Drug and Alcohol Problems

People regularly use alcohol and/or other drugs as part of their recreational activity. The use of psychoactive substances (drugs that alter mood or perception, for example, alcohol or cannabis) is a regular part of many people’s recreational activity.  At least fifteen out of a hundred Australians over the age of fourteen have used illicit drugs and nine out of ten Australians in that age range have drunk alcohol.*  Many people who use substances to relax or have fun don’t experience problems with their use.  For a significant minority of people, however, their use does begin to have unpleasant consequences for them, including:

  • changes to their memory and thinking ability,
  • developing or making worse mental health problems like anxiety or depression,
  • physical injury,
  • financial hardship,
  • job losses,
  • relationship breakdowns,
  • legal problems and
  • sometimes even death.  

When does recreational use become dependency?

If you answer ‘yes’ to more than one of these, and this has been a problem over the last 12 months, your substance use may have crossed into dependency:

 Have you noticed that the amount you use doesn’t seem to have the same effect any more?

  • Have you needed to use more of the substance to achieve the desired effect?
  • Do you have withdrawal symptoms if you don’t use?
  • Is it hard for you to stick to a limit of how much you’ll use?
  • Do you continue using for longer than you’ve planned to?
  • Would you like to or have you tried to cut down and found it harder than you thought?
  • Is more of your time than you’d like spent on substance related activities, sometimes to the detriment of things you need to do?

I think I have a problem. What can I do about it?

If you think you have drug and alcohol problems or would like to avoid the unpleasant consequences of your use, you may need to make some changes and it can be useful to talk to somebody about what’s going on for you. If you are dependent, you may need some help to do this and it is best to seek some form of treatment.

What are my treatment options?

A number of substance use treatment options are available including:

  • Publicly funded counselling and withdrawal services
  • Private detoxification services
  • Peer support services (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • Telephone / online counselling
  • Psychologists

How can a clinical psychologist help?

Treating drug and alcohol problems or dependency is a specialist skill, and it is best to seek treatment from a psychologist experienced in providing such treatment.  The clinical psychologists of psych180 have a lot of experience in understanding and treating problem substance use.  They will assess your readiness to make particular changes and support you to make your own decision about what’s right for you right now.  decide what’s best for you the level of your ambivalence to making a change, and help you to address some of the barriers to you making a change to your use.



Turning Point

Service Directory for Drug and Alcohol Users

Australian Drug Foundation – Drug Info



*2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report