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How Do I Know If Someone Has A Drug Or Alcohol Problem? The Professional’s Perspective

The Professional’s Perspective is written by interventionist and family counselor Ricki Townsend

People often tell me about a loved one’s drinking or drug use, and then they want me to tell them if their loved one is an addict or alcoholic. I would respectfully suggest they can answer that question themselves by asking several other questions:

  • How is drinking or drug use impacting the loved one’s life? How is it impacting others?
  • How is their health? Their job? Their schoolwork? Their family relationships?
  • Have they developed new friendships and left old friendships behind? How’s that working?
  • Do they have legal problems associated with drug or alcohol use?
  • What is their attitude about their lives? Angry? Sad? Argumentative?

When you consider these questions, write down your thoughts – positive and negative – on paper. That can give you perspective and provide support as you objectively assess just how well life is working for your loved one.

And here’s the question I get most often of all: Why don’t they just stop drinking (or drugging)? It’s because addiction/alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. It is considered a brain disease, rather than a disease of character or will power. Addiction/alcoholism is characterized by the inability to stop drinking or using drugs in spite of negative consequences like job loss, DUIs and family issues. It is a physical disease, NOT a disease of character or willpower. And it’s a disease that cannot simply be “loved away”

Without treatment or involvement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can lead to disability, premature death or involvement in illegal activities and incarceration. Through treatment, people can learn to live healthy lives free of alcohol and other drugs. They can reclaim their lives, their families, their work and their health. And that’s the best answer of all.

For more questions and answers about Substance Use Disorder, sign up to get "Recovery 101," Ricki's FREE (yet priceless) eBook on addiction, treatment and recovery.

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