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Home Knowledge CenterWhat is Alcohol and Drug Dependence?

Alcohol and Drug Dependency: Use or Abuse?

Learn how to recognize alcohol and drug dependency.

Dependence on alcohol or other drugs is a widespread problem. Many times, people don’t recognize it in themselves or others. Chemical dependency means you can't control your use of a substance. You're not able to quit, and you can't limit how much you use. Recognizing that you have a problem can be your first step toward a happier and healthier life.

Common Substance Dependency Myths

You might have a mental image of a chemically dependent person. Do you imagine someone who can’t live without his drink or drugs? Is he often drunk or stoned? Does she use every day? Is she irresponsible, immoral, weak-willed, or bad? The fact is, a person can be dependent without showing obvious signs. Genetic makeup can make a person more likely to become dependent. And dependency is often a physical condition. It can’t be cured by willpower alone.

What are the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug dependence?

Wondering how to spot a chemical dependency problem? If any of the following are true for you or a loved one, it may be time to get help:

  • Tries and fails to cut down or quit using a substance
  • Blacks out, or has memory lapses after use
  • Uses the substance alone, or hides the evidence of use
  • Uses the substance to forget about problems or worries
  • Does things while under the influence and regrets them later
  • Is unable to enjoy an event without the substance
  • Neglects responsibilities in order to use the substance
  • Family, friends, or employer expresses concern about the substance use
  • Is willing to do almost anything to get the substance
  • Has financial or legal problems from using the substance

What are the effects of chemical dependencies?

Chemical dependency can ruin lives. Dependent people often act unwisely while under the influence. They may act in ways that will embarrass them later. They might risk their lives and the lives of others by having unsafe sex or by driving while intoxicated. They may lose their jobs or families as people around them are hurt by their actions.

What can I do about it?

The first step toward recovery is to recognize that there’s a problem. If you think you might be struggling with substance use disorder, here are some steps you can take:

  • Admit that you have a problem.
  • Limit how much time you spend with people who drink or use drugs.
  • Get professional help. Find a doctor or therapist who deals with dependency and recovery. And check out counseling or recovery programs at hospitals or private clinics.
  • Get support from other people in recovery. Many 12-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous®, are available. Look online or contact your Employee Assistance Program for help finding one.

Substance Use Help

Chemical dependency is a common problem. But with the right support and professional help, it can be overcome. If you have coverage through Cigna HealthcareSM, we are available by phone at any time to help you understand what services are available to support you during this time.


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This material is provided by Cigna Healthcare for informational/educational purposes only. It is not medical/clinical advice. Only a health care provider can make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment plan. For more information about your behavioral health benefits, you can call the member services or behavioral health telephone number listed on your health care ID card.

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