Drugs and alcohol are called mood-altering substances for a reason: They alter a person’s mood, and the person has no control over how his mood is altered. People commonly report that they use alcohol to help them relax, but the disinhibiting effects of alcohol often turn into physical aggression, yelling and screaming, tears, and so on. If a person already has difficulties managing his emotions, is it wise to add the unpredictable effects of drugs or alcohol?
Some people use alcohol to help them sleep. It’s important to understand that alcohol actually has a negative effect on sleep due to a rebound effect. Four to five hours after consuming alcohol, the rebound effect kicks in and people usually find themselves awake. In addition, researchers have found that consuming alcohol within an hour of bedtime seems to disrupt the second half of the sleep period, so people don’t get the same deep sleep they otherwise would.
Then there are people who use drugs or alcohol to help numb their emotions so they don’t have to deal with them. This makes sense, and we therefore need to validate it, indicating that we understand it, and at the same time encourage them to see this as a goal to work on, as it’s unhealthy and possibly even self-destructive.
Your first challenge may be to just get a person to see that drugs and alcohol are a problem. But even when people can see that a behavior is problematic, they still might not want to change it. In this case, the next challenge is getting them to set small goals around reducing their use—keeping in mind that if a person isn’t willing to set something as a goal yet, you need to accept this and gently continue to push for change over time.
Sources: DBT Made Simple