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General and drug addiction counselling

‘Addiction’ can mean many things to many people, but in general it refers to repeatedly using a substance (such as drugs) or engaging in an activity (such as gambling) for pleasure, even though doing so causes harm or interferes with everyday life.

Addiction is basically a compulsion to use a certain substance or to behave in a certain way in order to feel good (or sometimes to stop feeling really bad). Addiction falls into two main categories: physical and psychological.

  • Physical addiction

    This is when your body becomes dependent on a particular substance. It also often means that you’ve developed a tolerance for the substance, so you have to take more of it to continue to feel the effects. If you have a physical addiction, you’ll experience strong symptoms of withdrawal when you try to give it up. Examples of physical addiction are drug and alcohol dependence, including cigarettes and prescription painkillers.

  • Psychological addiction

    This is when you’re craving for a substance or a behaviour comes from an emotional or psychological desire, rather than from a physical dependence. Your brain is so powerful that it can produce physical symptoms like those of withdrawal, including cravings, irritability and insomnia. Examples of psychological addictions include gambling, gaming, exercise, internet, shopping, sex and overeating.

  • Signs of addiction

    Do you find that :

    • You need to use more of a substance, or to do an activity more often, to get the same effect.
    • You’ve become reliant on a substance or activity as a way to forget your problems or to relax.
    • You’re withdrawing from family and friends.
    • It’s causing you problems with school or work.
    • You’re stealing or selling stuff in order to keep doing it (such as drugs or gambling)
    • You’ve been unsuccessful in trying to quit.
    • You feel anxious, angry or depressed.
  • Getting help for an addiction

    If you think you have an addiction to a substance or a behaviour, you should seek professional help. Talking to your GP is a good place to start. If you’re embarrassed or nervous about discussing your behaviour with them, remember that they’re obligated to keep anything you say confidential. Besides, there isn’t anything they won’t have heard before!

    If you’re worried about a friend who you think may be addicted to drugs, it’s good to know what to look for. The good news is that you can help them more than you may think, but professional help may be necessary to tackle something as serious as addiction.

    It can feel daunting to confront a mate about their drug use, but it’s important for friends to help each other. You may feel hurt by things they’ve done, but remember that they probably didn’t intend to hurt you. Addiction drives the best people to make poor decisions.

    • Acknowledge that your friend might not see their drug use as a problem
    • Without an understanding that there is a problem, there won’t be a solution. Be honest with your friend about what you think the problem is, and make sure they understand that abusing drugs is a serious issue.
    • Talk to your friend about your concerns
    • Talk about the negative effects of addiction in terms of something your friend really cares about. They might not be worried about their health or about getting through uni, but they may really care that someone they love is suffering because of their addiction.
    • Be positive and let your friend know that you’re there for them
    • Help them stay focused on positive goals that don’t include drugs. Support and acknowledge the positive things they do and achieve, and don’t abandon your friend when they slip up – it will probably take time for them to turn things around.
    • Don’t try to guilt-trip them, and don’t preach, bribe or threaten them; this will only upset them and push them away.
    • Sometimes, even the best efforts to help a friend aren’t enough to make them stop
  • Drug Addiction

    Drug addiction is a complex problem involving physical and psychological urges. Addiction to different drugs has different consequences, and the reasons for taking too many drugs vary from person to person.

    ‘Drug addiction’ means an uncontrollable urge to consume a drug because of a physical or mental dependency on the chemical in the drug. Sometimes addiction is focused on one type of drug; at other times, there is a craving for any kind of drug.

    Drug addiction occurs mostly with excessive use of recreational drugs, but prescription medication can also be a source of drug addiction and dependence.

    The long answer is that some drugs are more addictive than others. While not all drugs are physically addictive (when you have physical withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them), they can still be psychologically addictive (meaning you develop a mental dependency on them).

    Because drug addiction is so complex, the signs are not always straightforward. If you are concerned that you might be developing an addiction, there are some indicators to look out for.

    If you take drugs regularly and you have some of the symptoms listed here, it is important that you talk to a doctor or a mental health professional (such as a drug counsellor or a psychologist) as soon as you can. Continuing to take drugs might seem like the only way to feel better, but it can lead to some pretty serious consequences, including ongoing mental and physical health issues, or even death.

    Recognising the problem is the first step in getting help for addiction. No one can force another person to undergo treatment for a problem they do not believe they have.

    Talk to a doctor or a health professional.

  • Alcohol Addiction

    There’s a big difference between enjoying a drink and having an alcohol addiction. Knowing what the difference is can be helpful in preventing the harmful effects of alcohol addiction.

    ‘Addiction’ means having a dependence on a substance or activity. Unlike someone who simply ‘wants’ something, a person with an addiction will have physical cravings and urges for the substance they’re addicted to.

    Being addicted to alcohol, sometimes called being an alcoholic, means that you have a physical dependency on alcohol. There are changes that happen in the brain of someone who drinks a lot of alcohol which makes them have physical withdrawals if they don’t drink.

    Alcohol addiction is a complex problem that can be hard to notice, particularly where it is socially acceptable to drink a lot. This is why it is so important to check in with yourself and your mates, and to make sure that a few beers after work is not turning into something more serious.

  • Gambling Addiction

    Australia is a gambling nation, with around 80 per cent of young people having participated in gambling at least once. What starts as fun can become a serious problem if it begins to negatively affect your daily life or cause financial problems. On average, one Australian teen in every high school class has an issue with gambling. Quitting a gambling addiction isn’t easy, but there are a lot of support services available if you think you have a problem with it.

    A gambling addiction is not always easy for someone to admit to. In fact, people who have a problem with gambling often lie about their betting habits or try to hide them from others.