Many Australians use drugs (whether legal or illegal) to relax, socialise, or change the way they feel. Some people are able to use drugs without too many problems for their health, relationships, or lifestyle. For others, especially people who rely on drugs to cope with mental health problems, drug use can have serious consequences. If you or someone else is worried about your drug use, it might be worth thinking more about whether you have a problem with drugs and what you can do about it.
Do I have a problem with drugs?
All drugs affect people differently, and it’s hard to draw a line in the sand where problems begin.
For many people, using drugs regularly could be a sign that there’s a problem. Feeling like you need to take more than you used to, to get the same high is often a warning sign. Having strong urges to use, or feeling terrible if you haven’t used for a few hours, are other clues that your drug use might be getting the better of you.
A lot of people don’t use drugs regularly, but that doesn't mean their drug use is trouble free. Even using drugs occasionally can cause problems like accidental overdose, being injured in an accident, being assaulted, or legal problems. These kinds of problems can affect you whether you use illegal drugs, or misuse legal drugs (like doctor shopping for pain meds). Read more about pain if you think that pain is part of the problem for you.
Even if you don’t feel like your drug use is out of control, it might be causing problems in your relationship, or you might notice you’re also drinking more than usual. Some people use drugs as a way of coping with unpleasant feelings like anxiety or depression, or to block out painful memories of a horrible experience. Follow the links in the text above for more information about how to manage your feelings without turning to drugs.
Does it matter what kind of drugs I use?
Drugs can be categorised into a few different groups depending on the way they affect people. There are stimulants (like nicotine, amphetamines, or cocaine), depressants (like alcohol, benzodiazepines, heroin, or codeine), and hallucinogens (like LSD or mushrooms). Cannabis (marijuana) can have similar effects to all three of these groups in one way or another, but as a general rule it is classified as being closest to the hallucinogens.
Different drugs have different effects, different risks, and different consequences both in the short and long term. Some types of drugs you’re more likely to get addicted to, some you’re more likely to overdose on, and some are more likely cause serious legal issues if you’re caught using them.
What can I do about it?
If you think your drug use might be causing you some problems, here are some tips for making decisions about what to do, and ways to start managing your use. For some people, these strategies might be all that is needed. For others, they can be a useful addition to getting professional help.
It can be helpful to think about what you’re getting out of your drug use, as well as what you’re missing out on. As with most things, there will be pluses and minuses to your drug use. For example, a plus might be that you feel much more relaxed after smoking a joint, and a minus might be that your girlfriend refuses to speak to you if you've been smoking. Writing these pros and cons down on paper is a really good way to help you see the big picture and make a decision about whether you want to make any changes to your drug use. Knowing where you stand will help motivate you to make changes that last.
Make a plan
If you've decided to change, you need to work out what your goal is. Are you trying to cut down a bit, or stop using drugs completely? Your goals should be specific, achievable, and broken down into steps. For example, you might say “My goal is to only smoke a gram of pot a week. I’m going to cut back by one cone a day until I reach that goal”. Once you've worked out what you want to do, you can write yourself a contract – this is an important part of starting to change, and will help you stay on track.
It’s really important to keep an eye on how much and how often you’re using drugs. This will help you learn more about when, where, and why you use. Keeping a diary is a good way of keeping track of your drug use, including the financial cost and other problems it causes, and is a good reminder that you need to stick to your limits. It’s also a good way of checking your progress towards your goals.
Don’t forget to reward yourself for making changes! Maybe with all the money you've saved by cutting back you can treat yourself to something you've been wanting to buy (like clothes or music), or do (like go out to dinner). It’s also good to think about other positiveactivities you could be doing instead of taking drugs. You might catch up with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile, do some exercise, or try something new, like learning a new language.
Improve your general wellbeing
Sometimes people use drugs more than they should when they’re worried about other aspects of their life. The tools in the High Res website and app can help you with strategies to solve problems, build social connections, get more active, change the way you think, keep calm and sleep better.
Self-help isn't for everyone. If you've tried the strategies above and are still having trouble making changes, or if you feel like your drug use is causing serious problems and you need additional support, read more about substance use disorders and effective treatments.
- “All problems become smaller if you don’t dodge them but confront them."
William F. Halsey