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Drug Addiction Problems

Some of the risks associated with drug abuse include:

Risk to personal safety - danger of death or injury by overdose, accident or aggression.

Damage to health - including brain damage, liver failure, mental problems etc.

Legal consequences - risk of imprisonment, fine and criminal record.

Loss of control - can be driven by physical or psychological factors - or both.

Physical dependence is when the body comes to need a drug to function normally. If it's not taken, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms occur. The only way to avoid this is to take more drug(s).

Psychological dependence is when an individual comes to rely on a drug to supply good feelings - such as relaxation, self-confidence, self-esteem, freedom from anxiety etc.

This is not just a casual desire; it's a powerful compulsion.

Losing Control of Drug Use

You'll note that a person who abuses drugs occasionally doesn't intend to go on to become dependent on them. This is not a voluntary process. There seems to be a line somewhere in any individual's personality and drug use, that once the line is crossed it's too late, that person is very likely to be powerless to stop or reduce his or her drug intake by their own efforts.

We're not just talking about desperate heroin addicts or alcoholics on park benches here. There's a whole range of drug dependence and it can affect anyone. This could be:

The compulsive drink is no different to the heroin injection. The intensity of desire may be very similar.

People who have become physically or psychologically dependent to some degree on their drug(s) of choice often realise that they're drinking or using more than they used to. They may then make some effort to reduce their drug intake.

This could involve cutting down the amount taken each time; only drinking/using on certain days; switching to another drug (e.g. whiskey to beer, cannabis to alcohol, heroin to methadone) etc.

Sometimes attempts to cut down may involve a life change such as moving home or changing job.

It's very common for such efforts to end in total failure, much to the utter bewilderment and dismay of the individual concerned. He or she cannot reduce their drug intake.

They're now faced with the fact that their drug abuse is beyond their control. It has taken on a destructive force of its own. He or she now needs help to deal this problem.

Why Do Some People Become Dependant on Drugs?

No one knows why some people become dependent on drugs while others don't. It has nothing to do with lack of will power or moral weakness. A genetic component may be involved; an individual's family and social environment will also play a part.

But it doesn't really matter why anyway, what's more important is what can be done about it. If a person becomes dependent on a drug, they can cause chaos for themselves and their family.

They may act irresponsibly, causing financial problems, difficulties at work or school etc.

They may loose the trust of family and friends by deceit and broken promises

They may lie or steal etc. in order to continue using the drug.

They may feel shame and guilt from repeated failure in trying to control their drug intake.

And yet he or she will usually insist that there's nothing wrong! !


Denial is a symptom of chemical dependency. It works something like this:

The person may really believe there's no problem, as this denial is subconscious.

Chemical dependency is an illness that tells the sufferer that nothing's wrong!

Much of what you've just read described the danger of either regularly abusing drugs or alcohol, or becoming dependent on them - i.e. of developing some kind of problem with these substances.

You may be thinking that you know of people who get drunk now and then - or smoke cannabis occasionally - and they don't appear to have any problems with their drug use.

Well, we'd warn anyone who believes that casual drug abuse doesn't pose any danger, that in our experience both drug abuse and drug dependence are progressive.

They start small.. . and get bigger. . and bigger . . and bigger

It's very easy to move from cannabis to amphetamines to heroin, or from a weekly drink to a daily drink to permanently drunk - i.e. taking more powerful drugs or taking more of a single drug.

Remember, this can develop slowly - over some years.

There's no such thing as a safe level of drug abuse.

What's the Difference between 'Hard' and 'Soft' Drugs?

There's no difference. These are just old slang phrases from years back that were used to make a distinction between drugs that were seen to be very dangerous - like heroin - and those then seen as less dangerous - like cannabis.

Such distinctions are pretty meaningless.

Don't believe me? Well, think of alcohol. Alcohol's a drug that contributes towards the illness, injury or death of many tens of thousands of people each year in the UK. It's involved in most cases of domestic violence; it's a major cause of accidents at work; it's responsible for much of the violence on our streets - and senseless injury and death on our roads.

Is alcohol a hard drug or a soft drug? - What do you think?

Alternatively - consider tobacco. Tobacco is a physically addictive drug that has been proved to contribute to many debilitating or fatal illnesses - both for the tobacco user and for those around him or her.

Is tobacco a hard drug or a soft drug? - What do you think?

Now consider heroin. Although heroin is physically addictive, less than 200 people each year die from heroin misuse in the UK. That's far less than the numbers who die as a result of using either alcohol or tobacco.

Is heroin a hard drug or a soft drug? - What do you think?

I hope you can see the contradictions here. The concepts of  'hard' or 'soft' drugs are very artificial. Their meaning (i.e. lots/little - or big/small) depends on what's being referred to.

Does hard/soft refer to the addictiveness of a drug? Does it refer to the health consequences of drug use? If so, tobacco must be at or near the top - or 'hard' end - so why are tobacco companies allowed to peddle hard drugs?

Does it refer to the social consequences of drug taking? If so, booze must be counted as the 'hardest' drug, so why does the government allow hard drugs in the form of alcohol to be sold openly?

I believe that all drugs are just that - drugs. They are neither hard or soft, high or low, black or white. Just drugs. And the abuse of any drug can carry serious consequences for the individual and for society as a whole.

I don't believe there are any exceptions to this and we feel that the artificial distinction of 'hard' or 'soft' drugs is one that is best avoided. Otherwise, it is easy for an individual to justify his or her drug use by saying - "I only take soft drugs" - and as we've seen, that's nonsense in terms of the consequences resulting from any drug abuse.

Is It True That Cannabis Is Safer to Use than Alcohol?

Yes and no - it's not a straightforward question.

It depends on what aspect of our personal safety we're looking at.

If we're considering the risks to our physical health, then we must conclude that - in some ways - cannabis is probably 'safer' than alcohol.

Cannabis doesn't contribute to the type of illnesses associated with alcohol use, such as liver disease, stomach ulcers, heart and circulation disorders. Also, cannabis is not usually associated with violent behaviour - as alcohol commonly is. So it would be fair to say that if an individual socialised with cannabis users, he or she would be less likely to suffer physical violence than would be the case in socialising with alcohol users.

But - with regard to other risks to our personal health - such as injury from accidents at work or at home (leaving a chip pan on, or a burning cigarette etc.), injury or death in a car crash, lung damage etc. from smoking cannabis (with or without tobacco) - we can see that cannabis use carries just as many risks for our health as does alcohol.

If we consider the risks to our emotional well being, then we're likely to conclude that cannabis is not safer than alcohol. Both drugs can be psychologically addictive - leading to a wide range of harmful consequences commonly associated with chemical dependence.

If we consider the potential for harm that cannabis use can inflict upon other family members, we're likely to accept that cannabis is not safer than alcohol. Family members can be traumatised by drug use within the family unit - and that includes cannabis use. An habitual cannabis user - always stoned - is no more pleasant to live with than an habitual alcohol user - always drunk!

Why Do Some People Abuse Drugs?

There's a big difference between why a person may try drugs for the first time and why that same person may then keep on taking them - again and again. Many people may try illicit drugs once or twice just out of curiosity, and feel no compulsion to repeat the experience.

Similarly, many people drink alcohol occasionally and have no problem at all about it, they do not get worried if they don't have a drink. But some people do.

For many people, drugs (including alcohol) can seem to provide something that is missing from their life, these substances can make them feel 'better', for a while anyway. This can take a lot of forms.

People may abuse drugs because:

They feel insecure about themselves

and the drug can provide self-confidence or assertiveness (often demonstrated as aggression).

They feel lonely or unloved

and the drug is a friend, a best friend.

They feel alienated, not a part of society

and the company of other drug users can provide a sense of belonging.

They feel angry or resentful - at family, partners, life, god  .  .  . etc.

and getting stoned or drunk etc. can blot out these uncomfortable feelings.

They feel stressed out or scared as a result of some life situation.

and drugs or booze can seem to relieve this sort of anxiety.

They're unhappy with life in the home, job, school, and neighbourhood - whatever.

And drugs provide a means of escape for a while - a way of living in a fantasy world that seems better than the real one.

These are just a few examples - each person will have their own reasons for abusing drugs or alcohol. The common basis to most of these is that drugs provide a means of escape from uncomfortable feelings. They appear to offer a sort of alternative world - where the user feels strong, powerful, relaxed, loved etc. - and his or her immediate environment appears safe and attractive. This fantasy offers pleasant feelings that are missing from the user's real life situation.

But a fantasy is just a dream. Reality keeps coming back. So a drug user must keep taking more and more drugs to try and keep the fantasy alive.

It doesn't work - reality always wins.

What Do Drugs Do to People?

Drugs that are abused are attractive because they can change how a person is feeling.

As the answer to the last questioned explained - that's why many people take them, whether they realise this or not. Drugs are usually taken to provide something that's otherwise missing from the users life.

Different drugs act in different ways on people. Some drugs reduce anxiety, some provide (apparent) energy, and some give self-confidence, some blot out all worries completely - for a while.

The bottom line is that DRUGS CAN PROVIDE GOOD FEELINGS (that's why people take them) - but they WON'T change any of the reasons why an individual was feeling bad, sad, lonely, scared, insecure etc. in the first place!

It's impossible for us to describe here exactly what a drug or alcohol abuser gets out of using his or her particular drug,  it will be different for every person. For those who have never abused alcohol or drugs, it may be difficult to imagine why some people do so.

If you've never abused illicit drugs, you may nevertheless have tried alcohol at some time. Can you remember how a couple of glasses of sherry, or two or three pints of beer/lager made you feel?

Did you feel relaxed?                 Did you feel more talkative than usual?

Did you feel more self-confident?

Well, basically that's the sort of good feelings that drugs other than alcohol can provide. They offer an artificial means of feeling good. Some are more powerful than others and they all work in different ways.

So this is what a drug abuser is looking for. Something to make him or her feel good about him/herself; to relieve anxiety, to provide self-confidence.

Positive Steps towards Solving a Drug or Alcohol Problem

Using drugs or excessive alcohol always brings problems. These can be very serious as drug abuse hurts all aspects of our lives - it brings havoc to our work, money, relationships . . . and our happiness.

It's when we can't quite control how much we take, when we can't go without as easily as before.

Does this happen in your life ?

These are symptoms of dependency. You see, there's a whole range of drug dependency. It's not just heroin addicts or hopeless alcoholics, it can happen to anyone, even someone like you.  Yes, even you.


OK then You, so you think that you may have a drug problem?

Well, if you have, you're taking a positive step toward resolving it simply by reading this web page.

Hundreds of thousands of people, just in the UK alone, are dependent on drugs or alcohol. Lots of them either don't realise they have a problem or don't want to admit it. You're taking the trouble to read these pages, this shows that you're willing to check it out.

Well done for doing this!

It's not important what drugs you've used, or how much of any drug you've taken in the past. That makes no difference to the pain and distress that drug dependency can cause.

Some people think that drug dependence only happens to individuals who inject heroin or drink bottles of whiskey each day. Well, that's not true. Or that an individual must have a mental problem if they abuse drugs or alcohol. That's not true either.

It’s just ordinary people, who first used drugs or booze for a bit of fun, or excitement, or whatever. And then one day found that it wasn't fun anymore, it certainly wasn't exciting. It was just confusion, misery and despair.

Let's take a look at what drugs have done to peoples lives . . .

Here's some common signs of drug dependency, see if you recognise yourself in any of them. Try to be honest You. No-one else can know what you're thinking. There's no need to hide anything.


Loss of control

Devious behaviour

Mental obsession

It's not easy to admit that  drug use can make you behave like this. Lots of people make excuses or blame others for their problem. You’ll need to get past that. You’ll need to acknowledge the reality of using.

Yet many people with a drug problem find it very difficult to own up to it. This is called DENIAL - and it's a recognised symptom of drug or alcohol dependency. Let's see how it works . . .

DENIAL is a real killer, because chemical dependency is an illness that tells the sufferer that nothing's wrong!

It's caused by internal conflict. A person may like abusing drugs because it makes them feel good.

BUT he or she knows that it's hurting themselves and their families. He or she can't reconcile these conflicting realities. So they deny that they have a drug problem! (this is a subconscious thing).

The only way to beat this is to try to be HONEST WITH YOURSELF. Real deep down HONEST. Perhaps deeper inside than you've ever been before. It can be scary, but it's good too.

You can ask other people what your drug using has been like for them, and then listen to what they say.

Then you can leave behind the excuses that you used to make. You know, excuses like; that I’m  different from other people who abuse drugs or alcohol.

That I haven't really got a drug problem, I could stop if I wanted to.

That I only take drugs because . . . because . . . because . . .

As long as you kept making excuses, you could pretend that you were choosing to abuse drugs.

It’s time to check out the reality of your drug or alcohol use.

Here are a few questions, that you can use as a reality check. Take your time.

Recognising Drug Abuse

Answer "yes" or "no" to each question. "Maybe" counts as "yes".

Drug Abuse Checklist

Does your drug use make you feel guilty?

Do you sometimes not remember what you did when you were taking drugs?

Is it hard for you to stop using drugs?

Has your drug use ever created problems with your spouse, parents, or a relative?

Has anyone tried to get you help for your drug use?

Have you ever lost friends because of your drug use?

Have you ever lost your job or been suspended from work because of drug use?

Have you ever been arrested for possession or sale?

Have you ever been hospitalised because of drug use, either medical or psychiatric hospitalisation?

Have you ever broken the law in order to get drugs (stolen drugs or money, forged a prescription)?

Are you using more drugs or alcohol than you used to to get the same effect?

Are you using drugs or alcohol more frequently than you used to?

Do you use drugs or drink alcohol on your own?

Do you lie about your using - i.e. how much, how often etc. - to your family or friends?

Has your drug or alcohol use ever caused you any money problems?

Problems at work?

Do you regularly take more drugs or alcohol than you originally intended?

Have any of your family or friends voiced concern about your drug use or drinking?

Have you ever made any effort to cut down or stop your drug or alcohol use?

Did it fail?

Are you using drugs or drinking alcohol more or less continuously now?

Do you think you have a drug problem? If you've answered "yes" to any of these questions, then it's quite likely that you're dependent on drugs or alcohol. Don't despair !, accepting this is the first step towards finding a solution.

It’s make your mind up time; it's up to you, no-one else can make this decision.

Do you want your life to carry on like this? Or . . .

. . . are you willing to change? Because that's what it takes.

Sounds scary doesn't it?  Changing, leaving behind what's familiar. But if you really want to overcome your drug or alcohol problem, that's the only way. Let me explain why........

Just cutting down on you using or boozing doesn't work. Always, sooner or later, your consumption goes back up again. You may already have found out about this. Once you've lost control over your using, you can never get it back. If you want to get well, you need to stop using

That's the first major change you can achieve.

It's fairly easy to stop taking drugs (including alcohol) for a while, the difficult bit is staying stopped.

If you want to stay well;

You need to ask for help - so that you can learn other ways of getting the good feelings that drugs used to give you.

That's the second major change you can achieve.

You can do this if you want to. You won't have to do it on your own.

The first thing to do is to stop using drugs or alcohol. How can someone do that?

The most important thing is to take action now. Don't just leave it for another day, or nothing will happen, just like all the other times when vague promises didn't work.

Even if you feel that you only have the beginnings of a drug problem, ACT NOW!

Because it gets worse. It will get worse unless you take action.

Coming off drugs is not too difficult. For the most part you'll only feel a sort of mental confusion for a few days. There are a few exceptions to this. If you've been using alcohol, barbiturates or tranquillisers regularly, it's best if you stop taking them under medical supervision. Go and see a doctor. The physical withdrawal from these drugs can be dangerous.

You'll probably get cravings for your drug(s) for a while. This is normal. These feelings will pass, so don't act on them. Put it off. Say to yourself  "I won't use now, but I might tomorrow, or in two hours, or in 10 minutes”. You can live for 10 minutes, 2 hours or one day without drugs. Then you can do it again!

Now, I hope you'll remember this, it's important if you want to stop using drugs:

You can't do it on your own

You'll need help and support. Here's where to find it . . .

There's a lot of people who care about you You. They'll support you if you ASK FOR HELP.

For some drug users, family or friends can provide support while the user is learning to live without drugs. For others this may not be appropriate and they'll need to seek help elsewhere.

There are drug programmes and other organisations that deal with drug and alcohol abuse in most towns. They often have staff or volunteers who used to be dependent on drugs. GO SEE THEM!

What have you got to loose by going along? Nothing, except misery, loneliness, despair . . .

Then there are fellowships like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). These are loose organisations of people who used to have problems with drugs or alcohol and who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. There should be a local meeting near you (look in the phone book).

GET ALONG TO IT! You'll find some good friends there.

In my experience it's very difficult for anyone who has a problem with drugs to get clean and stay clean on his or her own. When a problem comes along, it's so easy for that person to pick up a drug or a drink again. That's when you need support, encouragement, someone to talk to . . . to share your problems with.

Telephone to make an appointment with an experienced counsellor like myself . Start to deal with the real issues. A counsellor will not shame or judge you. Most people who undertake therapeutic work make the necessary changes in their lives to enjoy living to their fullest potential.

So, if you think you have a drug problem, here's what I advise you to do:

1  Give yourself a reality check. Look honestly at your using behaviour, you can use the questions above. Ask other people how they feel about your using. LISTEN to what they say.

Then, if you accept that you're dependent on drugs or alcohol -

2  Stop using - NOW. Don't put it off, and above all don't think that the problem will go away because it won't. It'll get worse, it always does.

3  Get all the support you can find. Ask for help, even when you're scared of rejection, ask for help. This is a big part of opening up and letting something else into your life apart from drugs.

4  Start to learn healthy life skills. Things like how to deal with conflict . . . with painful feelings . . . with relationships. This you can learn with an experienced counsellor.

More on Those Uncomfortable Feelings……the Emptiness

We have all experienced that deep sense of unfulfilment, that emptiness that is just crying out…screaming to be filled. In these seemingly dire circumstances, we immediately start working out new ways to fill ourselves once more, to fill this seemingly unbearable emptiness. The behaviour is familiar; find someone or something new to make a new beginning with, and if that is not available, we turn to alcohol, drugs, sex… or ......... you fill in the blank. Whatever is needed to fill the emptiness.

Have you noticed that none of these solutions ever work! Why? Because the emptiness is absolutely open, it is unfillable! The truth is that we were not created to be self-filling beings, we are meant to be empty, because when we are empty we are available! Available to who, what, you may ask! Available to Life! God! Source! Chi! Tao! Higher Power…Spirit! You can choose whatever label you wish….......…

So how can we be empty and available to Life? The only way that I have found, is by allowing everything to be as it is! “I am where I am and it’s okay”. Why is it okay? Because I am where I am, it’s got to be okay!

I know, this is not easy. To remain present to a someone or a something without trying to judge it or change it! You either want to attack it, avoid it, make it invisible or capture it, possess it, make it bigger, make it last longer and it’s all so hopeless, you’re trying to fill an emptiness that does not exist! The very act of trying to fill the emptiness distracts us from the absolute truth that the emptiness is not empty, it is abundant with Life. It only appears empty because Life in and of itself is an infinite realm of possibilities just waiting to be actualised by you and the only way that you can see this endless stream of possibilities, is when you stop trying to create your own possibilities, by trying to change or fix Reality.

When you have the courage to trust Life i.e. The True Self totally, you become truly available. I often say “You are either open to life or closed to life.”

If you are not open to what you perceive as the negative happenings, you are not open to the positive happenings. If you are not open to depression, fear, anger, anxiety and panic, then you are not open to joy, courage, forgiveness, peace and calm.

A great misconception is that it’s up to you to motivate yourself! It is not up to you to motivate yourself! It is up to Life to motivate you, but before it can do that, you need to be empty, present, real, true, honest and AVAILABLE. When you are finally “OPEN TO LIFE”, Life will flow through you like a torrent and once again you will be who you truly are…a fountain of unlimited possibilities, creation...…Magnificence.

Helping You To Help Yourself

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