People can have problems related to their use of alcohol or drugs. If you or someone you know is affected by alcohol or drugs, support is available.
Why do people use alcohol and other drugs?
People use alcohol or other drugs:
- For enjoyment
- To relax and reduce anxiety
- To help to socialise with others
- To avoid physical or psychological pain
- Due to a positive expectancy (or thought) they may have about a drug, and what may happen when they use it
- Due to exposure to substance using models in peers, family members and the media
With prolonged and regular use, a person may develop tolerance and dependence to alcohol or drugs:
- Tolerance means that more of the substance is needed to get the same effect, leading to dependence.
- Dependence to alcohol or drugs can be psychological, physical or both. People who are dependent on a substance sometimes find that using alcohol or drugs becomes more important in their lives than other activities. Dependence can result in social consequences – for example, family conflict, legal problems and offending behaviour, loss of employment and financial stress.
Using substances can also affect your mental health because they affect the brain’s chemistry. They can affect the way you think, feel, create and make decisions.
People who have a mental illness often also have problems with drugs or alcohol. This is called having a 'dual diagnosis'.
People with dual diagnosis are not all the same. The signs and symptoms can vary depending on the:
- Combination of disorders
- Individual treatment needs
Integrated treatment is the best treatment for dual diagnosis. This is where the mental health and the substance use issues are treated at the same time, ideally by the same treatment provider or team.
If you are receiving treatment at a public mental health service, ask your treating team how to be referred to the specialist Dual Diagnosis team.
Links & documents
For individuals wanting to change or quit
If you have decided you want to change or quit using alcohol and other drugs, there are services that can help you.
For friends and family who want to help
If you are a family member or a friend of a person who wants to change or quit using alcohol and other drugs, there is support available. It's important to realise is that the person needs to make the decision themselves to change or quit using for it to work.