Coming Clean About Substance Abuse with Friends and Family

Find a recovery path that’s right for you to overcome drug or alcohol addiction.

An estimated 24.6 million Americans over the age of 12 have used illicit drugs in the past month, and an estimated 22.7 million Americans need treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. Substance abuse, including illicit drugs, marijuana, and alcohol, are on the rise.

Drug abuse and alcoholism is nothing to be ashamed of, and it isn’t something to suppress or keep from others. Come clean by identifying the problem and taking steps toward an honest, successful recovery.

Detecting Substance Abuse

According to the American Society of Addictive Medicine (ASAM), “addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.” The ASAM goes on to explain that the dysfunction of these circuits stimulates a variety of manifestations that often lead to a pathological relief or reward when using drugs or alcohol. When an individual can no longer refrain from a substance, they may experience a lapse in correct emotional responses and physical behaviors. Addiction is often seen in cycles of relapse and remission. Anyone can develop a substance addiction, and addiction can happen at any age.

If you’re concerned about the frequency of your own drug or alcohol usage, identifying the problem is the most important step ─ and often the most difficult. The best way to detect substance abuse is by asking yourself the following questions (as proposed by the NIDA):

  • Do you think about drugs or alcohol frequently?
  • Have you attempted to cease or cut down on your usage, but failed?
  • Do you feel like you don’t fit in or can’t have fun without the use of drugs or alcohol?
  • Do you rely on drugs or alcohol as a solution to anger or depression?
  • Have you missed commitments or made mistakes because of drugs or alcohol?
  • Have you ever been arrested or in the hospital because of your usage?
  • Does the thought of running out of drugs scare you?
  • Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to pay for drugs?

If you answered “yes” to some of the questions above, you should seek additional evaluation from an addiction specialist. Substance abuse is more common than most people know, and seeking assistance shouldn’t be shameful. Admitting addiction is a success — you’re one step closer to living a healthier, more productive life.

Seeking Help and Support

Asking for help is the next most important step. If you’re unsure where to start, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician and ask for a referral. If your primary doctor is comfortable conducting a thorough screening, accept their help and hear their suggestions. If you’d prefer to move directly to an addiction specialist, the American Society of Addiction Medicine released a handy feature to help you find the correct fit.

If you’re worried about coverage, know that substance abuse is a part of the essential health benefits category. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires health plans to offer options (such as co-pays and deductibles) that make specialty care affordable.

While some individuals prefer to battle substance abuse on their own, it is wise to build a support system. Coming clean to friends and family is a major step toward recovery. By sharing your journey with those who care, you’re inviting positivity and encouragement.

  • Some benefits of having a support network include:
  • Increased accountability
  • Support and encouragement during challenging times
  • Re-establishing or enhancing a sense of belonging
  • Improved self-worth
  • Greater chance of recovery

If you don’t think sharing your experience with family or friends is right for you, consider joining group therapy for objective, anonymous support.

What to Expect

Upon your first visit to a specialist, the doctor may screen you to identify what type of substance abuse you are suffering from and to what degree. Treatment will depend on the substance being abused and may range from outpatient treatment programs to inpatient residential treatment.

Outpatient treatment may be appropriate for minor substance abuse and allows you to resume life without much disruption. The inpatient path requires you to temporarily reside in a facility for closer, more personalized care and is often suggested for more serious or life threatening addictions. With the help of your specialist, you will determine which approach is best for you.

Regardless of the treatment approach, your next steps will likely include a drug or alcohol detoxification to restore mental and physical abilities, which will be accompanied by a variety of mental, physical, and emotional withdrawal symptoms. Treatment will also likely include counseling or talk therapy, and if appropriate, medications. Addiction specialists are trained in tailoring a treatment plan and helping you persevere through the recovery process.

Your Health is Important to Canopy Health

Through all challenges, Canopy Health is here to educate, assist, and encourage our members. Bringing health and wellness to the Bay Area is our main priority.


Nationwide Trends. (2015, June). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from

What to Do If You Have a Problem with Drugs: For Adults. (2016, January). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from