How do I know if alcohol and/or other drugs are an issue or not?

There is no easy way to know when alcohol and/or other drug use has become an issue for someone you care about, as it is different for everyone.

In some cases, the person may tell you that they think that their alcohol and/or other drug use is affecting them in a negative way or that they want to get help to stop or cut down their use.

Often though, you might notice changes in the person’s behaviour or health that worries you. Some signs that could indicate that alcohol and/or other drug use is disrupting or having a negative effect on someone’s life include:

  • More and more of their time and money is spent on alcohol and/or other drugs;
  • they are always short of money, in debt or trying to borrow money;
  • they are finding it hard to stop using alcohol and/or other drugs if or when they try to;
  • their day to day health is affected;
  • they experience mental health problems and may be depressed, withdrawn, agitated, particularly moody or experiencing mood swings;
  • work or study may be suffering for example missing work or classes;
  • relationships are affected, perhaps they can no longer socialise without taking alcohol and/or other drugs;
  • they complain, or others complain that they are unable to function socially or sexually without using alcohol and/or other drugs;
  • they may be using alcohol and/or other drugs in non-social situations;
  • they are spending less time on activities and in social scenes that don’t involve alcohol and/or other drugs;
  • you notice they are increasing the amount of alcohol and/or other drugs they are using or the frequency with which they are using alcohol and/or other drugs;
  • you notice numerous instances of them not following through with commitments they have made ; and
  • they have started to experience legal problems.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and neither do these things alone necessarily mean that someone is using alcohol and/or other drugs in a problematic manner.

Many people find it difficult to talk about their alcohol and/or other drug use. One way to try to establish if someone you care about is having a problem with their alcohol and/or other drug use is by having an open and honest conversation with the person, by listening to them and by sharing what you are seeing and experiencing.

If talking seems to increase the relationship tensions, it can sometimes be better to end the conversation and try again another time, or create the opportunity for the person to discuss their alcohol and/or other drug use with a third party they are more comfortable with.

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