What to Expect When You Call a Substance Abuse Helpline

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” And to some extent, faith is what individuals struggling with drug and alcohol addiction need more of:

  • faith that they can quit,
  • faith that treatment centers and 12-step programs can help,
  • faith that life is worth the hard work of recovery.

Sometimes, just having that little bit of faith can give someone the necessary final “push” to take action and pick up the phone. Calling a substance abuse hotline might be a tough decision, but it’s often a critical first step toward admitting there’s a problem and reaching out for help.

calling an addiction helpline

Calling an addiction helpline can feel like a difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be. Those who answer the phone are friendly, trained counselors who only want to help you or your loved one find the information you need.

Some questions people may ask when they call an addiction helpline:

  • What and where are regional addiction treatment centers?
  • What is the best way to encourage someone to reach out for help?
  • What are the costs and payment options associated with drug detox or rehabilitation?
  • Or even just to talk.

Just sharing your struggles anonymously with a compassionate individual who understands addiction can be helpful. 

minimizing the fear of the unknown when calling a hotline

To minimize some of the “fear of the unknown” associated with making that call, we’ve compiled a list of typical questions that you or your loved one might encounter when talking to the addiction counselor on the other end of the drug addiction hotline. These might include some of the following:

  • Are you currently in immediate danger/a life-threatening situation?
  • What substances (legal and/or illegal) do you use?
  • Do your friends and family know you have a substance use disorder?
  • How frequently do you use drugs or alcohol, and how long have you been using them?
  • Do you have any existing mental health issues? Any physical health conditions?
  • Have you ever been to rehab and/or detox before?

The helpline staff member you’re speaking with will listen to your concerns and help you identify your best path forward, whether that entails putting you in touch with a nearby drug addiction treatment center, helping you understand potential financial options, or assisting you with the search to find a residential recovery center that fits your individual needs: male only or female only, faith-based, or one that’s designed around therapeutic hiking or other outdoor adventures, for example.

who answers a drug hotline?

What’s important to keep in mind is that addiction isn’t a character flaw, and those individuals who choose to answer calls on a national drug hotline are not there to make you feel bad or judged. They understand what you’re going through, and have been through specialized training to help you work through your concerns and take that next step. So go ahead and make that call. That one simple act has the power to change the course of your life.

If you or someone you care about is ready to take that important first step toward lasting recovery, we encourage you to pick up the phone.

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) – 1-800-NCA-CALL (622-2255)
  • National Drug Helpline – 1-844-289-0879
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – 1-301-443-1124
  • The Partnership at Drugfree.org – 1-855-DRUG-FREE (378-4373)
  • National Institute of Mental Health Information – 1-866-615-6464
  • Alcoholics Anonymous – 1-212-870-3400
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