Many people use alcohol and drugs for recreation or fun, in a way that does not harm them or cause negative impacts to their mental health. But when used in excess, or when relied on to cope with stressful life problems, alcohol and drug use can interfere with someone’s day-to-day life and negatively impact their mental health. This can create an unhelpful vicious cycle that is bad for their mental health.
What counts as a problem may be different from person to person, but these are a few questions that might help you consider whether your use of alcohol and drugs is problematic:
- Are you comfortable with the amount you drink or use drugs?
- Do you feel in control of your decisions to drink or use drugs?
- Do you feel you need to drink or take drugs to feel ok or to cope with stress?
- Has your drug or alcohol use been increasing over time?
- Do you find yourself prioritising alcohol or drugs over other things that are important to you (like your education, employment or relationships)?
Make a list of things you can do when you have the urge to use, including a range of activities that help you to relax, feel good, give you a sense of achievement or are good distractions.
Make an honest list of all the good and bad things about using, and all the good and bad things about cutting down or stopping using to help you see things more clearly.
Use a diary or a tracking app to know how much you actually use.
Let key friends or family know you are trying to cut down or stop so they understand and can support you. There are also mental health and de-addiction services that can offer you advice and treatment.
Start with small daily or weekly goals or set yourself specific ‘dry days’.
It can be distressing if someone you care about is using alcohol or drugs in a way you think is bad for them. The bottom line is that you cannot make someone stop using substances if they don’t want to - it is something they have to decide for themselves. But here are things you can do to offer your support:
Do this as directly and honestly as you can and at a time and place where you think they might best be able to take this in.
If they are willing, you can look into this with them and even find local services to visit together.
If they are working on their use, don’t be afraid to ask them about it and find out from them what would be helpful for you to do (or not do!).
Look for ways to do things together that you both enjoy and helps you both feel connected.