Real Help

Emergency Help

If you or someone else needs emergency help, don’t wait. People who drink too much too quickly are at risk of alcohol poisoning which can cause serious damage and even death. And a drug overdose or a dangerous combination of drugs can kill you.

Alcohol poisoning is the most life threatening result of heavy drinking. When someone drinks too much alcohol, it interferes with the things that the body does automatically like breathing.

If you think someone has alcohol or drug poisoning, get medical help. Don’t try to guess if it might be okay to let them “sleep it off.”

Start by calling your community emergency number. It is the first three numbers of your local telephone line and then “1111”.

In Inuvik that’s 777-1111, in Hay River it’s 874-1111, and in Yellowknife, it’s any Yellowknife “prefix” + 1111. Example: 873-1111 or 920-1111. If the person is conscious, they could be taken to the community health centre or emergency ward.

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning/Drug Overdose:

  • Mental confusion
  • Coma, can’t be wakened
  • Vomiting
  • Shakes or Seizures
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there)
  • Less than eight breaths in a minute
  • 10 or more seconds between breaths
  • Bluish, pale skin colour


Worried about a Friend?

Everyone has had a friend or relative drinks too much too often. The same applies for drugs. 

Because we care about our friends and family, we want to do something to help them. But the problem is that the friend doesn’t often see it that way. People become dependent on or addicted to alcohol and drugs very easily, but they don’t want to face up to that fact. They are rarely interested in hearing about the major physical and mental health problems that abuse of alcohol and drugs can cause. If someone you know might have an alcohol abuse or addiction problem, talk to a nurse or doctor at your local health centre. You can also talk to a social worker or community wellness counsellor. Help is available. But it can’t be forced on a person who is either physically or psychologically addicted.

Physical dependence/addiction means that the person’s body needs the drug or the alcohol to feel physically normal. If they stop, they feel a physical need take the drug or to drink. But that physical need goes away when they have some.  People who abuse drugs or alcohol may also have hallucinations and seizures, or get the shakes if they can’t get access to drugs or booze.  In extreme cases, they could die if not treated at a clinic or hospital.

Psychological dependence/addiction means that the person’s mind needs to drugs or alcohol to feel normal. They only feel able to handle everyday living when they take the drug or drink. If they stop for a period of time, they may feel anxiety, depression or anger. They may even lose touch with reality, hear voices or see things that aren’t really there.

Counselling & Treatment

Help is available. The best place to start is with a doctor, a nurse, or an addictions or mental health professional.

To do that, go to your community health centre or primary care centre and make an appointment. 

The Department of Health and Social Services offers community, regional, and out-of-territory mental health services to help diagnose and treat people with alcohol abuse and addiction problems.

There are also programs offered through some Friendship Centres. If you have a Friendship Centre in your community ask them if they can help you.




12-step Programs

In the NWT, there are self-help groups that can support you if you have an addiction or have a friend or family member with an addiction.

Talk to your local health centre to find out what self-help groups are available in your community. 

Groups include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous: a group for people who want to stop drinking or want support after they have quit drinking to live better lives.
  • Al-Anon: a group for families and friends of alcoholics.


Coping with an Alcoholic

If your parent, partner or other family member abuses alcohol or drugs, you may feel angry, embarrassed, hurt or helpless.  On top of that, some alcoholics abuse their children, have trouble keeping a job, paying bills or even feeding their family.  Alcoholics may not be good at keeping their promises and may put alcohol or their drug of choice ahead on almost anything else.  Having an alcoholic in the family is hard on children. Some kids whose parents abuse alcohol and drugs never know if their parents will show up drunk for an event or maybe not show up at all.

The first, and toughest, thing to learn about any person who abuses alcohol and drugs is that you are powerless to change them.  The second is that it is not your fault. Often an alcoholic will say things like “I drink because you drive me crazy” or “I can’t take this anymore. That’s why I drink.” Some parents will become very angry at the slightest suggestion that they drink too much.  Others may say things like “Sure I drink.  But I can stop any time.  Everyone needs a drink to unwind.”

So what can you do?  

Here are some tips:

  1. Acknowledge the problem. Admit that your parent, or other family member, has a problem and find someone to talk to – a teacher, friend, counsellor or coach. If you can’t do that, call an organization like the Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868).
  2. Be informed. Learn that you are not responsible for your parent’s drinking.  You may be responsible for some bad behaviour, but that is not an excuse for your parent to drink.
  3. Be aware of your own emotions. When you feel anger because of your parent’s drinking, talk to a close friend, or write down how you are feeling.
  4. Learn healthier ways to cope with pressure.  Find different examples to follow. People who have healthier ways of dealing with problems.
  5. Find support. Find a friend or group like Al-Anon that you can trust and talk with when things get rough.
  6. Be safe. If you feel like running away because you don’t feel safe, call a professional like your health care provider or a counsellor. If you feel really in danger, call the RCMP.
  7. Break the cycle. Don’t become a problem drinker yourself.  Alcoholism is a disease. You can show your love for a family member who has the disease, but no amount of pleading, bargaining or talking on your part is going to solve their problem. For yourself, talk about the problem, find support and choose healthier ways to deal with stress and problems.