Do you have an Alcohol or Drug-Related Problem?

How do you know when just enjoying a few drinks or recreational drug use might be causing you problems? Some things to look out for include:

  • needing more and more alcohol or drugs to feel any effects
  • withdrawal symptoms a few hours after you have stopped using alcohol or drugs (e.g. shaking, sleep problems, agitation, anxiety, nausea)
  • having trouble cutting down or controlling the amount of alcohol or drugs you use
  • sick days because you are hung-over
  • missing out on things you used to do or enjoy because of alcohol or drug use

There are lots of practical steps you can make to help to be able to cut down or stop your alcohol or drug use. Contact LIFE if you would like to speak to someone about this common problem.

Diagnosis of Alcohol or Drug Addictions

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Diagnosis of alcohol or drug addictions is generally based on the extent of the person’s drug or alcohol problem. Milder cases are generally referred to as “Substance Abuse”, whereas more acute cases are called “Substance Dependence”.

It is common that when people become addicted to drugs (including alcohol) they are either in denial about their addiction, or entirely blind to the situation. As a result, addiction is rarely self-diagnosed. Instead, addiction is better discussed with an objective and professional psychologist, counsellor or other mental health professional.

When a psychologist, counsellor, doctor or psychiatrist is asked to diagnose a situation of drug or alcohol addiction, they will consider whether or not the addicted person suffers from either or both of Tolerance or Withdrawal.

TOLERANCE occurs when, over time, a drug or alcohol user requires more and more of the substance to get the same effect or ‘high’ that they previously achieved with much less. For example, a person might now be able to drink 8 drinks before they get drunk, whereas they previously only needed 4. Or a person might need 2 or 3 pills to achieve the desired ‘high’ from taking the drug known as Ecstacy, whereas they previously got ‘high’ from only one.

Typically, the result of increased tolerance is increased drug use, which of course only serves to further increase tolerance over time – a potentially vicious cycle for many drug and alcohol users. If you are noticing a tolerance for drugs or alcohol, you may wish to seek counselling from a Psychologist or Counsellor with experience in addictions therapy.

WITHDRAWAL is the term used to describe the physiological and psychological effects that some drug and alcohol users may have when they stop drinking or using. These negative effects or symptoms include:

  • sweating
  • increased heart rate
  • anxiety and intense agitation
  • hand tremours
  • insomnia
  • vomiting
  • hallucinations
  • seizures (in severe cases).

A person experiencing withdrawal will also feel a powerful craving to take drugs or drink alcohol, particularly as the taking of the drug will provide immediate relief for the symptoms of withdrawal. Indeed, withdrawal can be such an intense and awful experience, that it can be very difficult to pass through, and even harder to consider experiencing again. Again, if you are concerned about withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, this should be a clear sign to you to seek help from an addictions therapist like a counsellor or psychologist at LIFE, or to see your Doctor to assist you in managing a withdrawal process.

References:

  • American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
  • Benshoff, J. J., & Janikowski, T. P. (2000) The Rehabilitation Model Of Substance Abuse Counseling. Australia; Brooks/Cole, Thompson Learning
  • Jarvis, T. J., Tebbutt, J., & Mattick, R, (1995) Treatment Approaches For Alcohol And Drug Dependence: An Introductory Guide. Chickchester; John Wiley & Sons
  • Schuckit, M. A, (1995) Drug And Alcohol Abuse: A Clinical Guide To Diagnosis And Treatment (4th edition). New York & London; Plenum Medical Book Company
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