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Behavioral Health/Chemical Dependency

Telling If Someone You Know is Chemically Dependent

Now that you know the characteristics of the disease, how can you go about determining whether someone you care about is suffering from it? Needless to say, this is not something that should be taken lightly. Suspecting that someone is chemically dependent, and saying so to the person’s face, are two very different matters! 

Some people believe that you cannot label another person an alcoholic; that this must come from the person himself or herself. But as we shall see, the chemically dependent person is often the last to recognize (or admit) that he or she has a problem. So it may, in fact, be up to you to observe the signs and draw the conclusions. 

The following test, while not a diagnostic tool, can help you to determine if your suspicions are founded. Answer each question with a “yes” or a “no.” 

1. Is the person drinking (or using any other drug) more now than he or she did in the past? 

2. Are you ever afraid to be around the person when he or she is drinking or using drugs—because of the possibility of verbal or physical abuse? 

3. Has the person ever forgotten or denied things that happened during a drinking or using episode? 

4. Do you worry about the person’s drinking or drug use? 

5. Does the person refuse to talk about his or her drinking or drug use—or even to discuss the possibility that he or she might have a problem with it? 

6. Has the person broken promises to control or stop his or her drinking or drug use? 

7. Has the person ever lied about his or her drinking or using, or tried to hide it from you? 

8. Have you ever been embarrassed by the person’s drinking or drug use? 

9. Have you ever lied to anyone else about the person’s drinking or drug use? 

 10. Have you ever made excuses for the way the person behaved while drinking or using? 

11. Are most of the person’s friend’s heavy drinkers or drug users? 

12. Does the person make excuses for, or try to justify, his or her drinking or using? 

13. Do you feel guilty about the person’s drinking or drug use? 

14. Are holidays and social functions unpleasant for you because of the person’s drinking or drug use? 

15. Do you feel anxious or tense around the person because of his or her drinking or drug use?  

16. Have you ever helped the person to “cover up” for a drinking or using episode—by calling his or her employer, or telling others that he or she is feeling “sick”? 

17. Does the person deny that he or she has a drinking problem because he or she only drinks beer (or wine)? Or deny that he or she has a drug problem because use is “limited” to marijuana, or diet pills, or some other supposedly “harmless” substance?

18. Does the person’s behavior change noticeably when he or she is drinking or using? (For example: a normally quiet person might become loud and talkative, or a normally mild-mannered person might become quick to anger.) 

19. Does the person avoid social functions where alcohol will not be served, or drugs will not be available or permitted? 

20. Does the person insist on going only to restaurants that serve alcohol? 

21. To your knowledge, has the person ever driven a car while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs? 

22. Has the person ever received a DWI or DUI? 

23. Are you afraid to ride with the person after he or she has been drinking or using? 

24. Has anyone else talked to you about the person’s drinking or using behavior? 

25. Has the person ever expressed remorse for his or her behavior during a drinking or using episode? 

26. If you are married to the person and have children, are the children afraid of the person while he or she is drinking or using? 

27. Does the person seem to have a low self-image? 

28. Have you ever found alcohol or drugs that the person has hidden? 

29. Is the person having financial difficulties that seem to be related to his or her drinking or drug use? 

30. Does the person look forward to times when he or she can drink or use drugs? 

If you answered “yes” to any three of these questions, then there is a good chance that the person you care about has a drinking or drug problem. If you answered, “yes” to any five, then the chance is even greater. And if you answered “yes” to seven or more, you can feel safe in assuming that the person definitely has a problem with chemical dependency. 

Johnson, Vernon, D. D. Intervention. 19

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