Apr 1, 2003 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Substance Abuse—How To Recognize It

Am Fam Physician. 2003 Apr 1;67(7):1535-1536.

Am I drinking too much?

YES, if you are:

  • A woman who has more than seven drinks* per week or more than three drinks per occasion.

  • A man who has more than 14 drinks* per week or more than four drinks per occasion.

  • Older than 65 years and have more than seven drinks* per week or more than three drinks per occasion.

Am I taking risks with alcohol or other mood-altering substances?

YES, if you:

  • Drink or use drugs and drive or operate machinery, or if you mix alcohol or drugs with other medicine (over-the-counter and prescription drugs).

  • Don't tell your surgeon, physician, or pharmacist that you are a regular drinker or user of mood-altering drugs.

  • Are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant and drink or use drugs. (Even small amounts of alcohol can hurt an unborn child. Other drugs are also dangerous in pregnancy.)

  • Drink alcohol or use drugs while you are looking after small children.

Has my drinking or drug use become a habit?

YES, if you drink or use drugs regularly to:

  • Relax, relieve anxiety, or go to sleep.

  • Be more comfortable in social situations.

  • Avoid thinking about sad or unpleasant things.

  • Socialize with other regular drinkers or drug users.

Is alcohol or drug use taking over my life?

YES, if you:

  • Worry about having enough alcohol or drugs for an evening or weekend.

  • Hide alcohol or drugs, or buy alcohol at different stores so people will not know how much you are drinking.

  • Switch from one kind of drink to another, hoping that this will keep you from getting drunk.

  • Try to get “extra” drinks at a social event or sneak drinks when others aren't looking.

Has drinking alcohol or using drugs become a problem for me?

YES, if you:

  • Can't stop drinking or using drugs once you start.

  • Have tried to stop drinking or using drugs for a week or so but only lasted a few days.

  • Fail to do what you should at work or at home because of drinking or drug use.

  • Feel guilty after drinking or using drugs.

  • Find that other people make comments to you about your drinking or drug use.

  • Have had a drink or used drugs in the morning to get yourself going.

  • Can't remember what happened while you were drinking or using drugs.

  • Have hurt someone as a result of your drinking or drug use.

What do I do about problem drinking?

Try to cut down to safe drinking levels: less than seven drinks per week and less than three drinks per occasion for women and older people, and less than 14 drinks per week and less than four drinks per occasion for men.

How can I get help for an alcohol or drug problem?

If you feel you need help to cut down, you can contact:

  • Your doctor for advice, treatment, or referral.

  • Self-Help Support Groups:

    Alcoholics Anonymous (AA); call your local chapter (check your local phone directory under “Alcoholism” or call 212–870–3400) www.alcoholics-anonymous.org

    Narcotics Anonymous (NA); call your local chapter (check your local phone directory under “Drug Abuse” or call 818–773–9999) www.na.org

    Al-Anon (for spouses and other significant adults in an alcoholic person's life) and Alateen (for children of alcoholics)

    Telephone: 1–800–344–2666

    www.al-anon.alateen.org

    Adult Children of Alcoholics

    Telephone: 1–310–534–1815

    www.adultchildren.org

    SMART Recovery

    Telephone: 1–440–951–5357

    www.smartrecovery.org

    Women for Sobriety, Inc.

    Telephone: 1–800–333–1606

    www.womenforsobriety.org

  • Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Call 1–800–662-HELP for information about local treatment programs and to speak to someone about your alcohol or drug problem.

For more information

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Public

Information Office

Telephone: 1–301–443–3860

www.niaaa.nih.gov

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information

Telephone: 1–800–729–6686

www.health.org


*—One drink = one 12-oz bottle of beer (4.5 percent alcohol), one 5-oz glass of wine (12.9 percent alcohol), or 1.5 oz of 80-proof distilled spirits.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2003 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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