Finding Help for Alcohol and Drug Addiction: Where to Start and When to Reach Out

A girl getting help for alcohol addiction.

Sasa Prudkov /

Note: This post was submitted to Student Caffé by Jackie Cortez. We would like to thank her for her submission and credit her as the author of this blog post.

Alcohol and drug addictions impact millions of families around the world and many struggle with knowing when and how to pursue help. Those who struggle with these kinds of addictions are often not sure how to proceed when they determine that it is time to make a change. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available that can make it easier to transition to a sober lifestyle.

When is it time to reach out for help?

When has drug or alcohol use crossed into the realm of an addiction that needs an intervention or outside help of some sort? As the Addiction Center notes, addiction falls across a spectrum, and issues with drugs or alcohol can range from mild to severe. Once one's relationships and various areas of life have been negatively impacted by substance use, it is time to consider reaching out for help (thought it’s certainly wise to get help before it comes to that).

Common signs of addiction include:

  • Increased use of and tolerance for a substance
  • Loss of interest in regular activities and hobbies
  • Withdrawal symptoms when drugs or alcohol are not being used (e.g, shakiness, depression, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, nausea)
  • Issues maintaining relationships (e.g., avoiding friends and family, becoming violent or upset if confronted about substance use, spending time alone in bars or clubs)
  • Loss of control (e.g., not being able to limit substance use, feeling a physical or emotional need to use a substance)
  • An uptick in dangerous choices (e.g., driving under the influence, borrowing money to fund the habit)

A person struggling with addiction may become quite secretive and this can make it difficult for loved ones to know when the situation is escalating out of control.

How can loved ones help someone with an alcohol or drug addiction?

The Addictions and Recovery site shares a number of tips that can help loved ones deal with an alcohol or drug addiction in someone they care about. It is important to become educated about both addiction and recovery, and work to understand that things will be quite different moving forward. It is critical that loved ones stop making excuses for those who are dealing with addiction issues and not protect them from the negative consequences that may be coming their way. Set boundaries and acknowledge that this is difficult for all involved, and that addiction is a serious illness.

Loved ones of an addict also need to practice self-care as they work to help the person they love face drug or alcohol addiction. There are numerous support groups that specifically work with people involved in these situations, with Nar-Anon and Al-Anon being two of the most commonly used.

What is the best way to get started on handling an addiction?

Acknowledging that there is a drug or alcohol addiction at play is an important start, but what comes next? Addiction Resource details that there are a number of resources available to families facing addiction challenges, and sometimes calling a helpline is the best place to begin.

There are quite a few quality helplines available, with many looking to the support line of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, also called SAMHSA. Their helpline is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Operators can help families find resources for treatment in their area, as well as navigate the options and choices involved. Call 1-800-622-HELP (4357) for information available in both English and Spanish.

Conquering a drug or alcohol addiction is not easy, and many people come to realize that some form of rehabilitation is necessary. Some choose inpatient treatment while others fare well with outpatient programs, but leaning on expert resources is critical for success for most people. Many families worry about how to handle the challenges that come with treatment, both the process of going through it as well as the costs and logistics of being away from work or home. This is where addiction specialists and counselors, and those available via helplines, can assist a great deal.

Facing the realities of an alcohol or drug addiction is never easy, and it is common for relationships with loved ones to be severely damaged along the way. It is a difficult and long process to repair these relationships and attain sobriety, but those in the midst of an addiction crisis should know that there are numerous resources available that can make the process somewhat easier to manage.

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