People use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs for many reasons. Some people use these substances to help them to relax, to feel more lively, to feel less inhibited or to feel pleasure. Others find the effects of substances make it easier for them to cope with problems.

Substance use can cause problems for an individual and their families, even when they are not highly dependent or addicted to the substance. If you are taking a substance, you might find it difficult to judge whether the substance use has become a problem. However, if the substance use has started to impact on any aspect of your daily life, including your performance at work, or relationships with a partner, colleagues, family members, or friends, then you should seek the advice of a psychologist.

Some of the more common substances that can be problematic include legal substances (alcohol, benzodiazepines: anti-anxiety drugs, painkillers with codeine in them like Nurofen Plus or Panadeine Extra/Forte and tobacco) and illegal substances including cannabis-marijuana, heroin and amphetamines including dexamphetamine without prescription, and ice. These are all drugs that can bring about high levels of dependence, and can be problematic even when used in low doses.

When we think about substance use problems, we often think of stereotypical ‘addicts’ or ‘druggies’ as the ones who have the ‘real’ concerns. However, if you are taking a substance regularly, you may feel strongly that you do not belong in this category. Most people who with substance use problems are just everyday people who might use substances to ease the stressors and difficult feelings of everyday life. However, often they use these substances in a way that makes their problems worse in the long-run. It is unlikely that you have spontaneously developed a pattern of substance use for no reason. Usually there are underlying issues that prompt it. Stress is highly effective at causing a craving for substances, and are a major cause of relapse to problematic substance use. Other conditions associated with substance use include depression, anxiety disorders, impulsivity and attention problems, and bipolar disorder.

You may feel that you are using a substance a little more than you would like to, or that you are running into problems at work or home because the substance affects you at the wrong time. If substance use is beginning to affect your wellbeing, seek help before the problem escalates and has a more severe impact on your functioning. If you are unsure, the staff at VCPS are happy to provide an assessment of your situation and feedback on what we can do together to manage the concern.

Our psychologists are specialised in assisting in this area in a number of ways, including:

  • Helping you to acknowledge the concern
  • Providing emotional support for you to release any concerns or negative thoughts
  • Educating you on the best practices for reducing the substance use
  • Identifying the underlying concerns that have led to the substance use
  • Focusing on the thoughts and feelings you have about using substances, and providing unique ways to address those thoughts and feelings
  • Providing you with new ways of relating to your thoughts and feelings that can contribute to making better decisions about substance use
  • Help to build up your own support system and self-care plan, in order to reduce any stress and maintain a positive daily life despite any negative circumstances
  • Working with you to find a treatment program that will work for you in both the short and long term
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