Substance Abuse

Trying to determine if someone you love has a substance abuse problem is difficult. A person who is an alcoholic or drug addict may be well schooled at hiding their addiction, leaving you wondering if there really is a problem. There are different degrees and types of addiction, but the fact remains: addiction often is a progressive illness, and without intervention or treatment, an addict is at the mercy of their struggle, which can be fatal.

Substance abuse is essentially a pattern of misuse of any substance for purposes of altering one's mood. Using substances not intended for ingestion to get high, or taking prescription medication simply to get high both are hallmarks of a struggle with substance abuse. Most people with a substance abuse problem have to hit what's called a "bottom" before they are ready to receive help. The decision to seek help is ultimately that of the person with the substance abuse problem.

If your loved one isn't ready to accept help, there are things you can do to take care of yourself:

  • Educate yourself on substance abuse and addiction.
  • Don't cover up for your friend or make excuses for them.
  • Find someone with whom you can share your feelings about your friend's struggle with substance abuse. This may be an individual counselor, clergy member or support group, such as Al-Anon.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a department of the National Institutes of Health, offers resources for friends and family members of someone in the throes of addiction. You can also find valuable information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Providence Health & Services offers several substance abuse treatment options.

Find ways to address addiction.

  • Call a behavioral health expert at 800-711-4577, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Call a care nurse at 800-662-1121 or email
  • Talk to one of our ProvRN nurses, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.