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Getting Real About Substance Abuse Print E-mail
Written by Shawn Johnson, BDO Staff Writer   
Thursday, 08 April 2010
Image(BlackDoctor.org) -- “I need a drink.” How many times have you said that after a stressful day at work? Or maybe you use recreational drugs when you’re out with friends to make a good time feel that much better. What about prescription drugs? Do you find that you still need the prescription painkiller your doctor gave you for a sports injury that, for all intents and purposes, has otherwise healed?

If you’ve nodded your head to the above queries, it could mean you have a substance abuse problem.

Alcoholism and drug addiction are said to occur when the body and the brain have adapted to the substance to the point where compulsive cravings cause users to lose control of their lives. The changes in the body and brain make the addict dependent on alcohol or drugs, causing the addict’s tolerance level to steadily increase, meaning the amount needed to get high keeps increasing as well.

Warning Signs

If you’re concerned about your alcohol consumption, consider how much you drink compared to what is considered a moderate level—two drinks per day for men, with one drink being equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

You can also recognize a problem with alcoholism or addiction by considering how much you need to drink or take in order to get high. If you need to use more and more to get the same effect, then you’re definitely in the throes of alcoholism or addiction.

Another sign that you have a substance abuse problem is if you continue to use drugs or alcohol even when the abuse has caused a major disruption in your life—anything from problems within your family or on the job to health issues and financial troubles.

People struggling with substance abuse might recognize their predicament, even if they find it difficult or impossible to fight it. But if you’re in denial about a substance abuse problem, try answering these questions:

• Do you wish you could cut down on your substance use?
• Do loved ones get on your nerves with their criticism about your substance use?
• Do you ever felt ashamed or guilty about your substance use?
• Do you ever need a drink or drugs as soon as you get up to face the day or just to steady yourself?

If you said yes to just one question, you may have a substance abuse problem. If you said yes to more than one question, it’s very likely you’re experiencing alcoholism or addiction.

Starting to Heal

Recognizing that you have a problem with alcoholism or drugs is the first step in getting help. The next steps involve taking action to stop the substance abuse:

• Talk to your doctor about how to find a treatment plan. There are specialized programs and facilities for alcohol and drug abuse. Choices will include outpatient and residential services. The best program for you may involve behavioral therapy or other types of counseling and detoxification to help you safely withdraw from the substance. The most important consideration is finding a program that addresses your individual needs; there are no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solutions.

• You can research treatment options in your area through the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration’s Substance Abuse Treatment Facility or by calling its National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP.

• Consider joining a support group specific to the substance you’re abusing, like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. Studies have shown that participating in one of these groups, in addition to other treatment, increases your chance of beating the addiction. Fellow members can offer insights and encouragement that only people going through the same process can truly know. Visit aa.org or na.org.

Conquering substance abuse is hard work and it takes time, but with the right help the reward is incomparable: getting your life back.

  • BlackDoctor.org is a credible and trusted resource for African Americans to get healthy lifestyle information.  A "WebMD" for Black consumers is a good way of looking at us.  Our aim is to build a comprehensive database of accurate, relevant information and to be the first point of call whenever African Americans need medical/dental information or a referral to a qualified Black doctor. 
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