It takes courage and strength to admit to an addiction, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, nicotine, prescription medication or illicit drugs. But admitting it is the first step to wellness. Having an addiction can make you feel completely powerless. Even if you have tried and failed before, there is hope. With the right help, you can take back control of your life. Don’t wait for rock bottom. You can make a positive change in your life at any time, and the best time to start is now.
People use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs for many reasons. Some people use these substances to help them to relax, to feel more lively, to feel less inhibited or to feel pleasure. Others find the effects of substances make it easier for them to cope with problems. Many people use prescription and over-the-counter medications to cure or alleviate the symptoms of physical ailments.
Substance use can be problematic for people, even when they are not highly dependent on the substance, and it becomes a problem when it starts to impact on important elements of your daily life, including work, family, and/or friendships, even if you are not fully addicted.
Some of the more common substances that can be problematic include legal substances (alcohol, benzodiazepines: anti-anxiety drugs, painkillers with codeine in them like Nurofen Plus or Panadeine Extra/Forte, tobacco, and illegal substances including cannabis – marijuana, heroin and amphetamines including dexamphetamine without prescription, and ice. These are all drugs that can bring about high levels of dependence, and can be problematic even when used in low doses.
When we think about substance use problems, we often think of stereotypical ‘addicts’ or ‘druggies’ as the ones who have the ‘real’ issue. However, most people with substance use problems are just everyday people who might use substances (whether illicit or legal) to ease the stressors and difficult feelings of everyday life. Often they use these substances in a way that makes their problems worse in the long-run.
Some substances, like alcohol for instance, can get us into major difficulties even when we are not fully dependent on them. Over time you may find that you are using a substance a little more than you would like to, or that you are running into problems at work or home because the substance affects you at the wrong time. However, one thing is for sure – if substance use is problematic for you, now is the time to do something about it. If you are unsure, the staff at Foundation Psychology are happy to provide an assessment of your situation and feedback on what we can do together to manage the issue.
It’s quite rare for problematic substance use to happen all by itself. Usually there are underlying issues that prompt it. Stress is one such issue – both acute and chronic stresses are highly effective at bringing about craving for substances, and are a major cause of relapse to problematic substance use. Other conditions associated with problematic substance use include depression, anxiety disorders, impulsivity and attention problems, bipolar disorder, and personality difficulties. Some of these drugs are very effective at making us feel better in the short-term, but the long-term cost can be very high.
The effects of long-term use are usually that you will have more difficulty managing your thoughts and feelings than prior to using such substances.
The good news is that we can do something about it. Foundation Psychology has psychologists who can assist clients with substance use problems. In your first appointment with us we will take a detailed history so that we can help you understand the reasons for your patterns of use, what the does is doing for you, and we will also examine how you are managing work/study demands, relationships and other important areas of you life. Further assessment may also involve the use of questionnaire tools to assess substance/alcohol use, and to examine personality factors and specific clinical features (such as depression or anxiety) that can contribute to your use. We will also talk about the kinds of thoughts, feelings, and situations that contribute to your use.
At some stage it is likely we will discuss your early life, experiences with treatment in the past, and your family structure. All this is important information that we gather to formulate a thorough and complete assessment of your situation, and will assist us to formulate a treatment plan that will best suit your specific circumstances.
Everyone is different, and we understand that people prefer a unique approach to treatment – so we take this into consideration and we work with you to find a treatment program that will work for you in both the short and long term.
In general, treatment is likely to focus on the thoughts and feelings you have about using substances, and it will provide some unique ways to address those thoughts and feelings. Treatment can also provide you with new ways of relating to your thoughts and feelings that can contribute to making better decisions about substance use, and help you make life decisions that suit your values better.