Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 1999;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.

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