Help for Alcohol Abuse

GS Thandi, MSW RSW

The majority of adults in Canada drink alcohol in moderation; however, for some, their drinking becomes problematic. An addiction to any substance like alcohol or drugs can have many negative consequences, including poor health, conflicts with family members, difficulty holding down a job, and financial strains.

To determine if you have a problem, consider the following four questions, known as the CAGE test.

  1. Have you ever felt you should CUT down on your drinking?
  2. Do you get ANNOYED when people criticize you about your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or GUILTY about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (this is called an EYE OPENER)?

If you answered “Yes” to two or more of these questions, you may have a problem with alcohol. But help is available.

If you are considering cutting down or quitting, talk to your doctor. When someone tries to quit drinking after a long time (or even after a short time of frequent use) – they go through physical withdrawal. The body has become used to alcohol and is attempting to adjust, and during this time a person may become quite ill – so you should never detoxify without medical assistance. There are also detox centres you can stay at, where nurses and doctors monitor you to ensure you are detoxifying safely. A detox centre stay can last from a few days to several weeks.

While detox centres help with physical withdrawal, treatment and recovery centres help a person manage psychological withdrawal. Over time, alcohol or drugs may have played a large part in your life, and you will now need to learn how to live life without using. Residents at treatment centres participate in intensive group and individual counselling sessions focusing on their getting healthy physically and mentally, and on helping them identify ways to manage their addictions. After treatment, which can last from a month to several months, many people go on to reside at recovery homes. Here, a resident continues working on his addiction while slowly starting to re-integrate back into society (residents in recovery homes can, after showing they are ready, do things like work while continuing to get support from other residents). In some larger cities, there are recovery homes where languages besides English are spoken. Sometimes a person may go straight into a recovery home instead of first going to a treatment centre. The big difference between treatment and recovery is treatment tends to be more intense (more programs) and usually there are medical staff on site.

For those who do not want to reside at a treatment or recovery home (called inpatient treatment as person remains there, as an “inpatient”), most cities have Alcohol and Drug Outpatient programs, where counsellors in the community can help a client (“outpatients”) to overcome their addictions challenges through individual and group sessions. There are also AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) support group meetings held regularly in cities and towns throughout Canada (some meetings are conducted in languages besides English), where people go to meet and talk with others who have chosen to live alcohol and/or drug free. Meeting information, times and locations can be found online.

If you are struggling with an addiction, or are impacted by a loved one’s substance use, feel free to visit or call 877-485-5025 to arrange confidential counselling support.


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