Alcohol & Substance Abuse

Signs and symptoms

There are many different reasons why people may use alcohol and other drugs. Some of these reasons include to forget problems and escape from worries, socialise with friends, have fun, relax, peer pressure, or due to boredom or curiosity.

However, some people can find their alcohol or other drug use becomes problematic because the harm or risk of harm associated with the substance use outweighs the benefits. Substance use may be a problem when you:

  • Have difficulty meeting responsibilities at home, work or school
  • Use more than you intended despite wanting to cut down or quit
  • Have recurring problems with health, safety, relationships, finances or the law through the substance use
  • Need the substance to cope with everyday life or particular experiences
  • Organise other events or needs around your substance use
  • Need increasing amounts of the substance to have the same effect
  • Feel sick or moody without the substance but feel normal upon resuming use
  • Have tried unsuccessfully to reduce or cease use
  • Find yourself using as a way to maintain your friendships

What types of alcohol and substance use are there?

Substances can be broadly classified into three groups:

  • Depressants
  • Stimulants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants

How common is alcohol and substance use?

It is estimated that about one in twenty Australians are experiencing an addition or substance abuse difficulty.  The most commonly used substances in Australia are alcohol and tobacco.

How To Help Yourself

It can sometimes be hard to admit that your alcohol or other drug use has become a problem, especially if you still enjoy aspects of the drug use. Think about whether you would like to change your use in some way, such as:

  • What you use
  • How much you use
  • When or how often you use
  • How you use
  • Where you use
  • Who you use with
  • What you do to get hold of or afford the drug
  • What you do while under the influence of the drug.

It can be useful to ask yourself what the helpful and not so helpful consequences are of using the substance, and what the advantages and disadvantages are of cutting down or quitting. These questions are particularly useful in identifying what goals you would like to set for yourself in changing your substance use, and the challenges that you might experience in working toward achieving those goals.

The following national and international organisations provide information and some helpful tips on how to manage your alcohol or other substance use:

Getting professional help

If you believe that you or someone you care about needs additional assistance to manage alcohol and substance use, the best person to speak to is your GP as they will be able to advise you of referrals to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Services available include:

  • Headspace – provides counselling for ages 12-25

In case of emergency, the following services are available: