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Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy:

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Leaving Alcohol and Other Drugs Behind

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John never missed a day of work, always took his kids to their sports practices, and made sure the lawn looked nice, but on weekends he spent a lot of his time drinking. He never felt quite up to par. Getting to work Monday mornings was becoming difficult. John knew he had a drinking problem, but he had a hard time asking for help.

Jessica was very shy and awkward and felt uncomfortable at parties unless she smoked some marijuana or sniffed some glue ahead of time. She knew taking drugs was becoming a pattern, but it was better than feeling her sense of loneliness. On the other hand, she thought the time was getting near when all the drugs would cause her worse pain than the loneliness.

Terry always tried to keep up with his buddies, but lately they seemed to be drinking and using other drugs all the time. Terry's father was an alcoholic and Terry had vowed he would never drink "that much." He was confused. He kept up with his buddies to prove himself a man, but if his father did the same thing to be a man, he wasn't sure it was a good idea.

Maria tried everything she could think of to stop drinking. She switched from beer to wine, decided not to drink until after the sun went down, took long walks whenever she felt the need to drink. But while she was pregnant, her emotions ran very high. She hated the ups and downs and longed more and more for a drink. "A little drink now and then won't hurt," she rationalized. She felt ashamed and had trouble asking for help for fear of humiliation.

Michael's mother and father told him a million times he was no good. Getting drunk proved them right. "Why bother staying sober?" he'd ask himself. He knew the answer was he didn't like himself drunk. So, he'd lay off for a month or so, but then something would get him mad and he'd start again and stay drunk for 5 or 6 days. He wanted some help. But how was he going to get it?

Susan was obsessed with drinking. She really enjoyed it and rarely associated with anyone who couldn't keep up with her drinking. She spent most of her free time in bars and restaurants known for generous drinks and became more interested in the wine list than the menu. She entertained a lot too, with plenty of people and cases of alcohol What her guests didn't drink, she finished off. Every once in a while the thought occurred that she might be developing a problem, but she'd put it out of her mind. She didn't have to ask for help. No one would ever think she needed assistance, would they?

There's a good reason others may have seen your problem with alcohol or other drugs and recognized your need for help sooner than you did yourself. In a society where such problems are so stigmatized, and the person with the problem made to feel ashamed, it is easy to understand why you would want to deny that you have such a problem. In fact, this kind of denial has become so familiar that many experts associated it with alcohol and other drug dependence.

Everyone described in this publication -- including you, perhaps -- is beginning to understand the seriousness of their problem and is wondering how to get help. Some will act more quickly than others to get this help. Some will actually stop drinking or taking other drugs on their own. Some will get into trouble with the law, at work or with families or friends before they get help. But all of them need that help. They do not want to depend on alcohol or other drugs to cope with life and its problems any more than you do. Like you, they want to take charge of their lives as have millions of others who have left alcohol and other drugs behind.

If you drink to change the way you feel; to relieve boredom, anxiety, depression, anger, or low self-esteem; to gain acceptance form others; to escape life's problems; or to feel part of the good life you see in alcohol advertising, or in drinking scenes in the movies and on television, then you are not alone. These are the reasons many people give for drinking. And if you are one of the 76 million Americans who grew up in a family where there was a drinking problem, you may not have known that you had a greater chance than other so developing a problem yourself.

But figuring out why you began drinking or using other drugs is not important right now. What is important is to recognize that alcohol and/or other drugs are taking you away from the life you want, understanding how serious the problem is, and then getting help.

There is no typical alcoholic or drug dependent person. You may be old or young; male or female; single, married, divorced, or living with someone; practice any religious observance or none; live in the country, city, or suburb; earn a lot or a little; come from any ethnic or racial background; and live any type of lifestyle.

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The Facts

  1. If you drink heavily after a confrontation or argument, or because of emotional pain, you may feel that you need alcohol or other drugs to reduce the unpleasant feelings. But there are other ways to cope without using alcohol or other drugs -- you can talk with others about your feelings, find comfort around people who want to deal with life's problems, too, even yell in the shower. If these options seem difficult, you may need the help and resources provided at the end of this pamphlet.
  2. If it takes more and more alcohol or more and more drugs to get the same effect, you know you have a problem. You're saying the reason for drinking or drugging is to relieve painful feelings or to get high. You're trying to get away from something negative and looking for something you think is more positive. After a while, the high won't get higher and you won't be able to get rid of whatever is bothering you. In the meantime, you will have become addicted and have that added problem to deal with before finding better and more positive ways of coping with your problems.
  3. If you remember last night -- starting out, beginning to drink, maybe having a few extra drinks before your friends arrived "just to get in the mood," feeling pretty good, having a good time, having a few more drinks -- but then, that's all you remember -- you've had a blackout. Blackouts are a major problem. They are linked to all those extra drinks or to the large quantity you've started to consume. Now that you know this unpleasantness clearly, you start to worry about senility, your capabilities, and the blackouts. It leads you right back to a bottle to stop the worrying and the memory of worrying. It's an addictive cycle. Worry can be useful, but you don't have to do it alone. There is help. More than 15 million Americans -- 1 out of every 11 -- suffer from a drinking problem. There also are many who use other drugs the same way. You are not alone.
  4. The blackouts alarm you to the point of switching drinks, switching jobs, and switching promises to yourself. Nothing works. You're now suffering some work-related problems and beginning to have money problems. You don't tell anyone. You drink some more or use other drugs, but they don't seem to help anymore. You feel out of control. You are. Alcohol and/or other drugs have taken over your life. You know it. You also know that a little of this or a lot of that no longer takes away the worry; it is the worry. Alcohol and/or other drugs have you in serious trouble and you need immediate help. There is no turning around. Go directly for help.
  5. You've begun to realize that others are talking about your drinking or drugging. Vague questions really irritate you because, although they're about what you're doing tonight, who you're going to see or whether you got paid today, you know those questions were really to find out if you were going out to get drunk or stoned. At first you thought they were selfish and nagging, but deep down, it bothers you more and more that others may care about you more than you care about yourself. Why don't they just leave you alone? Maybe they don't know how to care for you. Maybe you'll have to help them know how. It may not be easy. It may require a great deal of honesty from yourself and others, but this is what turns the lock and lets you take control of your life again.
  6. Your hands shake in the morning. You're frightened, scared, and many times terrified. You feel like a little child, alone, unhappy, miserable, and depressed. You don't care much anymore about anything. Life has passed you by and it wasn't fair. You may begin to contemplate suicide. Everyone is extremely irritated with you or has left you and it seems they didn't care. You don't eat much. Instead you drink, sometimes for several days at a time. Nothing relieves the pain and, after a while, you can't even drink very much anymore. At this point, you are in the late stages of alcoholism. While many of the physical problems may be somewhat reversed, others will not. But that doesn't mean getting help should be postponed. Thousands of men and women are recovering from the advanced stages of alcohol dependence and other drug addictions and have completely turned their lives around. They are willing to help you take charge of your life. Gather all the courage you have to ask for help. Pick up the phone and make the call.

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Getting Help

The above descriptions focus on the problems of alcohol abuse and dependence, but they are just as applicable to problems with other drugs and addiction. Deep down in your heart you know if you have a problem. But you don't want others to think of you as bad or weak-willed or even "sick," if you admit to having a problem. The fact is that you do have a progressive disease that only gets worse with time and if you do not get help you could die from it.

This is not meant to scare you. You are probably already frightened, worried about your drinking or other drug-taking, and afraid to ask for help. But it's one of the most courageous things you can do for yourself. It is difficult, but the sooner you do it, the easier it will be. It means that you have to start to value and care for yourself. It's the step to take so that all the other pieces can fall into place.

More than a million Americans like you -- women and men of every possible description, who have found themselves struggling with a drinking or other drug problem -- have taken charge of their lives and are free of these destructive dependencies today. As you begin investigating the kinds of help available to you, you will discover that some use one kind of help and others use a combination. Some rely more on internal strengths and seek limited guidance from others, while many find the combined wisdom and experience of others with similar problems to be of priceless value. Still others benefit from the services of professional counselors and therapists; ministers, rabbis, and priests; community agencies. You might even want to take someone with you when seeking assistance.

You can find out what kind of help is available from a health care provider, clergy, or employee assistance program (EAP). Therapists, community health and social agencies, and alcohol/other drug treatment programs also can make useful suggestions. Begin by looking under "alcohol" or "drug abuse" in your telephone directory white pages. Or, you can contact any of the following national resources.

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