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Alcohol and Other Substance Use

Signs and symptoms

There are a lot of 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

How common is alcohol and substance use?

The use of alcohol and some substances is relatively common. According to the 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 90.7% of individuals over the age of 14 years have consumed alcohol at some point in their lives. 47.1% of people have tried tobacco, 33.6% cannabis, 9.1% methamphetamine, 7.5% cocaine, 7.5% hallucinogens, 6.1% ecstasy, 4.7% cocaine, and 1.4% heroin.

What types of alcohol and substance use are there?

Drugs can be broadly classified into three groups:

Helping 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
  • Method of 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 are the helpful and not so helpful consequences of using the substance, and what are the advantages and disadvantages 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 organisations provide information and some helpful tips on how to manage your alcohol or other substance use:

Techniques for managing stress may also be of benefit, which includes the following:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Maintain social contact, but avoid those people who may trigger further use
  • Be physically active

Getting professional help

If you believe that you need additional assistance to manage your 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.

The following services may also be of assistance: