Drug & Alcohol Counselling
There is no single face of destructive dependance on a substance. Anyone can develop patterns of substance abuse no matter their age, culture or financial status. This devious disease starts out by being a helpful escape or coping strategy but transforms into an all encompassing problem. Drugs and alcohol can infiltrate all facets of a person’s life and their loved ones’.
What is dependance?
Drug and alcohol dependance is a complex disease, which can be chronic and progressive. Once the compulsive disorder has formed, individuals will pursue their toxic habits despite putting themselves or others in harm’s way. The person’s thinking often becomes distorted and the one who is reliant will justify, rationalize, and minimize their use. Quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will.
How does drug and alcohol dependance impact the brain?
The reward centre of the brain is critical for healthy human functioning as it motivates us to repeat pleasurable behaviors. This pattern creates a chemical called dopamine which makes us feel good. Alcohol and drugs hijack the reward centre and reinforce pleasurable but unhealthy behaviours, leading people to repeat the toxic behavior again and again.
Chronic alcohol and drug use results in the brain’s cells being less responsive to substances and reduces the “high” that people crave. This process is known as tolerance. These same brain adaptations also lead to the brain being unable to produce normal amounts of dopamine on its own. This means that a person will struggle to find enjoyment in normal pleasurable activities when they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Warning signs of dependance and problematic behaviours
Here are some common red flags that may indicate an individual’s drug and alcohol use is becoming problematic :
- Ignoring commitments or responsibilities
- Hiding alcohol or drugs or when they use
- Problems at work, school, home, legal system
- Unexplained absences
- Appearing to have a new set of friends
- Considerable monetary fluctuations
- Staying up later than usual or sleeping in longer
- Lapses in concentration or memory
- Being oddly secretive about parts of personal life
- Avoiding connection with friends and family
- Sudden volatile mood swings and changes in behavior
- Lack of motivation
- Weight loss/gain or changes in physical appearance
- Needing a drink or drug to function in daily life
- Wanting to cut back on use but being unable to do so
Dependance on drugs and alcohol is never predicted by one factor. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that using substances can lead to destructive decisions. For example:
- Biology. The genes that people are born with account for about half of a person's risk for substance abuse. Gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may also influence risk for drug and alcohol dependance.
- Environment. A person’s environment includes many influences. Family dynamics, support network, and economic status can all play a role. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can also greatly affect a person’s likelihood of drug use and alcohol reliance.
- Development. Although using substances at any age can lead to problematic behaviour, the earlier that drug or alcohol use begins, the more likely it will progress to compulsion. This is particularly true for teens as the areas of their brains that control decision-making, judgment, and self-control are still developing.
As with other chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease, the treatment for substance abuse isn’t a cure. Individuals in successful recovery learn to minimize the symptoms of the illness, limit their vulnerability to relapse, and create a balanced life with purpose. Recovery can be an opportunity for personal growth, self care, and renewed purpose.
I am a certified drug and alcohol counsellor that has been working with substance and behavioural dependencies for over 20 years. My approach to substance abuse counselling/treatment is holistic and customized for each client that I work with. Concurrent psychological, medical, or social problems may also be addressed if you feel they are obstructing you from getting your life on track. We will work together to create a stronger healthier future for yourself.