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Alcohol & Other Drugs

Change is sometimes necessary

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Most of us can and do use substances in ways that carry minimal risk. But sometimes we get distracted or lose our way and start using more, and more often, than makes sense.

As a general rule, when your drug use starts to cause you problems in your relationships, or begins to negatively affect your work, finances or health, it’s probably time to think about making some changes.

It’s not always easy to change, but sometimes it’s necessary in order to avoid unintended yet life-crushing consequences.In Junkie, Stephen Reid paints a picture of the heavy price we can pay for living lives involving regular, long-term substance use:

“We began to resemble the other zombie dope fiends, spiritless, single-minded in our obsession...My quest for utopia had become a ritual of drudgery, the daily grind to maintain a habit.”

Regular, long-term use of a drug can cause other harms too. It can become a source of tension in your marriage and other key relationships. It can also have an impact on your work performance, financial situation, and physical, mental and emotional health.

To get an honest and clear picture of whether change is necessary, it may help to take a kind of “inventory” of your substance use pattern. You can make a mental checklist of signs of harmful use and examples of harmful consequences, or you can use the checklists provided here.

Signs suggesting substance use is less likely to be harmful:

  • strict personal rules to limit the amount of drug used
  • use reserved for special occasions only
  • ‡ensuring distance from drug supply
  • a clear understanding of the dangers of drug use
  • taking precautions when using
  • being able to stop using at any time

Signs that suggest drug use may be risky or harmful:

  • regular use at an early age
  • use to cope with depression or anxiety
  • habitual daily use
  • use before or during school or work
  • use while driving or during vigorous physical activities
  • use of more than one substance at the same time
  • use as a major form of recreation


Harms related to method of drug use

Injecting drugs can cause or result in:

  • skin infections
  • disease (if sharing needles or having unprotected sex)
  • isolation and loneliness (because of social stigma)
  • criminal record
  • overdose

Smoking drugs can cause or lead to:

  • lung problems
  • fires (if smoking carelessly)


Harms related to intoxication (using too much at one time)

Heavy use of alcohol or other drugs can cause or result in:

  • family conflict
  • impaired parenting skills
  • alcohol poisoning, overdose or death
  • accidents or falls (from reckless or careless behaviour)
  • violence
  • legal problems
  • unwanted sexual activity


Harms related to regular, long-term use

Long-term use of alcohol or other drugs can often result in:

  • cancer and/or other serious diseases of the heart, lungs and liver
  • memory and thinking problems

In certain circumstances long-term use may lead to:

  • money, relationship and work performance problems
  • child abuse and neglect

When you can’t do without it

Long-term use of alcohol or other drugs can lead to using the drug just to feel normal or function. This can result in:

  • money, relationship and work performance problems
  • mental health problems
  • reckless or risky behaviour to get/keep drug supply
  • seizures and severe withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not available

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