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Substance abuse

By AJ Murphy

What is substance abuse?

Sometimes, people use drugs or alcohol to cope with a problem. They may believe these substances can help them relax or cheer up. But this can be dangerous. Your body can become dependent on these substances as a way to cope with other issues. Drugs and alcohol won’t improve your life. They will impair your speech, behavior and judgment. And may even cause serious damage to your health.


How can you tell if you’re abusing drugs or alcohol?

You may be having problems with drugs or alcohol if you answer “yes” to three or more of these questions:

  • Do you think a party or social gathering isn’t fun without drugs or alcohol?
  • Have family members, friends or coworkers ever commented on your substance use?
  • Do you have friends you drink or do drugs with?
  • Do you look forward to the next time you drink or get high?
  • If you only drink or use substances after work or on weekends, do you think you don’t have a problem?
  • Are family members or friends beginning to avoid you?
  • Have you unsuccessfully tried to cut down or quit using drugs or alcohol?
  • Do you hide your use from other people?
  • Are you beginning to distrust and avoid some people?
  • Do you get up the day after drinking or doing drugs and not remember what happened the night before?
  • Do you have health problems because of your substance use?

Where can I get help for substance abuse?

Dealing with substance abuse can be hard. But you’re not alone. There are a lot of people who can help you on your road to recovery. You can get help from:

  • Primary care. Your primary care physician (PCP) can give you medication to help you stop using drugs or alcohol. Or they can refer you to a specialist, if needed.
  • Specialized professional care. You can go to a special facility where medical support will help you detox. Talk to your PCP, a counselor or care manager if you’re interested in getting this kind of care.
  • MAT. This stands for medication-assisted treatment. This can happen in your PCP’s office or a special clinic. A doctor prescribes or administers medication to stop your cravings. That is combined with behavioral therapy (like cognitive behavioral therapy). This helps you discover the reasons you may be using and how to stop.
  • Self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous® (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These programs help people get sober and stay sober. You don’t have to use your real name at meetings. And everyone is welcome to join. Some people find it easier to go with a friend. You can find a meeting near you at AA online or NA online.

Recovery is a lifelong process

Don’t let drugs or alcohol control your life. You can quit for good. But change may not be easy or quick. Treatment is only the beginning of your journey. Relapse is common, but not a sign of failure. It means treatment should continue. Never give up. Here are some more websites that will help you along the way:

About the author

AJ Murphy is an evocative young writer who grew up in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood. AJ began his writing career at Alaska Ice Rinks Inc. in Anchorage, AK, where he also drove a Zamboni and took care of outdoor hockey rinks.

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