What is NAFAS?

NAFAS is a not-for-profit coalition of 25 community-based agencies from across Nassau County, Long Island.  We are committed to delivering affordable, accessible and comprehensive prevention and treatment services to individuals and families struggling with the consequences of drug, alcohol, gambling and other addictions and abuses.   > Return to top

What is addiction?

Addiction is a complex brain disease. It is characterized by drug craving, seeking, and use that can persist even in the face of extremely negative consequences. Drug-seeking may become compulsive in large part as a result of the effects of prolonged use on brain functioning and, thus, on behavior. For many people, relapses are possible even after long periods of abstinence.    > Return to top

What is alcoholism and is it a disease?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a disease that includes the following four symptoms:

  • Craving–A strong need, or urge, to drink.
  • Loss of control–Not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun.
  • Physical dependence–Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking.

Tolerance–The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get “high.”

Yes, alcoholism is a disease. The craving that an alcoholic feels for alcohol can be as strong as the need for food or water. An alcoholic will continue to drink despite serious family, health, or legal problems.

Like many other diseases, alcoholism is chronic, meaning that it lasts a person’s lifetime; it usually follows a predictable course; and it has symptoms. The risk for developing alcoholism is influenced both by a person’s genes and by his or her lifestyle.    > Return to top

How quickly can someone become addicted?

There is no easy answer to this. If and how quickly you might become addicted to a drug depends on many factors including the biology of your body. All drugs are potentially harmful and may have life-threatening consequences associated with their abuse. There are also vast differences among individuals in sensitivity to various drugs. While one person may use a drug one or many times and suffer no ill effects, another person may be particularly vulnerable and overdose with first use. There is no way of knowing in advance how someone may react.   > Return to top

How do I know if someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol?

If a person is compulsively seeking and using drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences, such as loss of job, debt, physical problems brought on by abuse, or family problems, then he or she probably is addicted.

The physical signs of abuse or addiction can vary depending on the person and the drug being abused. For example, someone who abuses marijuana may have a chronic cough or worsening of asthmatic symptoms. Each drug has short-term and long-term physical effects. Stimulants like cocaine increase heart rate and blood pressure, whereas opioids like heroin may slow the heart rate and reduce respiration.   > Return to top

How can you tell if someone has a problem with alcohol?

Answering the following four questions can help you find out if you or a loved one has a drinking problem:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

One “yes” answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. More than one “yes” answer means it is highly likely that a problem exists.   > Return to top

What are the signs and symptoms of problem gambling?

The main signs of problem gambling include:

  • A preoccupation with gambling
  • Reliving past gambling experiences
  • Taking time off from work or family life to gamble
  • Feeling guilt or remorse after gambling
  • Needing to gamble with more and more money
  • Becoming restless or irritable when trying to stop or cut down on gambling
  • Gambling to escape problems or feelings of depression or anxiousness
  • After losing money gambling, returns another day to get even
  • Lies to family or friends about gambling activities
  • Repeated unsuccessful attempts to control gambling by cutting back or stopping
  • Commits illegal acts to finance gambling or pay gambling debts
  • Seeks financial bailouts or help from others to relive a desperate financial situation  > Return to top

Do you have to be an alcoholic to experience problems?

No. Alcoholism is only one type of an alcohol problem. Alcohol abuse can be just as harmful. A person can abuse alcohol without actually being an alcoholic–that is, he or she may drink too much and too often but still not be dependent on alcohol. Some of the problems linked to alcohol abuse include not being able to meet work, school, or family responsibilities; drunk-driving arrests and car crashes; and drinking-related medical conditions. Under some circumstances, even social or moderate drinking is dangerous–for example, when driving, during pregnancy, or when taking certain medications.   > Return to top

Are there effective treatments for drug addiction?

Addiction can be effectively treated with behavioral-based therapies and, for addiction to some drugs such as heroin or nicotine, medications. Treatment will vary for each person depending on the type of drug(s) being used, and multiple courses of treatment may be needed to achieve success.    > Return to top

Can alcoholism be treated? Does treatment work?

Yes, alcoholism can be treated. Alcoholism treatment programs use both counseling and medications to help a person stop drinking. Treatment has helped many people stop drinking and rebuild their lives.

Alcoholism treatment works for many people. But like other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma, there are varying levels of success when it comes to treatment. Some people stop drinking and remain sober. Others have long periods of sobriety with bouts of relapse. And still others cannot stop drinking for any length of time. With treatment, one thing is clear, however: the longer a person abstains from alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to stay sober.    > Return to top

What types of treatments do NAFAS members provide to people who have drug or alcohol problems?

The member agencies of NAFAS provide many treatment and support programs and services for individuals struggling with the consequences of drugs and alcohol and their friends and family. If you are looking for an addiction recovery program or service in Nassau County click here.   > Return to top

I have a problem with drugs or alcohol. What should I do?

You’re never alone on the road to recovery. If you are looking for an addiction recovery program or service in Nassau County click here.  If you need immediate help or advice, call the Nassau County Drug and Alcohol Hotline at (516) 481-4000.

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How can families and friends make a difference for someone needing treatment?

Family and friends are critical in motivating individuals with drug or alcohol problems to enter and stay in treatment. Family therapy is important, especially for adolescents.  > Return to top

How do I find a drug abuse or alcohol treatment program with the services that I need for myself, family members, a client, or a friend?

You’re never alone on the road to recovery. If you are looking for an addiction recovery program or service in Nassau County click here.  If you need immediate help or advice, call the Nassau County Drug and Alcohol Hotline at (516) 481-4000.

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If someone I care about is unwilling to get help, what can I do about it?

This can be a challenge. An alcoholic can’t be forced to get help except under certain circumstances, such as a traffic violation or arrest that results in court-ordered treatment. But you don’t have to wait for someone to “hit rock bottom” to act. Many alcoholism treatment specialists suggest the following steps to help an alcoholic get treatment:

Stop all “cover ups.” Family members often make excuses to others or try to protect the alcoholic from the results of his or her drinking. It is important to stop covering for the alcoholic so that he or she experiences the full consequences of drinking.

Time your intervention. The best time to talk to the drinker is shortly after an alcohol-related problem has occurred–like a serious family argument or an accident. Choose a time when he or she is sober, both of you are fairly calm, and you have a chance to talk in private.

Be specific. Tell the family member that you are worried about his or her drinking. Use examples of the ways in which the drinking has caused problems, including the most recent incident.

State the results. Explain to the drinker what you will do if he or she doesn’t go for help–not to punish the drinker, but to protect yourself from his or her problems. What you say may range from refusing to go with the person to any social activity where alcohol will be served, to moving out of the house. Do not make any threats you are not prepared to carry out.

Get help. Gather information in advance about treatment options in your community. If the person is willing to get help, call immediately for an appointment with a treatment counselor. Offer to go with the family member on the first visit to a treatment program and/or meeting.

Call on a friend. If the family member still refuses to get help, ask a friend to talk with him or her using the steps just described. A friend who is a recovering alcoholic may be particularly persuasive, but any person who is caring and nonjudgmental may help. The intervention of more than one person, more than one time, is often necessary to coax an alcoholic to seek help.

    Find strength in numbers. With the help of a health care professional, some families join with other relatives and friends to confront an alcoholic as a group. This approach should only be tried under the guidance of a health care professional who is experienced in this kind of group intervention.

Get support. It is important to remember that you are not alone. Support groupsare available for family members. These groups help family members understand that they are not responsible for an alcoholic’s drinking and that they need to take steps to take care of themselves, regardless of whether the alcoholic family member chooses to get help.   > Return to top

What is detoxification, or “detox”?

Detoxification is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. It is often the first step in a drug treatment program and should be followed by treatment with a behavioral-based therapy and/or a medication, if available. Detox alone with no follow-up is not treatment.

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What is withdrawal? How long does it last?

Withdrawal is the variety of symptoms that occur after use of some addictive drugs is reduced or stopped. Length of withdrawal and symptoms vary with the type of drug. For example, physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal may include: restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and cold flashes. These physical symptoms may last for several days, but the general depression, or dysphoria (opposite of euphoria) that often accompanies heroin withdrawal may last for weeks. In many cases withdrawal can be easily treated with medications to ease the symptoms, but treating withdrawal is not the same as treating addiction.

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If a pregnant woman abuses drugs or alcohol, does it affect the fetus?

Many substances including alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs of abuse can have negative effects on the developing fetus because they are transferred to the fetus across the placenta. For example, nicotine has been connected with premature birth and low birth weight as has the use of cocaine.

Whether a baby’s health problems, if caused by a drug, will continue as the child grows, is not always known. Research does show that children born to mothers who used marijuana regularly during pregnancy may have trouble concentrating, even when older. Research continues to produce insights on the effects of drug abuse on the fetus.

Alcohol can harm the baby of a mother who drinks during pregnancy. Although the highest risk is to babies whose mothers drink heavily, it is not clear yet whether there is any completely safe level of alcohol during pregnancy. For this reason, the U.S. Surgeon General released advisories in 1981 and again in 2005 urging women who are pregnant or may become pregnant to abstain from alcohol. The damage caused by prenatal alcohol includes a range of physical, behavioral, and learning problems in babies. Babies most severely affected have what is called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). These babies may have abnormal facial features and severe learning disabilities. Babies can also be born with mild disabilities without the facial changes typical of FAS.     > Return to top

Sources for this page were:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction


National Institute on Drug Abuse


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