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Providing quality psychological services to children, adolescents, adults, and seniors.
2110 McFarland Blvd. E., Suite F; Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35404              205-758-7710



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Alcohol 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.

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Warning Signs

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 situations.

Other Factors:

  • 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 can’t 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 cutting back.
  • 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 (let’s 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.

Additional 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.

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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.

Second, the 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 use.

Fourth, the psychologist supports the person's efforts to change the substance use and related behaviors.

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Disclaimer:  You know, we see a disclaimer like this in every ad that lawyers put out, and it probably is a good idea for us to use one, too:  "No representation is made that the quality of the psychological services to be performed is greater than the quality of psychological services performed by other psychologists.  The outcome of assessments or psychotherapy, or individual client satisfaction, cannot be guaranteed and is dependent on many factors.  Material on this site regarding symptoms, disorders, and treatment is informational only.  Diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders requires the expertise of a trained professional."

The information on this site regarding psychological disorders and treatment comes from many sources that cannot be credited, simply because they have been integrated over the years into our general knowledge base. However, one important source is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (1994) published by the American Psychiatric Association.