Frequently Asked Questions About Substance Abuse

Here are answers to your questions about substance abuse and its treatment.

How do I know if I am addicted to alcohol or drugs?                   

It isn’t always easy to know if you are dependent on alcohol or drugs. In fact, many people don’t believe they’re addicted even after it’s clear to those around them, and there is no single factor. Addiction is a combination of factors, and only a trained counselor can determine if someone is alcohol- or drug-dependent.

Addiction counselors look for a pattern of behaviors that point to substance abuse. That pattern usually includes:

  • Negative consequences of alcohol or drug use
  • An inability to quit or control alcohol or drug use
  • Increasing amounts and/or frequency of use of alcohol or drugs

How do I approach a loved one about their substance use?

If you think someone has a problem, it’s important to approach that person in a non-confrontational way—at least at first. And it’s always a good idea to get the advice of a qualified professional counselor before talking with someone about their substance use.

We do not recommend talking with a loved one when you are upset as a result of their drinking or drug use. The best approach is to take a step back and wait until the next day.

When discussing the problem, it’s important to be calm. Express your concern without name-calling, blaming, or accusing. Simply say that you care about them and have noticed that their use is affecting their life. Say that you would like them to see if they can stop their use on their own. If they can’t, ask them to consider getting professional help.

It is normal for those who abuse alcohol or drugs to react angrily when they are approached — even when it’s done in a gentle, caring manner. Arguing with them or becoming angry and lashing out at them will cause them to focus on that instead of their own use.

If your first approach doesn’t work, consider asking close friends and family to help you speak to the person about their use. Again, involving a professional counselor can be very helpful.

Is alcoholism and drug addiction a “disease?”

Alcoholism and drug addiction are a brain disease, and they can be a lot like a physical disease. And, like many physical diseases, some people are more likely than others to be affected.

Like many other diseases, addiction is:

  • Progressive – It gets worse over time if not properly treated
  • Fatal – If not properly treated, it ultimately leads to death
  • Predictable – Addiction has predictable results, regardless of who it affects

It’s important to realize that, even though addiction is a disease, people need to take responsibility for their health. As with many physical diseases, there is a clear connection between people’s lifestyles and behaviors and their addiction.

You may have a disease called addiction, but you need to be responsible and do everything you can if you want to get healthy. You need to get proper medical care and follow your doctor’s advice about lifestyle and behavior.

Having a substance use disorder doesn’t mean outsiders get to judge you or your value. Just as with a physical disease, judging someone as a moral failure doesn’t help the problem.

Can my loved one ever be cured?

If you have an addiction and have stopped that behavior, then you are in recovery. This means you recognize that you:

  • Will always be susceptible to alcohol or drugs even though you may not currently drink or use drugs
  • Need to make significant lifestyle changes in order to stay in recovery
  • Have been so deeply affected that, even when you no longer use or drink, your addiction has left a lasting impact on the way you view yourself and the world around you

So, while never “cured,” our loved one is in recovery and “no longer active” in alcohol or drug use.

What does “co-dependent” mean?

Co-dependent means unwittingly helping a person continue their addiction. The “rules” we normally use in relationships usually don’t work in these situations.

Becoming co-dependent is often described as “having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.” Some examples of co-dependent behavior are:

  • Making repeated excuses for an addicted person’s behavior
  • Questioning whether you are really the “crazy one” when you react to those behaviors
  • Trying to remove or buffer the consequences of an addict’s actions, such as:
    • Calling in sick to work for them
    • Blaming their behaviors on outside factors, like “she’s been under a lot of stress”
    • Paying traffic tickets or other expenses caused by the substance use

Counseling with a qualified mental health professional can help stop co-dependency, and it should be part of any plan for dealing with addiction. Help typically involves:

  • Learning about addiction and how it affects others
  • Recognizing specific co-dependent behaviors
  • Changing co-dependent behaviors
  • Getting support from others when changes are made

How can someone get confidential help?

All addiction counselors and treatment providers have to keep patient information confidential under federal regulations. No professional counselor can discuss or provide anyone’s health information without that person’s agreement.

Confidentiality is at the core of every counselor’s practice and any organization’s treatment program. That’s why no information about anyone in treatment can be given out by telephone or by any other means without the patient’s signed consent, unless there’s a court order.

Have additional questions about substance abuse or drug addiction? For more info, or to take the first step toward recovery, call Rosecrance today at 888-928-5278.