Substance use is a health issue that impacts millions of Canadians. It causes harm to individuals, families and communities. Conservative estimates (from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey) found that 4.4% of Canadians met the criteria for a substance use disorder.
(Canadian Center on Substance Abuse)
Problematic use is not the same as dependency. Alcohol is legal and many people abuse alcohol but yet are not alcoholics. So how do we know when the use is becoming problematic? This is a question that only you can answer for yourself. I always say it’s only a problem if it’s a problem for you. What I mean by that is that your use of substances is a problem when it starts to create problems for you personally.
Now you might be saying “Well, it’s not me that has a problem with my use. It’s my boss.” Or “It’s my partner” or “Or it’s my kids”. However, at what point is it causing a problem for you? If your substance use has caused you to lose your job, has damaged relationships, or if you have run into legal issues, it could be that it has become a problem for you. If your friends no longer want to hang out with you because of your drinking and you are starting to feel rejected or lose regard for yourself it is becoming a problem for you. If you have lost your driver’s license and are having to rely on other transportation that might be a problem for you. Only you can decide if the outcome of your use is becoming enough of a problem for you that you want to make a change. Don’t let substance use rob you of your friends, family, rights, freedom, and most importantly, your self respect.
Counselling treatment works to assist people in overcoming substance abuse but many people don’t access services because of the stigma associated with seeking treatment. Substance abuse is no different than any other health issue. It is not a moral failing. It is most often the result of past trauma or hurt, or a symptom of current stress or loneliness.
Substance abuse is any time someone uses alcohol or drugs despite negative consequences in their lives. The difference between use and abuse is the point at which the use is becoming problematic. This is different again from substance dependency. Substance dependency is when the person develops a physiological dependence on the substance and can no longer control the use. If you have a substance dependency, speak with your doctor or seek medical assistance to address it. It can be dangerous to withdraw on your own.
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