Substance Use (Drug and Alcohol)

Substance use is often inherently tied to cultural contexts, being associated with important social rituals (i.e. celebrations, commiserations, socialising and relaxation). However some people extend their use of alcohol and other drugs or substances beyond social rituals and begin to use for other purposes such as avoidance.

The effects of alcohol and other drugs on the body can be relatively predictable and easy to replicate, so people often use certain substances to elicit a certain response and change in how they feel. These changes due to substance use generally only affect a person in the short term, so to continue to achieve the desired outcome, a person may begin to use a substance more and more frequently. It is at this point that many people can develop addictions to certain substances, whether it be a behavioural addiction, physiological addition or psychological addiction.

Continued substance use clearly has an appeal to an individual as it meets an their needs in some way. However many individuals who use substances also experience significant negative impacts from their use.

Common negative impacts of substance use can include:

  • Financial impacts and higher expenses to obtain and use substances
  • Health problems
  • Psychological problems (i.e. depression, anxiety)
  • Social isolation
  • Impact on work, school or home responsibilities
  • Feelings of being controlled
  • Poor role-modelling for children
  • Using more than originally intended, feeling out of control of use
  • Problems with the law
  • Problems with safety
  • Needing the substance to cope with everyday life or specific experiences
  • Organising events or needs around substance use
  • Tolerance to substances, needing to increase amounts to feel the same effect
  • Feeling sick or moody without the substance

There will become a point for each individual where the negatives of their substance use will outweigh the benefits they once received and they will make a decision to reduce their use or to stop using completely. Trying to stop or manage substance use is difficult and needs to be approached strategically to achieve successful outcomes. It may even take more than one attempt to successfully achieve set goals, as set-backs and lapses can often occur. However it has been shown that immediate re-attempts at quitting or managing substance use improve in effectiveness, leading it to become more likely to successfully achieve and maintain goals.

Seeing a psychologist can help you to strategically manage your decision to stop or reduce your substance use through the clear identification of goals and strategies to help you achieve and maintain these and how to cope with set-backs should they arise. A psychologist can help you to work towards living a life that you choose, that is meaningful and fulfilling.

Substance use is typically thought of as use of alcohol and illicit drugs, however a psychologist can also assist you in your management of other substances including:

  • Tobacco
  • Over the counter medications
  • Prescription medications (for non-prescriptive use)
  • Caffeine
  • Sugar

Contact us at Strategic Psychology via phone, email or drop in to our office to schedule an initial appointment to see one of our experienced psychologists to begin addressing problematic substance use. Your psychologist will discuss your substance use with you, and if appropriate will provide you with information of further services if necessary to help you to successfully achieve your goals.

No referral is needed to make an appointment, however you can contact your GP to receive a referral under a Mental Health Care Plan (if eligible) to receive a rebate through Medicare.

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