Daniel Baldwin email: Baldwinhelp@icloud.com
Some Additional Information about Substance Use Disorders and Recovery
–Rich O’Neill, Ph.D.
Daniel Baldwin’s story illustrates some essential issues in severe drug/alcohol addiction and recovery.
How to tell if someone has a substance abuse problem?
Basically, substance abuse, including alcohol abuse, involves a pattern of ingesting substances that have significant negative consequences in a person’s life.
We can see from Daniel’s life that his drug dependence had severe negative effects on his physical and mental health, personal and family relationships, finances and career.
Substance use disorders range from mild to severe. Daniel’s condition required intensive long-term treatment for him to become and remain sober and clean. Thankfully, people with mild to moderate substance use disorders may be able to stop abusing substances after brief, outpatient treatment. Some people succeed in doing so on their own and/or by attending Alcoholic’s Anonymous or Narcotic’s Anonymous (links below).
Often there has been some trauma early in a person’s life, and lingering pain, that the drugs and alcohol are an attempt to reduce. However, recent experience with millions of people becoming addicted to prescribed opioids shows us that addiction can occur without such a history as well.
Either way, some experts say that there is a core belief in families (and groups of friends) with a member who is addicted. That belief is “There is no one who is addicted in our family (or group).”
Sometimes simply asking a trusted, independent person one trusts as to whether that person see us as having a substance use problem can help us recognize it and take steps towards getting healthy again. We see in Daniel’s life that his friends and family, and even the manager of the hotel he was in, speaking the truth to him about his addiction, helped him begin his ultimate recovery.
There are also simple screening measures that may be of help. The CAGE questionnaire for recognizing a problem with alcohol is useful and there are similar measures for other substance use disorders.
The CAGE questionnaire asks the following questions:
Two “yes” responses indicate that the possibility of alcoholism should be investigated further.[
Finally, what can friends and family do beyond giving truthful feedback if asked, offering to accompany the person to treatment, and not doing things that “enable” the problem to continue like providing money etc? What if a person who is abusing completely denies having a problem? I suggest doing what Daniel described his brother Alec Baldwin doing when Daniel was still addicted—protecting his own mental and physical health first, in Alec’s case by steering clear until Daniel he was clean and sober. And, I suggest striving to have compassion because we all have problems we don’t recognize and aren’t ready to change.