Drugs and Alcohol

The abuse of alcohol and other drugs are a huge social problem in Australia. In 2004, 17% of Australians over the age of 14 were daily cigarette smokers, 9% drank alcohol daily, 41% drank weekly, 38% had used an illicit drug in their lifetime and there were 234 million prescription medications dispensed to the community (Australian Institute on Health & Welfare, ACT, 2007).

Alcohol and drugs are often involved in incidents of Domestic Violence and other criminal behaviour. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) reported in 2004 that there were 25,761 reported domestic assaults in New South Wales alone. The association between substance use and Domestic Violence is well known.

Every year scores of people are being charged for drink driving offences while patterns of alcohol use are related to the level of absenteeism in Australia and negative work related behaviour. Hospitals care for people with tobacco related illnesses like lung cancer and heart disease while liver disease (Hepatitis C) is prevalent amongst drinkers and injecting drug users.

Like alcohol and all the other drugs, Cannabis use has been implicated in mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Also, amphetamine (Speed, Ice) use can cause severe anxiety and paranoid psychoses in people that haven't slept for days while prolonged Cocaine abuse can also make people feel very anxious and paranoid. There are stories where cocain abuse makes people believe that they have super human hearing. In 2005, 46% of injecting drug users had overdosed at some point in their lives. The sad fact is that drugs kill people, wreck families and stress communities. Gambling is also a type of addiction that is often related to substance use and abuse.

People use alcohol and other drugs for a myriad of reasons. Substance use and abuse continues to be problem in Australia and cost billions of dollars every year. Treatment ranges from detoxification units in hospitals to nicotine chewing gum and includes methadone programs, rehabilitation programs and community support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Psychologists, Counsellors, Doctors and Psychiatrists all treat people with substance abuse problems and the treatment can really make a difference. Strategies and techniques are taught and people become can more skilled in dealing with their addictions. The focus is on effort and persistence. The problem is that the individual must want to stop consuming the substance. Problematic substance use can often be ignored until family members, friends, partners or the Court demand that a change is made. Therefore many people are trying to quit long before they feel that they are ready to stop. Recovery from substance abuse or dependence is a process, quite a long process in many cases and relapse is a harsh reality.

It is true that people suffering from addiction issues create many problems for society. However, people suffering still deserve our understanding and respect. Blaming and shaming only makes it difficult for people to admit they have a problem and ask for help. An attitude of intolerance and punishment simply does not work. The proof is that the problem is growing, our prisons are full and more prisons are being built.

People confronting their addictions are often faced with having to deal with long standing issues like unresolved grief, trauma or anxiety problems. Often, substance use is related to avoidance of uncomfortable feelings or emotions. Using a variety of techniques, a skilled Psychologist can help people deal more effectively with the emotions that arise when people confront their addiction(s).