NHS Lothian

Do I have a problem?

Alcohol and Drug Misuse

2 min read

Do you have a problem?

If you’ve landed on this page, then probably you or someone you know has asked this question at some point. So, what are the signs that your use of alcohol or drugs may be a problem? There are questionnaires, such as this one that may give you an answer, but really it varies depending on:

  • Where and when you’re consuming alcohol and/or drugs
  • The type and amount you consume
  • Your physical and mental health at the time of consumption

The UK Chief Medical Officers provide guidelines that reflect the research evidence on the health risks associated with drinking. But there’s no guaranteed ‘safe’ level of drinking and even small amounts of alcohol can be risky in certain circumstances, for example with strenuous exercise, operating machinery, driving, or if you’re on certain medications. Regularly drinking more than the level indicated in the low-risk drinking guidelines shown below can be damaging in both the short-term and the long-term.


If you’re pregnant or planning to have a baby, the safest option is not to drink at all. There are no safe limits in this case and the more alcohol you drink, the higher the risk of harm to your baby.


Signs that you may have a problem

Many people who have a problem with alcohol and drugs will try to cover it up. Problems are not always visible, but there are signs:

  • not being able to socialise without a drink or drugs
  • struggling at work or in education because of hangovers
  • missing days at work, college or university
  • poor concentration
  • spending a lot of money on alcohol and drugs
  • relationships with family and friends are strained
  • feeling irritable without a drink or drugs
  • becoming defensive or angry when challenged about use
  • hiding drinking and drug-taking from others
  • Many people recover from alcohol and drug problems and there are different ways of approaching recovery.


Some people are able to cut down on their drinking themselves, or with the support of a friend or family member. Others go to see their GP, who will offer advice or direct them to appropriate counselling or treatment services that can help. Some people abstain from all use, whereas others use in a controlled way. This can mean drinking within recommended limits or it may involve being prescribed substitute medicines for drug use that enable a person to work on the issues that trouble them and make changes that will support recovery. For some people, the most appropriate goal may be to reduce the harm that can be caused by injecting. Recovery means different things to different people, so the important thing to remember is that lots of options are available to you.

Urgent Help


If you, or someone you know, is in crisis and in imminent danger of causing harm to themselves or others, call 999 immediately

Help within 24 hours