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Substance Abuse

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Added April 23, 2014

How to Spot Addiction

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Maybe you have an uncle who always drinks "more than he should." Maybe your dad tries to keep alcohol away from your mom because she gets really angry or cries a lot when she drinks. Maybe you've seen an adult smoke pot and "become somebody else." These are all warning signs of addiction or a really serious drug or alcohol problem. Find out what addiction is and how to spot it around you.


What is Addiction?

Addiction means being dependent on a substance, thing or activity. Examples include alcohol, drugs, video games or gambling. An alcoholic or drug addict needs that substance to feel physically OK and to feel emotionally "normal." Addiction is an illness — not a moral "weakness."


What Are the Signs?

Although substance addiction may be different for any given person, there are some telltale signs of addiction. Express your concern to your friends or family member if he or she…

  • needs drugs or alcohol to have fun — they don't just like to have a few beers at a party, they need a few beers so they can feel comfortable at a party or social situation.

  • uses the substance to deal with emotions like anger or disappointment.

  • needs the substance to feel "normal" — they feel uncomfortable in their own skin until they have that drink or drug. It makes them like themselves better.

  • uses the substance when they're alone.

  • gets worried if they think they can't get it or won't have enough.

  • can't say no — they use the substance even when they don't want to.

  • needs to have it a lot (two to three times a week or more).

  • needs more of it to get the same effect because they’ve "built a tolerance."

  • can't stop — for example, an alcoholic wouldn't be able to stop drinking once she started.

  • deny they have a problem and make up excuses. Denial is a dangerous thing because it keeps people from getting help.


What Can You Do?

This information is important so you can reach out to an adult you trust for help or make smart choices for your personal wellbeing to prevent addiction. If there are people in your family who have problems with alcohol or drugs, it increases the chances that you'll have problems, too. Rather than falling into the same trap, you’ll know better. And you can point them in the right direction to get help.


For additional help, talk to a trusted adult and contact one of these specialists:

  • For free information and other resources on alcoholism: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at

  • National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence (NCADD) 800-NCA-CALL,

  • For free, confidential meetings in every city as well as literature and support: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

  • Free, confidential meetings in many cities for teens who have to deal with alcoholics. Also, literature and support: Alateen

  • Alcohol/Drug Abuse Referral Hotline 800-ALCOHOL (800 252-6465)

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comments so far
Posted February 17, 2013
it is very scary how adults become when either they smoke pot or drink because both my parents i grew up aroud their drinking. my mom cant handle her alcohol but my dad can... is that a bad thinggg.... ? i can never tell plus my mom is always abusing pills n drinking... i dont like it because every time i try and talk to her about it she gets mad at me or doesn't want to hear it from me.
Posted June 22, 2012
I don't know why anyone would ever drink just because it was there. A lot of adults drink when they're at a party or a restaurant, but some drink at home because it's in the fridge.
queen supreme
queen supreme
Posted August 24, 2011
Wow I think sometimes its really sad to see people drink. It just changes some people.:/
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