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Substance and Alcohol misuse


Important information about getting help

Elizabeth Copulsky, MPH. University of Illinois at Chicago

Drug and alcohol use occur on a spectrum. Some people consume alcohol and drugs, with little frequency and are able to conduct fulfilling and productive lives. Other people may use alcohol and drugs in a chaotic manner that has measurable negative impacts on the quality of their lives and subsequently produces grave consequences. It is important to note that alcohol and drug misuse and dependence are recognized as valid medical conditions,that receive the same care as other conditions.

  • What impact are drugs and alcohol having on my life, particularly on a daily basis?

  • Have I faced any external consequences as a result of my drug and alcohol use?

  • What internal consequences, if any am I experiencing? Consider mood and health

  • Have I tried to cease or reduce my drug and alcohol use? If so, what have the results been?

  • Do I have any pressing legal issues?

  • Am I interested in seeking complete abstinence from drugs or alcohol or would I like to moderate/ use substances more safely?

  • What resources are available to me?

The aforementioned questions should be considered when pursuing next steps.


Although there are several assessments that can be done by a licensed mental health professional provider,  it is ultimately your choice to decide whether or not alcohol or drugs are impacting you negatively. Being an advocate in your own treatment plan will increase the likelihood of success.



If your goal is abstinence, there are several options available. 12-step groups are free and widely accessible, and many people benefit from them. However, if you find these not helpful there are other group support options (SMART Recovery) that are becoming increasingly available.

While these groups may be helpful, it also may be beneficial to access individual therapy. Websites like psychology today, offer extensive listings. If the rates listed are not affordable, always ask if a sliding scale option is available.

There are also evidence-based medications available that may assist you. If you struggle with opioid misuse, buprenorphine and methadone may be helpful. You can find bupe providers at

For methadone providers, a simple google search of methadone providers in your city will help you locate one. These medications are becoming increasingly accessible and are frequently covered by insurance or your state’s medicaid. Do not let fear of costs, prohibit you from pursuing options


It should be noted that for individuals struggling with benzodiazepine and alcohol dependence should seek medical counsel before ceasing use. The abrupt cessation of either, is highly dangerous and could result in death. Although cessation of other drugs may be uncomfortable, they do not put users at risk for death. Despite this, it may be beneficial to seek aid from a health care professional to ease distressing symptoms.


Moderating use/ Harm reduction


You may decide that although you use drugs and alcohol, they are not impacting you gravely or you are not interested in completely ceasing use. Fortunately there are resources for you, that may improve your health and increase safety around drug use.


If you inject drugs, be sure to use clean needles. Depending on where you live, there may be needle exchange programs for you. These organizations provide clean needles anonymously and free of cost. Using clean needles decrease the risk of hepatitis C, HIV and soft tissue infections. Additionally, do not share needles. If you do not have consistent access to clean needles, using bleach to disinfect needles may lessen the risk of disease.


If you use opioids, it’s important to have naloxone on hand. Naloxone is a safe, non-addictive drug that’s easy to use and reverses opioid overdose. If you want more information on naloxone use and signs of overdose, check out (Link). Naloxone is available at many needle exchange programs free of cost, and is becoming increasingly more accessible to purchase at pharmacies without a prescription.


There is increasing evidence that drug supply across the country,has fentanyl in it. Fentanyl is synthetic and 100 times more potent than morphine. Reports show that fentanyl is increasingly mixed with heroin and more recently pressed into counterfeit prescription pills. Local needle exchanges frequently provide fentanyl testing strips to determine the presence of fentanyl in drugs. If these resources are accessible, it is highly recommended that you utilize them.

Additional resources



Alcoholics Anonymous


Narcotics Anonymous



Smart Recovery



Moderating use/harm reduction:


Harm Reduction Coalition


Drug Policy Alliance


Next Distro (Free Naloxone resources)

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