• alli@pointofchangecounselling.com.au

Point Of Change Counselling

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Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse

This page is not designed to give in-depth information about specific substances. There are plenty of medical sites which address this. As a counsellor, I am invested in helping both individuals who are affected by substance abuse and the people who support them. The greatest challenge associated with this issue arises from the reluctance of the affected individual to recognise that they have a problem. Even if they do, or if someone close to them convinces them they need support, most people believe they can stop their habit unaided.

Excuses People Give For Continuing Substance Abuse

  • I'm not hurting anyone else.
  • I can still function fully. I'm not affected by my current use.
  • I'm sharper, more insightful and more productive when I'm using.
  • I like who I am when I'm using.
  • Most campaigns against using are just scare-mongering by people who've never used themselves.

Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, very few if any people start to use substances because they are committed to self-destruction. It may start as a result of peer pressure, or the need to gain acceptance, but the reason many people continue after the first experience, is because they get something out of it.

Reported Benefits Of Substance Abuse

  • Increased pleasure
  • Greater feeling of alertness
  • A boost in confidence
  • A sense of relaxation
  • Decreased appetite. (Some people see substances as an aid to weight loss).
  • Emotional numbness which allows the temporary forgetting of painful experiences.
  • Self-medication for relief from physical pain.

Of course, the major drawback with these beliefs is that the person who holds them is unable to recognise how much their thinking / reasoning is affected by the substance. They are convinced that their perspective is correct, so it is very difficult to persuade them by argument.

Although the effects of each substance will differ, there are generalised symptoms which will apply to many of them.

Overview Of Effects

  • Impaired judgement and perception. (For example, the person who is unable to walk in a straight line due to use of a substance, still genuinely believes that they are more than capable of driving).
  • Shortened attention span.
  • Loss of physical control.
  • An ever-increasing need for greater amounts of the preferred substance to achieve the desired result.
  • Being increasingly drawn towards other users and cutting ties with non-users.

In addition to these, there is a lengthy list of the physical damage caused by substance abuse. We see them in graphic television ads, on billboards and on cigarette packs. The evidence of sickness is more difficult for users to argue with, but does not seem to be enough in itself to convince them to stop. For those who are fortunate enough to escape the physical side effects, there is still an endless list of challenges to be faced.

What Are The Signs Of Substance Abuse?

  • Withdrawal from people and activities that were previously enjoyed.
  • Falling performance at work or school.
  • Irritability, often building to a pattern of frequent mood swings or aggression.
  • Loss of hope, depression and thoughts of suicide.
  • Dizziness, problems remembering, blackouts or episodes of "lost" time.
  • Lying, selfishness (especially a lack of awareness of the needs and feelings of those around them who are affected by their actions).
  • Stealing, trouble with the law.
  • Being regularly unable to enjoy themselves without the use of substances.
  • Planning their life around the next opportunity to use.
  • Pressuring those around them to join them in using.
  • A decline in personal care and grooming.
  • Being visibly affected by substances on a regular basis.

Clearly not everyone is equally at risk of dependency or addictions. There are certain factors which can predispose us to be more vulnerable, although we should never lose sight of the fact that we still have freedom of choice.

Who Might Be At Risk Of Addiction?

  • Those who have a family history of addictions. (This can give the impression that substance abuse is "normal" and therefore acceptable).
  • Those whose personal history has been marked by chaos (for example, constantly moving house, having parents who come and go, etc) abuse or trauma.
  • People with poor social skills.
  • People with a limited support network.
  • Individuals who perform poorly in the school system.
  • Those who have never developed skills of resilience / coping.
  • Individuals with fragile self-esteem.
  • People who take on a "victim" role in life.

Counselling can be a lifeline for those struggling with substance abuse issues and those affected by their choices and behaviour. It can help you explore the factors which led you into addiction and can support you as you explore options which can lead to new behaviours. If you are concerned about someone who is abusing substances, then a counsellor can work with you to help you understand how you may be enabling the addiction, the impact of shame on you or your family and how to avoid unhelpful behaviours such as controlling, neglecting yourself or being a victim. At Point of Change Counselling, you will be treated with respect, dignity and the utmost confidentiality.

For help with substance abuse, contact Alli at Point Of Change Counselling to make an appointment.

Please ensure that you read the Copyright notice before accessing this site.

The information on this website is intended for general information only. For help, diagnosis, or treatment of specific issues, please see a mental health professional.