and Other Drugs
We do not believe all drinking is destructive.
Most people use moderately and experience no problems as a result. However, when excessive
use occurs, the effects can be severe.
The sections below give
some basic information about substance use, along with warning signs of abuse and
information about how a psychologist can help.
Some Basic Facts
Here are some basic
facts to keep in mind:
- A "drink" = one 12 ounce beer, a 5 ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of
distilled liquor. The alcohol content is the same in these amounts.
- Alcohol is the most common drug in use. Roughly 8% of people in the U.S. abuse alcohol.
- Substance abuse is associated with losses in relationships, health, financial
well-being, productivity, and social standing.
- For the family, there is anxiety and fear (because of financial pressures, legal
problems, health problems, and the increased risk of violence), There also is shame and
embarrassment (e.g., children can't have friends over for fear of the substance abuser's
behavior). In addition, there is anger over the effects of the alcohol abuse on the family
and grief because of the losses that are endured.
- Most people who abuse substances are not obvious to others. You do not have to be on
skid row to have a problem. Most substance abusers carry on a fairly normal routine and
hide the problem until it becomes completely overwhelming.
- People who do use alcohol and other drugs excessively are notoriously good at
kidding themselves about the amount they use or the problems associated with their use. In
this case, it is a good idea to listen to a reasonable outside source, someone who can
fairly see your use and its effects.
Below are some warning
signs about excessive substance use. Here, we refer to "drinking" but you can
substitute "drugging" just as well. Note that we break things down into
consumption and other factors. Both are important in assessing the impact of drinking on
the person's life. We also list some additional warning signs for adolescents.
- Drinking more than a couple of drinks
nearly every day.
- Drinking more than a 4 or 5 drinks more than once a week.
- Getting intoxicated more than a 3 or 4 times a year.
- Using any drug that involves needles or induces craving.
- Any use that reduces your ability to function in relationships, work, school, or social
- Your drinking is contrary to your
personal values or hinders you in reaching your goals.
- The thing you enjoy most in life, or pursue with the greatest motivation, is drinking.
- When you drink, you cant stop. You consistently drink more than you intend.
- You have wondered if you should cut back but never actually do, or you cannot abstain
from all substances for a month without a struggle.
- Other people joke about your drinking, or express concern, complain about it, or suggest
- You drink alone, or you have drifted from a social group that drinks in small or
moderate amounts to one that drinks regularly or heavily.
- You tend to pour larger amounts, buy larger sizes, or drink your drinks quickly.
- You get hostile and belligerent, get into fights when drinking, or become verbally or
physically abusive at home.
- Your children never bring any friends home.
- You have been late to work or missed work (or school) because you could not get going
after drinking the night before.
- Overall, your investment, effectiveness, and productivity in work, school,
relationships, etc. have deteriorated.
- You drive while intoxicated (lets face it, these days everyone should be using a
designated driver or showing better control of their drinking if one is not available).
- You have experienced financial losses as a result of drinking, or other bills go unpaid
while you are still spending money on alcohol.
- You have health problems related to your alcohol use.
- When drinking, you act in ways that could have serious negative consequences.
- You have been arrested or had legal problems related to drinking.
Warning Signs for Adolescents:
- Deterioration in school performance and grades.
- A pattern of skipping school or frequent absences.
- A change in the teen's peer group or
"hanging out with the wrong crowd."
- Unusual spending patterns.
- Giving up hobbies or other activities which in the past have been important.
The Role of the Psychologist
Psychologists can be
helpful in several ways:
First, the psychologist
can help the person honestly evaluate his substance use, including the benefits the person
gets (e.g., reduced anxiety), the current negative effects, and the long-term impact of
the substance use.
psychologist can guide the person in defining his values and goals, which are the
foundation for choices regarding substance use.
Third, the psychologist
can work with the person to develop skills for handling life without excessive substance
psychologist supports the person's efforts to change the substance use and related