Whether it’s sipping a glass of wine to “take the edge off” before a social gathering, or stepping out to vape during a break, it’s common in our culture to use substances (such as alcohol or drugs) for recreation, relaxation, and social connection. Although these substances aren’t always dangerous in moderation, over time, or with excessive use, they can lead to harm.
In some cases, people may find themselves turning to a certain substance (or substances) to deal with something negative that’s happening in their lives. This can be anything from social anxiety, to work-related stress, to something traumatic that happened in the past.
Whatever someone’s reason for using substances may be, if their substance use starts to have negative effects on other parts of their life, or they reach a point where they feel unable to function without them, then it may be worth questioning their relationship with substances.
It’s possible for people to become overly involved in using many different kinds of substances, such as alcohol, cannabis, opiates, cocaine, and tobacco. You can also become overly involved in certain kinds of behaviours such as gambling or sexual activity.
In the beginning, substance use is often fun, and you might use substances to help yourself deal with negative emotions such as low mood, loneliness, boredom, or worry. But as time passes, you may start to realize that you’re having trouble controlling your substance use.
Some signs of problematic substance use that you may want to keep an eye on include:
Having cravings for a substance
Wanting to cut down or stop using a substance and not being able to
Using more of a substance that you planned to, or using it for a longer period of time
Experiencing negative consequences in your life, such as being unable to meet your obligations at work or at home
Continuing to use substances even though it’s causing problems in your relationships
Using substances when it puts you or others in danger, including negative effects on your health
Taking too much of a substance at once can also lead to overdose, which can be fatal.
If you’re in immediate danger or need urgent medical help, call 911.
Developing a plan to surf your cravings when they strike can help you stick to your goals.
There are many ways you can reduce the risk of harm when you use substances, to protect yourself & others.
Don’t be afraid to go to people who care about you for support, or try joining a support group for people who have experienced the same thing.
We can connect you with a counsellor or crisis responder who will understand what you’re going through & can help you get through it.
The process of overcoming problematic substance use can look different for different people. When supporting someone through their substance use journey, it’s important to understand that the path to wellness is not a straight line, and that there will likely be some ups and downs along the way. Try not to blame or criticize the person, or lecture them about what they’re doing wrong. Instead, be patient and empathetic, and talk to them about what they’re going through (if they’re open to having a conversation about it). It can be helpful to encourage them to seek additional support from a peer support person or a professional trained in mental health and substance use treatment.
Supporting someone through substance use and addiction concerns can be difficult, so make sure you engage in self-care and also seek support when needed through the process.
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