Why do people use substances?
- To try it out — we’ve all seen the movies and heard the stories and some people want to test it out for themselves.
- To be social — it might be something you do when you hang out with friends
- To relax after a long day – life can be stressful, and many people turn to substances when they can’t manage their stress in appropriate, healthy ways.
- To celebrate
- To feel better — more relaxed, in control, or energized
- To block out difficult feelings
- To escape from difficult situations
There are risks and benefits to all substance use. How the risks and benefits affect you depend on your situation. Here are some points to think about if you find yourself in a situation where substances are available:
- Why you use a substance is really important. If you’re just trying something to see what it’s like, you might not see the risks. But if you regularly use a substance to escape from difficult feelings or situations, you might notice a lot of risks.
- How you use a substance is also important. Are you in a safe place when you use, or are you in situations where you might hurt yourself?
- What else is going on in your life when you use? Is substance use a way to escape other problems?
When might substance use be a problem?
- You use substances to cope with your feelings
- Your substance use is affecting other parts of your life—for example, it’s affecting school or work
- You feel like you need to use substances every day or almost every day
- You do dangerous things like drive when you use
- You feel like substance use is the only way you have fun or enjoy yourself
I think I want to change my substance use—where can I go from here?
Family and friends: If you feel like you can talk openly about your concerns, family and friends can offer a lot of help.
Self-help material: There are great self-help materials online to help you look at your substance use and think about changes that may help. “Substance Use and You” from the Centre for Addictions Research of BC is a good place to start.
Self-help groups: There are many different kinds of self-help groups, though most are based on abstinence (not using). Some examples are SMART Recovery, LifeRing, and Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous (AA or NA). If you can’t find a group in your community, you may be able to join discussions online. These groups are anonymous and confidential, which means that no one can tell anyone else that you’re in the group or tell people outside the group what you talk about. Self-help groups can be a great way to connect with new people and find support in your community.
Health care professional: If you’re having a hard time dealing with substance use on your own, it may be a good idea to talk to a professional. Your school counsellor or family doctor can help you find services that fit your goals.