Common Health Problems  »  Mental Health Conditions


Alcohol and drug problems are abuse or dependence on these substances.

Signs & Symptoms

For Alcohol or Drug Abuse

  1. Failure to fulfill work or home duties.

  2. Legal problems, such as getting arrested for drunk driving, etc.

  3. Physical harm from car accidents, etc.

  4. Relationship problems.

For Alcohol or Drug Dependence

  1. Cravings. There are strong needs for the substance.

  2. Loss of control. The person is unable to limit taking the substance.

  3. Physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms occur when the substance is stopped after a period of using it.

  4. Tolerance. Greater amounts of the substance is needed in order to “get high” or have the desired effects.


  1. Increased use and tolerance of alcohol or drugs.

  2. Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

  3. Family history of alcohol abuse. A person is about 4 times more likely to be an alcoholic if one parent is; and 10 times more likely if both parents are.

  4. Prolonged fatigue or stress.

  5. Prolonged use of prescribed pain pills.

  6. Ongoing problems with family, money, etc.

  7. Events that result in change. Examples are retirement, failing health, and the death of a friend or loved one. At first, having a drink or taking a drug brings relief. Later it turns into a problem.

  8. Being with people who use drugs or drink a lot.

  9. Having problems dealing with others.

For Alcohol Problems

Alcoholism is a disease that needs treatment. Treatment includes:

  1. Self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

  2. “Rehab” centers. Alcohol treatment programs.

  3. Counseling.

  4. Nutrition therapy.

  5. Medication.

If you suspect a drinking problem in you, a family member, or a friend, seek advice.

For Drug Problems

  1. Treatment varies. It depends on the substance being used and the person’s needs. Types of treatment include:

  2. Emergency medical care for overdoses or for violent behaviors, etc.

  3. Medical treatment for physical problems due to the drug use and/or for drug withdrawal.

  4. Counseling.

  5. Nutrition therapy.

  6. Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Cocaine Anonymous (CA).

Self-Care / Prevention

  1. Avoid places, such as certain parties, where you can get drugs.

  2. Learn how to relax without alcohol or drugs. Listen to calm music. Do deep breathing exercises, etc.

To Prevent Problems with Alcohol and Illegal Drugs

  1. Seek help for a mental health problem, such as depression, before it leads to drug or alcohol problems.

  2. Learn as much as you can about the harmful effects of alcohol and drugs. Visit a self-help meeting for drug users, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Cocaine Anonymous (CA). See first hand the problems that drugs have caused others.

  3. Talk to your doctor or the contact person for your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at work. He or she can evaluate your risk level and help you get treatment.

To Prevent Problems with Prescribed Medicines

  1. Use medicines only as prescribed. Don’t increase the dosage or take it more often than your doctor tells you to. Consult your doctor first.

  2. Don’t use medicine prescribed for someone else.

  3. Ask your doctor about the risks of addiction when he or she prescribes sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and/or strong pain relievers. Find out how long you should take these medicines. Ask if there are ways to treat your problem without them.

  4. Find out how to gradually use less of a medicine to avoid harmful side effects.

  5. Don’t mix medications, such as Vicodin or Xanax with alcohol to enhance the “buzz.” Don’t use Adderall to pull an all-nighter.

Other Tips

  1. Some prescribed drugs and alcohol do not mix. Some mixtures can be fatal. Don’t have alcohol with prescribed drugs if the drug’s label or your doctor or pharmacist tells you not to. Ask your doctor how much, if any, alcohol you can have if you take any prescribed drugs.

  2. Eat when you drink. Food helps to slow alcohol absorption.

  3. Know your limit and stick to it. You may decide it is better not to drink at all.

  4. Don’t drink and drive. Choose a driver who will not be drinking.

Questions to Ask

With a suspected drug overdose, do any of these problems occur?

  1. Loss of or decreasing level of consciousness.

  2. Severe shortness of breath. Wheezing.

  3. Hallucinations. Confusion. Convulsions.

  4. Slow and/or shallow breaths (10 or fewer breaths per minute and/or time lapses of more than 8 seconds between breaths).

  5. Pulse rate of 40 or fewer beats per minute.

Has alcohol or drug abuse led to any of the following in the last 12 months?

  1. Failure to fulfill major duties at work, school, or home.

  2. Doing things that could cause physical harm while under the influence of the substance, such as driving, operating a machine, or having unsafe sex.

  3. Legal problems, such as getting arrested for drunk driving.

  4. Problems with others, such as physical fights, arguments, etc.

Is the person suddenly hostile, violent, and aggressive? {Note: Use caution. Protect yourself. Do not turn your back to the person or move suddenly in front of him or her. If you can, see that the person does not harm you, himself or herself. Call the police for help if you cannot handle the situation.}

Without symptoms, do you suspect that a person has taken a drug overdose (e.g., pill containers are emptied, etc.) or tried to commit suicide?

Does drinking or drug abuse cause memory lapses or blackouts?

Have 3 or more of the problems listed below occurred in the last 12 months?

  1. More of the substance is needed to get drunk or reach a desired effect.

  2. If the substance is stopped or less is taken, withdrawal symptoms occur. These include:

  3. -Shaking.

  4. -Acting very cranky.

  5. -Not being able to sleep.

  6. -Depression.

  7. -Headaches.

  8. -Anxiety.

  9. -Hallucinations.

  10. The substance or one like it is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

  11. The substance is taken in larger amounts often or over a longer period of time than intended.

  12. Being unable to cut down or control the use of the substance, even if desired.

  13. A lot of time is spent doing things needed to get the substance, use it, or to recover from its effects.

  14. Important social, work, or leisure activities are stopped or done less often to use the substance.

  15. The substance is still taken even though it causes or worsens physical or emotional problems.

Does an alcohol user answer “Yes” to one or more of these “CAGE” questions?

  1. Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?

  2. Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?

  3. Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?

  4. Have you ever had a drink to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye opener)?

Has the person who has been drinking regularly stopped drinking suddenly? And does he or she show symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as tremors, hallucinations, or severe confusion?