Alcohol & Drug Hotline Guide
Unfortunately, there is commonly a stigma surrounding substance use disorders (SUDs) in our society. People who struggle with SUDs may experience feelings of guilt and shame and often have problems in their relationships with friends and family members. This can cause feelings of isolation or even estrangement from supportive relationships, which can make it difficult to receive the support and encouragement they need to seek treatment and recovery. For many people, calling a drug abuse hotline can provide this important assistance.
What Is a Drug Abuse Hotline?
Drug abuse hotlines provide a way for people who are using, abusing, or have an addiction to alcohol or drugs to obtain support. Calling a drug and alcohol abuse hotline can also provide information about the various options that are available to help you address substance use issues. The benefits of calling drug abuse hotlines include:
- They are always available. You can call a hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and reach a real person who can provide help, support, and information.
- Hotlines are confidential and anonymous. You don’t have to provide any personal or identifying information to make use of a hotline, but you can still get assistance.
- They are free. You can call a hotline and talk to someone without having to worry about how much it costs or having to provide insurance information.
- You don’t have to worry about being judged. People who staff hotlines are knowledgeable about SUDs and many have even had their own issues with SUDs in the past. They understand that addiction is a disease and they are there to listen to you and provide support, provide information about treatment options, and tell you about the steps you need to take to begin treatment.
Who is a Drug Helpline for?
Drug helplines are available to offer support and provide resources to anyone who is struggling with substance abuse or addiction. However, if you have a family member, loved one, or friend who is struggling with substance use, calling a hotline can help you as well.
Addiction affects more than just the person who is drinking or using drugs. It can cause family members, friends, and loved ones to experience strong feelings of anger, fear, frustration, guilt, shame, hopelessness, and helplessness. They may have a supportive group, but they may not feel comfortable discussing substance use with anyone outside of the family. Drug and alcohol helplines can be especially beneficial in these situations since the staff can offer support in a safe, confidential, and non-judgmental setting. They can also provide information on the best way to support your loved one without enabling them and how to ensure that you are taking care of yourself.
Who Will I Speak With When I Call an Addiction Hotline?
When you call a drug or alcohol addiction hotline operated by American Addiction Centers (AAC), you’ll be connected to an admissions team member, known as an Admissions Navigator. Compassionate and knowledgeable, AAC Admissions Navigators are trained to talk you through the things that you, a family member, a loved one, or a friend is experiencing.
AAC Admissions Navigators are team members who are available 24/7 to listen to your story, assist you in creating an action plan to follow when you’re ready and provide the support and encouragement to begin your journey to detox and rehab. They can also answer any questions that you may have about addiction and recovery.
- How do I know if I need to go to detox first?
- What can I expect from detox?
- What should I expect at rehab?
- What do I need to do to prepare for treatment?
- How do I know what kind of treatment I need?
- Can you help me find a rehab that accepts my health insurance?
- What if I don’t have health insurance?
- How can I tell if my loved one is using?
- What can I do to help a loved one get into rehab?
- What if my loved one doesn’t want to go to treatment?
- How can I make sure I’m taking care of myself while helping someone with an addiction?
- Are there any support groups for people with substance abuse problems? What about their loved ones?
When Should I Call an Addiction Helpline?
You may be confused about when to call an alcohol or drug addiction help hotline. If you are worried that you or a loved one may have a problem with substance use, have begun using more heavily, or are experiencing consequences related to substance use, it would be appropriate to call. Hotline counselors can offer support and guidance on getting help with all of these scenarios.
For someone who would like to get help but doesn’t know what to do, helpline staff can connect you to treatment and get you started. They can guide you through encouraging your loved one to seek treatment. They can also support you in setting healthy boundaries and practicing self-care.
Some red flags are often associated with substance use. While they don’t necessarily signal addiction, they can point to the fact that a person might have an issue with alcohol or drugs. These warning signs include:1 (common signs and symptoms, physical warning signs, behavioral signs, psychological warning signs), 2 (other general signs), 3 (p483-484)
- Changes in personality, mood, or behavior that can’t be explained by any other reason.
- Difficulty stopping use even after it has caused problems with a person’s physical or mental health.
- Eating or sleeping more or less than usual.
- Experiencing paranoia with no other explanation for it.
- Bloodshot eyes or pupils that are larger or smaller than normal.
- Getting arrested for offenses related to substance use, such as possession, driving under the influence, theft to buy drugs, or disorderly conduct.
- Having withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped suddenly.
- Inability to function normally at work, school, or home.
- Isolating from friends and family or behaving in a secretive manner.
- Lack of attention to personal hygiene.
- Missing days at school or work.
- Needing to borrow money with no explanation.
- Spending time with different friends.
- Stumbling, slurring, or having difficulty with motor skills and coordination.
- Taking unusual risks, such as driving under the influence.
Rehab helplines are not emergency hotlines. If you or someone you love is actively experiencing an emergency, you should call 911 and connect with local first responders. They will be able to address any emergency that you may be dealing with, including overdose, physical health emergencies, mental health emergencies, dangerous situations, and crimes. Drug and alcohol hotlines are not able to handle these types of emergencies. They are geared toward providing support, guidance, and assistance in helping you enter treatment. In case of an emergency, they will direct you to call 911.
Can I Start the Rehab Process When I Call?
You can’t start the treatment process at the time of your call but calling the AAC helpline can be the first step on your journey toward sobriety. As the largest network of SUD treatment facilities in the United States,4 (our story) AAC provides a full range of treatment services along with wrap-around support services for anyone who is ready to take control of their substance use.5 (levels of care)
When you call our helpline, AAC Admissions Navigators will help you get started by identifying the level of care that is most appropriate for your needs. This can help you begin the admission process, but you won’t begin formal treatment until you arrive at the facility. AAC offers a spectrum of care, including:5 (levels of care)
- Detoxification, also known as medical detox. This is the process by which any drugs and alcohol are eliminated from the body. It can be uncomfortable, painful, or even life-threatening in some cases. Medications may be provided to ease the symptoms of withdrawal and prevent dangerous complications. Medical staff is available around the clock during detox to ensure your safety and comfort. Medical detox takes place in an inpatient facility and lasts for between 5 and 7 days.
- Inpatient treatment. The patient stays in a facility for the duration of treatment, away from daily stressors that can be a distraction from recovery. These facilities allow you to recover in comfort while receiving group therapy, individual counseling sessions, and time set aside for relaxation and recreation. Sites are staffed around the clock and you will have the opportunity to work on an individualized discharge plan to ensure that your transition to a lower level of care is as smooth as possible. Inpatient treatment can last up to 90 days, depending on your unique needs.
- Outpatient treatment. A step down from inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment takes place while residing in your own residence or at a sober living residence, depending on your needs. Outpatient treatment generally takes place in group therapy sessions. Other services—individual therapy, support groups, aftercare planning, and assistance with finding employment—are also available to help you practice what you learn in treatment in real-world situations. You will be able to discuss your progress in therapy sessions.
- Intensive outpatient treatment. This involves longer and more frequent sessions than traditional outpatient treatment to prepare you to transition out of outpatient care.
Free Substance Abuse Helpline Resources
Multiple substance abuse help hotlines are available, and many are tailored to the needs of special populations. These resources are free, confidential, and available 24/7. Such substance abuse helpline resources include:
- Al-Anon and Alateen: 1-888-4AL-ANON (1-888-425-2666) or online here. These are 12-step fellowships that are geared toward the family and loved ones of people who struggle with alcohol abuse and addiction.6 Alateen is designed for teenagers who have been affected by a loved one’s alcohol use disorder.6 Online, telephone, and in-person meetings are available.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration national helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357) or online here. Services are available in English and Spanish for individuals and loved ones of those who are struggling with substance abuse issues as well as mental health disorders.7 (what is) Calling this helpline will connect you to operators who can provide information about local rehab programs, organizations within your community, and support groups. You can also order free publications.7 (what is) Additionally, they can link you to low-cost or free treatment facilities in your area if you are uninsured or cannot afford treatment.7 (do I need)
- National Suicide Prevention: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or online here. Operators are available to offer support and assistance to people in distress or crisis, or those who are feeling suicidal.8 (paragraph 1)
- Boys Town: 1-800-448-3000 or text VOICE to 20121. Hotline counselors are trained to help people in crisis and those who are suicidal.9 People struggling with substance abuse and their loved ones9 can receive services in English and Spanish. The hotline also offers translation services for more than 100 languages.9
- org: text 55753 to schedule a call, or email using the information on this website to connect to a specialist. The compassionate and trained hotline operators are prepared to talk parents, guardians, and care providers through the difficulty of coping with a child who abuses substances.10 (paragraph 1, 2)
- Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Warning signs of drug abuse.
- University of Michigan. (2019). Signs of substance use.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- American Addiction Centers. (2020). About us.
- American Addiction Centers. (2020). Treatment services.
- Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters. What is Al-Anon and Alateen?
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). National helpline.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- Boys Town. (2020). Boys Town national hotline.
- Drugfree.org. Get one-on-one help to address your child’s substance use.