Drug and Alcohol Counselling

Drug and Alcohol Use, Substance Use, Addiction – These are terms or labels commonly given to describe the problematic use of any substance (drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs / medication). You may be concerned about your own drug or alcohol use, or it may be that a friend, parent, partner, colleague, teacher or other professional has expressed concern about you, or to you. It may be that you are concerned about a friend, colleague or family member’s alcohol or drug use.

What is Problematic Substance Use or Addiction?

There is often a stereo typical image of the problematic drug or alcohol user. In reality it is a lot more subtle. An individual can stay in denial of any problems attached to their drug or alcohol use; minimise, justify or deny that their behaviour is affecting them or anyone else in a negative way. Someone experiencing the negative consequences to their drug or alcohol use may experience a change or decline in their ability to function effectively. Family, work, school, college, university or social responsibilities may be neglected. Examples could include missing appointments, college or school, being absent or late to work, neglecting the emotional or physical needs of themselves their partner, children or others. Financial or health issues may also be experienced. Drug or alcohol use can cause many difficulties and hardship to individuals, their families and communities. Families can experience arguments, neglect, abuse, break up, lack of money or loss of employment. In the work place alcohol and drug use can jeopardise health and safety, impact on productivity and put individuals at risk of harm.

Addiction, Dependence and Recovery

Often despite these and other negative consequences an individual continues using substances or drinking; this is addiction or dependence. It is possible to treat addiction and change problematic drug or alcohol use. This is often referred to as “recovery”. Recovery requires the development of awareness and taking responsibility for ones behaviour and the consequence of our actions. Personal responsibility is the start of any change attempt.

Harm Minimisation / Harm Reduction

Harm Minimisation / Harm Reduction are the terms given to a type of drug and alcohol treatment and education that raises awareness of the risks attached to drug and alcohol use. Its aim is to reduce the harm individuals do to themselves, to others, or the communities in which they live or work. Harm Reduction focuses on “safer” drug or alcohol use and is used to educate and inform the drug or alcohol user (or other interested parties) of the potential risks when using drugs or alcohol. Raising awareness enables people to make informed decisions and choices about their own or another person’s substance use.

A way forward – How Drug and Alcohol Counselling Can Support Change

Often the drug taking or drinking is the adaptive behaviour an individual may have adopted to cope with stress, relationship difficulties, anxiety, depression, trauma, bereavement or just to manage negative thoughts and feelings. The drug or alcohol use becomes the solution to the perceived problem or issue. If you remove the substance use, or look below it, you are more likely to be facing the cause or issue that is causing the distress. Counselling can facilitate an exploration of the adaptive behaviour and the reason why that solution was implemented initially. Counselling facilitates the identification of alternative, constructive coping strategies to manage the underlying concern.

There are often negative emotions attached to the concerns you may have about your own or someone else’s drug or alcohol use. These may include guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, paranoia or confusion to name a few. Counselling can facilitate an exploration of your experiences, with the hope of finding a solution and movement towards a more positive outcome.

If you can identify with the above or it has started you thinking about yourself, a loved one, friend or colleague, and you would like to discuss these concerns further in a safe non-judgemental space, please contact me.