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Editor's Note:  "Borderlines," BAMHS' periodic column, provides ideas and suggestions for healthy living, better family life and successful strategies for coping with life's challenges. Our newsletter is updated frequently! Check back often.
Border lines
Posted: April 14, 2010
Last Updated: April 14, 2010

When to seek help for substance abuse

Substance use of any kind is dangerous, even legal substances like alcohol or tobacco can have serious health risks and cause addiction if abused. People of all ages can quickly, or over time, become victims of their own negative behavior. Substance abuse can just as quickly become substance dependence without a person realizing it. The choice substance to be abused is often determined by age, economics, social or ethnic group, peer pressure and other factors. Genetics can cause certain people to be more prone to specific substance abuse, like a family’s predisposition to alcoholism.

Many times the change over from substance use, legal or illegal, to substance abuse can be seamless without the user noticing when want gives way to need for the drug. The user’s behaviors can change drastically when this turnabout occurs. Below are some of the most common warning signs of substance abuse:

·         Uses more alcohol and/or drugs than in the past, sometimes daily or excessive use;

·         Denies or tries to hide drinking and/or drug use;

·         Makes you embarrassed, anxious or afraid when he/she is under the influence;

·         Avoids discussing his/her behavior when intoxicated;

·         Minimizes the amount and frequency of use when confronted;

·         Chooses friends who are heavy drinkers or drug users;

·         Forgets or denies things that happened when s/he was intoxicated;

·         Often drinks and/or takes drugs to relax or forget about problems;

·         Behaves differently when intoxicated (for example, a person who is normally quiet and mild-mannered becomes loud and angry when intoxicated);

·         Denies having a drinking problem because he/she drinks only beer or wine, or denies having a drug problem because he/she only uses marijuana, over-the-counter diet aids or some other supposedly "harmless" substance;

·         Has problems related to their alcohol/drug use like accidents, conflicts, financial difficulties, absenteeism from work, frequent illness, hangovers;

·         Drives a car while intoxicated, or is arrested for drunk driving; 

·         And avoids social gatherings where alcohol and/or other drugs may not be available.

Remember the warning signs of abuse listed above may be normal behavior or denote health problems in some people. The above signs are not definitive proof of a substance abuse problem, but behaviors that deviate from the person’s normal action are cause for concern because it could denote other issues, and a health care provider should be consulted. Conclusions should be based on facts, not on assumptions.

Many substance abusers suffer from denial of the addiction.  Because substance abuser can become irritated, angry or aggressive when confronted with their problem, it is best to first consult with a counselor or primary care physician. Health care professionals are trained to be considerate, and trained to tactfully express concerns to people. They can also offer advice and treatment options to the substance user.

To learn more about substance abuse or to seek help call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649 for referral; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.


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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.