- Your drug use or drinking is upsetting or worrying you, but you can’t stop.
- You hide, or lie about your use to friends and family.
- Once you’ve had your first drink or a small amount of a drug you don’t feel able to stop.
What can I do about drug and alcohol problems?
Every year tens of thousands of people successfully recover from alcohol or drug problems and go on to lead fulfilled lives completely free from addiction.
Some people can recover on their own, but many people tackle their drug and alcohol problems more successfully with help and support from a treatment service, often gaining the coping skills to manage their use.
That support could include (but is not limited to):
Group or one-to-one recovery support sessions.
- Activities to help build confidence and self-esteem.
- Use of a special programme such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
- Substitute prescribing of opiates (eg buprenorphine or methadone)
- Peer support groups in the community.
- Harm reduction advice to reduce the medical dangers of substance use.
- Detoxification in the community, or occasionally in a hospital or dedicated rehabilitation centre. Most ‘rehab’ occurs in the community.
- Learning how to prevent relapse.
Find out more about the support CGL can offer or start your recovery with us today.
If you do not have a CGL service in your area, please visit one of these sites to find your nearest service:
Advice for friends and families
Are you worried that someone you know might have drug and alcohol problems?
Here are some of the common signs to look out for:
- Mood changes, such as becoming more depressed, anxious, agitated, irritable, defensive or aggressive.
- Behaviour changes, such as becoming more secretive, taking money or valuables or getting into debt.
- Not doing as well at work or school, including regularly being late or calling in sick.
- Unusual sleeping patterns, such as staying in bed all day or being awake at night.
- Rapid weight loss or gain, or a sudden loss of appetite.
- Appearing confused, disorientated or ‘spaced out’ or, alternatively, becoming hyperactive.
- Physical changes such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes or enlarged pupils.
- Losing contact with old friends and/or gaining new friends.
What you can do
If you notice any of these signs, you might want to talk to the person, explain your concerns and encourage them to consider seeking help for their problems. These things are also linked to common physical and mental health problems, so they may need to get these looked into first of all. If the person decides to come to change, grow, live our focus on wellbeing rather than just drugs and alcohol will help them get help with their overall health.
You can find out more about how to talk about drug and alcohol problems here.
Supporting a person you care about
Families play a crucial part in helping individuals to overcome addiction. Providing emotional support and encouragement are important. Here are some practical things you can do too:
- Keep drugs and alcohol out of your home and try to do things that don’t involve alcohol or drugs.
- Find out more about substance misuse using the free resources available at these websites: FRANK, NHS Choices and Adfam.
- Try to understand what causes the person to use substances and help reduce the triggers.
- Take care of your own mental and emotional health so you stay strong.
You can get support for you and your family by searching for your nearest change, grow, live service.