Substance use is common in our society. It is difficult to avoid seeing it portrayed and glamorized in media or even explicitly advertised. Alcohol, in particular, is woven into the fabric of many social activities, and it can even feel abnormal to abstain in those scenarios. Other substances like marijuana are becoming increasingly accessible for recreational use. These factors contribute to the murkiness surrounding the identification of unhealthy substance use.

Do I Have Unhealthy Substance Use Habits?

It is possible to use substances without having an addiction, but it is important to be cognizant of the line that separates occasional recreational use from unhealthy patterns of use. People who develop an addiction often do not recognize that gradual change happening, even when substance use is beginning to negatively impact their lives

If you are questioning your relationship with alcohol or drugs, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I feel like I need to use substances rather than just wanting to?
  • Have I tried to stop or cut down my use in the past without success?
  • When I have urges to use the substance, does it disrupt my concentration or ability to focus on other things?
  • Do I feel the need to always have access to the substance?
  • Has my tolerance to the substance increased?
  • Do I experience withdrawal symptoms when I go without the substance?
  • Am I engaging in risky behaviors like having unprotected sex or driving under the influence when I use this substance?
  • Is my performance at work or school declining because of my substance use?
  • Does obtaining, using, and recovering from the substance occupy a significant amount of my time?
  • Do I feel unable to stop using even though I know the substance is negatively affecting me?

If you find yourself answering “yes” to any of these questions, it might signal that your current habits are indicative of unhealthy substance use. Fortunately, you can make a change. Early intervention is possible, and it is key to forging a future free from the hold of substances. 

What Can I Do to Help Myself?

Sometimes education is a powerful enough tool to make this change. Learning about the signs of unhealthy substance use and recognizing yourself in that description might be enough to help you change course. Cutting back on your use and avoiding situations that might encourage you to use are crucial first steps. Your primary care provider can be a helpful resource in this process. 

It might be the case, however, that you need additional support. Your ability to reduce your substance use can depend on several factors, including the type of substances you use, the frequency with which you use them, how long you have used them, and the amount you are accustomed to using. Substance use has biological effects that make quitting more than merely a question of willpower or discipline.

Finding a licensed clinician specializing in addiction can ensure you do not have to go through this alone. Various treatment options are available depending on your specific needs, and working with a mental health professional can help connect you to the appropriate resources and support for you. It is never too late or too early to realize you need help and ask for it.

How Can I Help Someone I Love?

If someone you love appears to be using substances in a concerning way, you might feel that you are in an uncomfortable situation. It can be hard to know how to help or if there is even anything you can do. Fortunately, you have options, and your support will be a powerful tool for helping your loved one.

If you have open and honest communication with your loved one, it might be feasible to approach them directly about your concerns. Allow concern and compassion to guide the conversation rather than introducing blame or accusations. 

Communicate to your loved one what you have observed about their substance use habits and why it concerns you. Offer them information or resources you have used to learn about what constitutes unhealthy substance use. Make it clear that you are willing to support them in seeking help if necessary.

You might find yourself in a situation where that open line of communication is not present. This might be because you have tried to start this conversation before and experienced resistance. It might also be that you expect your loved one will not be receptive to what you have to say. If you are in this situation, there is still hope. 

These are circumstances where seeking professional help can facilitate this important conversation. Seeking a professional who can provide intervention education and preparation can empower you and your family to intervene if you believe your loved one needs help with their substance use. 

With substances being so easy to access and their use even being encouraged in some situations, it can be hard to determine when substance use turns into abuse. Learning the signs of substance abuse is an important first step toward protecting yourself and your loved ones from the consequences of developing an addiction. If you are starting to recognize unhealthy patterns of substance use in yourself or someone you care about, connecting with a mental health professional can provide a path toward wellness. Family-Centered Services is dedicated to helping individuals and families recover no matter where they are in their journey. We offer intervention services, individual and family therapy, and comprehensive case management. Call (509) 991-5822 to get started.

Originally posted 2023-03-05 14:00:00.