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 But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date.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, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Do You Have a Problem with Alcohol or Drugs?


Am Fam Physician. 1999 Sep 15;60(4):1183.

  See related article on outpatient detoxification.

How do I know if I have a problem?

You may have a problem with alcohol or drugs if any one of the following statements is true:

  • You believe (or someone close to you believes) that you should cut back on alcohol or drugs.

  • You've been upset when someone criticized your alcohol or drug use.

  • You've felt guilty about your alcohol or drug use (for example, if you've hidden alcohol or drugs at work, in your home or in your car).

  • You've used drugs or alcohol in the morning to steady your nerves.

  • You need more drugs or alcohol to get “high” than you needed when you first started.

Where can I go for help?

If you think you might have a problem with drugs or alcohol, you could talk to your doctor, minister, priest or rabbi. You might also visit a counselor who specializes in helping people with drug or alcohol problems. If your job offers an employee assistance program, you could make an appointment with a counselor. Your privacy will be protected from your employer.

You might contact a treatment program like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous. Some towns have local treatment centers. Al-Anon or Ala-Teen can help your family or friends. The phone numbers for these groups are in the business section of your local telephone book.

You could also call the Focus on Recovery Helpline. This is a national alcohol and drug 24-hour hotline (telephone: 1-800-222-0828).

Your alcohol and drug problems affect everyone around you. You have a better chance of getting off—and staying off—alcohol or drugs if your family knows about your problem and takes part in a treatment program with you.

Addiction is a lifelong illness. After you have stopped using alcohol or drugs, you'll need to enter a program that supports your recovery. You'll need to keep going to meetings with other recovering alcoholics or addicts, and their families. You'll also need more counseling.

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

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 © 1999 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 for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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