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Article Summary

Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs and alcohol are both substances which alter the perceptions of the individual who consumes them. Using these substances regularly can cause a lot of trouble for the user. Many find that their occasional use turns into habitual use, which is more often than not just a step away from addiction. Addiction is where the individual depends on these substances just to feel good or get through their day.

Warning Signs

Here are a few of the early warning signs that a person may have problems with drugs and alcohol:
relying on drugs and alcohol to have fun, forget problems, or relax
having blackouts (when a person can't remember what happened when drunk or high)
taking drugs and alcohol by their self
withdrawing or keeping secrets from friends or family
performing differently in school (such as grades dropping and frequent absences)
building an increased tolerance to drugs and alcohol - gradually needing more and more of the substance to get the same feeling

Addiction and Abuse

There are probably as many definitions of "addiction" and abuse as there are substances to abuse. Misunderstandings occur when we get lost in quibbling over "how much" and "how many times" we take drugs and alcohol. In addition, many of us have cultural, religious, and social baggage about the use of drugs and alcohol. A more useful way to decide if a person is chemically dependent is to consider whether an "impairment" or "negative consequence" occurs as a result of use. This can happen in their physical, emotional, and/or social functioning. Sometimes they notice the effects of drugs and alcohol on their lives, sometimes others have to point it out to them. The range of use includes "experimentation" (use a few times to discover the effect), "regular" or "social use" (use without impairment or negative consequences), "problem use" (impairment in one area of functioning), and "addiction" (the inability to stop using or to stay stopped despite negative consequences in one or more areas of one's life). This includes compulsive use and the loss of control over use.

It is usually hard for people to recognize that they have a problem with drugs and alcohol. This is why friends or family often step in. People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol may promise over and over that they'll stop. However, quitting is hard to do. Many people find they can't do it without help. The best thing for an individual who has problems with drugs and alcohol is to talk to someone they trust, preferably someone who can support them emotional. This way they don't have to deal with their problem alone. There are also lots of resources for people who have problems with drugs and alcohol.

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