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Alcohol Hotlines: When to Call and What to Say

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What is an Alcohol Hotline?

Alcohol hotlines offer confidential, free access to trained operators who help people struggling with alcohol abuse. These operators answer questions and recommend treatment options.

For many people, calling an alcohol addiction hotline is the first step toward sober living.

Alcohol addiction rehab centers, community support organizations, and government entities can all run these hotlines. Some operators might also be professional counselors who specialize in addiction.

Most hotlines operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are not designed to provide emergency support in place of 911, but they do offer helpful information and encouragement for people in need of treatment.

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Who Answers When You Call an Alcohol Hotline?

Operators trained to counsel people struggling with alcohol addiction answer when you call an alcohol hotline.

This might be someone who works for a recovery or treatment facility, a counselor, or a volunteer. Sometimes, it’s someone who has experienced substance abuse issues of their own. 

Some hotlines are directly connected to addiction treatment facilities. When you call these hotlines, you’ll typically speak with a staff member who might transfer you to a doctor, counselor, or other medical professional. These staff members are also trained to respond to calls.

Counselors often manage hotlines that are not affiliated with a treatment facility. Counselors can help people who are considering the idea of entering treatment for alcohol addiction. They might conduct a basic assessment of the caller and/or provide tips on taking the next step to enter addiction treatment. 

When Should You Call an Alcohol Hotline?

You can call an alcohol hotline any time you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol consumption.

If you unsure about calling a hotline, consider the following:

  • Do you believe your use of alcohol or a loved one’s use of alcohol is causing harm or interfering with everyday life?
  • Are you or a loved one addicted to alcohol?
  • Do you have a desire to stop drinking but you’ve failed when you’ve tried?
  • Are you looking for information or advice on addiction treatment for alcohol addiction?
  • Would you like to learn more about alcoholism or addiction?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you would benefit from calling an alcohol abuse hotline.

Hotlines require no commitment to treatment. They are free and anonymous. Worst case scenario, if you don’t find help after calling a hotline, the operator can connect you with someone else.

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What to Ask for When You Reach an Alcohol Hotline

If you aren’t sure what to ask when calling an alcohol addiction hotline, consider the following questions:

  • What alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder (AUD) resources are available in my area?
  • What alcohol addiction treatment options do I have?
  • What’s included in treatment?
  • What do I need to know before entering treatment?
  • How much does treatment cost?
  • Will insurance cover treatment?
  • How long will treatment take?
  • What do I do when treatment is over?
  • Do I need medical detox? Is it included?
  • Do you offer treatment for drug abuse as well as alcohol abuse?

Expect the hotine operator to also ask you questions such as:

  • Do you understand what alcohol addiction is?
  • How often do you use alcohol?
  • Have you tried to stop drinking?
  • Does alcohol use interfere with your life?
  • Do your friends and family drink a lot of alcohol or struggle with substance abuse?
  • Have any of your relatives been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder?
  • Have friends or family confronted you about substance abuse?
  • Is your home or current location safe?
  • Do you think other factors, such as depression, affect your use of alcohol?
  • Do you struggle with any other medical issues, such as drug use or an eating disorder?
  • Are you ready to stop drinking alcohol and enter treatment?
  • Do you have insurance?

There are several hotline options to call for alcohol abuse. If you aren’t sure who to call, one of the following options could help you:

  • DrugAbuse.com hotline: (866) 923-5679
  • Al-Anon and Ala-teen: (800) 356-9996
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): (800) 662-4357 or online at www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
  • Boys Town: (800) 448-3000
  • Drugfree.org or call 855-378-4373 or text 55753

Many hotline operators speak more than one language. In addition to brief, over-the-phone counseling, hotline operators can also direct you to various treatment options. 

Remember, if you need emergency assistance, contact 911 immediately.

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Updated on June 16, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” Nih.gov, 2017. 
  2. Ray, Lara A., et al. “Differences between Treatment-Seeking and Non-Treatment-Seeking Participants in Medication Studies for Alcoholism: Do They Matter?” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
  3. Mental Health and Substance Abuse | USAGov.” Usa.gov, 2018.
  4. Mayo Clinic. “Alcohol Use Disorder - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 11 July 2018. 
  5. Carvalho, Andre F, et al. “Alcohol Use Disorders.” The Lancet.
  6. National Helpline | SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.” Samhsa.gov, 14 May 2014.

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