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Helping Someone with a Drink or Drug related problem

How can you tell if a friend or relative has a problem with alcohol or illegal drugs? What are the signs? How can you help them?

Providing help is not easy. Seeking advice is a good idea if you are worried about someone. Remember that people don’t have to drink or use drugs every day to have a problem. For example, binge drinkers can stay dry between drinking bouts. Some of the signs of an alcohol problem include: drinking throughout the day; mood swings; hidden bottles; feeling uneasy if a drink is not available; and skipping meals.

Every area in the UK has local alcohol and drug advice and counselling services (they go by different names). Details will be found in libraries, GP surgeries and at support agencies like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Click here to see the organisations listed on this site.

What if it’s you who has the problem?

Try this simple self-audit test to see how you rate with alcohol.

Taking Action

Drink and drug-related problems present in a number of ways, each requiring action appropriate to the individual(s) concerned.

In any situation, taking time to think is helpful. This may not always be possible, but prior thought and preparation can help avoid a knee-jerk reaction. Sensitive issues may be raised and it is much better to seek help from someone (or an organisation) with experience than getting out of one’s depth and possibly doing more harm than good. Confidentiality is also an important issue, but this should take account of Child Protection policies and other issues which means that it should not be promised in some situations.

A key point is that dealing with an alcohol problem is about the people involved. This means that skills involved in youth work, parenting, leadership, caring, etc, are all relevant.

Provision of Care

Counselling and treatment services are provided by statutory and voluntary agencies. These will be supplemented by charities, churches and individuals that offer support in family as well as organisational settings.

The Government aims to provide equal access to help across the United Kingdom. In reality, the level of service varies widely and depends on local funding priorities as well as existing historical patterns of what is in place.

There are also different models of care – there is no single solution for drug-related problems.

Family and friends will also need support. Alcoholics Anonymous recognised this a long time ago and established Al-Anon (for spouses) and Al-A-Teen (for children) to provide self-help support. Other groups providing family support are Narcotics Anonymous, Adfam and PADA (Parents Against Drug Abuse).  Visit the Counselling Directory for help with finding a counsellor.  Click here for a list of drug and alcohol-related organisations and their contact details.