Understanding And Dealing With Alcohol And Other Drug Abuse

Revised: May 21, 2014

By: Michael G. Conner, Psy.D, Clinical, Medical & Family Psychologist
More Information: www.CrisisCounseling.org

Phone: 541 388-5660


Nearly 75% of all Americans have experimented with or used alcohol and other drugs. Many people don’t realize that alcohol is actually a drug. There are two basic reasons why people misuse drugs. Some drugs work in such a way that a person’s body will actually get used to a drug and then depend on it. In some cases, when a person stops taking a drug, their body can have a lot of unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms may go away when the person uses the drug again. The other reason people misuse drugs has a lot to do with the effect of the drug on their mind and emotions.

For many people, certain drugs seem to make them feel better mentally or emotionally. In some cases, starting with one drug can lead to the use of other drugs. Some drugs require larger and larger amounts to produce the same effect. Some people take additional drugs to help them reduce the unpleasant effects of the drugs they are already misusing. Eventually a person may take too much of a drug to feel the same effect. This can cause permanent medical damage or even the loss of life. Some drugs can be dangerous to take and some can be dangerous to stop without proper evaluation and treatment.

Knowing why a person is using drugs is not as important as knowing what drugs the person is using, when they are taking drugs and how. Dealing with drug abuse can be difficult without information and support. Recognizing the symptoms of drug use can help you understand and seek help for yourself and others affected by drug abuse.

Problems And Behavior Checklist

  • Will go see doctors to help cope with the symptoms and side-effects of drug use
  • Unwilling to tell a doctor about drug use
  • Friends and family suspect a drug problem
  • Denies solid evidence of drug use
  • Sincerely believes they can stop if they wanted but refuses to stop even for a while
  • Minimizes the amount of drugs used
  • Admits to using a less dangerous drug to minimize a problem with a more serious drug
  • Refuses to acknowledge even the obvious consequences or symptoms of drug use in their life
  • Makes frequent excuses for strange, bizarre or irresponsible behavior
  • Blames others for their problems
  • Cannot stop using drugs for more than one month
  • Feels the urge to use drugs several times a week
  • Has difficulty controlling the amount of drugs they use
  • Won’t stop using drugs until they run out
  • Spends money on drugs which should be used to pay for basic necessities
  • Spends money on drugs which should be used to provide for their needs (or children)
  • Believes they are going to be harmed by people who want to help
  • Will use their children to control, manipulate, threaten or hurt others
  • Can’t manage money and will resort to lying to get more money
  • Borrows money from others that they cannot pay back for drugs
  • Will take money or steal belongings from family or friends for drugs
  • Will act abusive or threaten others who confront their drug use
  • Will act self-destructive or suicidal to get what they want
  • Justifies hurting others who resist being manipulated
  • Starts treatment but then doesn’t cooperate
  • Finds reasons or makes excuses to quit treatment
  • Has repeated problems with the law or other legal problems
  • Often late or absent from work or school without good reason
  • Can’t keep a job or won’t get a job
  • Is suspended from school
  • Easily upset or quick to react with anger
  • Frequent displays of temper or anger
  • Frequent emotional outbursts and mood swings
  • Reckless or irresponsible behavior
  • Repeated problems acting as a responsible parent
  • Unstable, extreme and intense relationships
  • Pushes people away but then desperately wants them back
  • Easily frustrated and upset
  • Their efforts to solve their problems don’t make sense and are not effective
  • Doesn’t seem to learn from mistakes or change their behavior
  • Seems unable to see things from another person’s point of view
  • Reacts to criticism with feelings of intense guilt, anger or depression
  • Responds with rage and anger when their point of view is not accepted
  • Requires an excessive amount of attention and support
  • Seems to ignore the impact of their behavior on others
  • Avoids healthy family or social activities
  • Does not follow through with promises

Symptoms Associated With Drug Abuse

  • Symptoms of Anxiety or Panic
  • Symptoms of Depression
  • Destructive thoughts, feelings and behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts, feelings or behaviors
  • Violent thoughts, feelings and behavior
  • Strange, bizarre or psychotic thoughts, feelings and behaviors

Information And Steps You Can Take

  • Seek advice or consultation from a qualified mental health or drug and alcohol treatment professional regarding an evaluation and intervention for suspected drug use.

  • Work with a mental health or drug and alcohol treatment professional to establish a crisis intervention plan.

  • Seek medical advice or consultation if you suspect health problems or if there has not been a recent medical evaluation.

  • Seek advice and consultation for any mental and emotional problems as well as difficulties that are not covered in the treatment of drug abuse.

  • Encourage family members and close friends to consult with a treatment professional about the potential involvement in a support group that can provide information, focus on coping, deal with problems and support treatment.

  • Develop a plan that will minimize and limit arguments and unproductive conflict.

  • Do not yell, scream or talk to people in an abusive or threatening manner.

  • Avoid confrontations that are not part of a crisis intervention plan and are not supported by family or close friends.

  • If there are issues involving abuse or neglect of children, seek advice or further investigation from a crisis intervention specialist or a state human service agency. (Keep records of all relevant contact, conversations, behaviors and especially threats, self-harming or violent behaviors made including dates, times and witnesses.)

Copyright 1999 - 2001, Michael G. Conner, Psy.D