Whether it’s to unwind, have fun, study better or escape pain, people use substances for many reasons.
Whilst the university in no way encourages or condones substance use, it is a reality and opening up conversations can help us in a variety of ways; from making informed decisions about substance use to knowing when or where to access support for ourselves or people we care about. Ultimately, we all want to be safe, sound and secure. This can be threatened if we don’t feel comfortable or in control of our situation. Fortunately, there are some things we can do to help.
Strategies often suggested
- Avoid drugs or drink when you are feeling down or anxious – it can make you feel worse
- Spend time with friends or family who don’t use drugs or alcohol
- Remove yourself from situations where you might drink excessively for a while
- Don’t drink or take drugs alone
- Choose drinks with a low alcohol content
- Drink slowly and have a glass of water in between each drink
- Let your friends and family know you are trying to cut down
- Exercise and do things you enjoy to cope with stress rather than drinking or taking drugs
- Rest and develop a good study schedule so you don’t need to pull “all-nighters”
- Set some goals around how you want to cut back
- Check any interactions with prescribed meds by talking with a health professional
- Go slow, stay with friends, and know what do to if you’re in trouble
- If you or a friend are in trouble, don’t hesitate - call triple zero (000)
Below you will find three common blocks (barriers and misconceptions) that can impede our attempts to control substance use.
Everyone drinks or takes something
Talking about the risks isn’t about squashing fun but rather giving us the opportunity to make informed decisions. Without some understanding of the risks, we can unexpectedly find ourselves in really serious situations. For example, new batches of drugs come into circulation from time to time with fatal consequences. With this in mind, if you are going to use drugs, harm minimisation strategies are really worth checking out.
I don’t know if I have a problem
- Do I always feel good about what or how I use?
- Does it make me feel better in the long run?
- Am I completely in control of it?
- Am I comfortable talking to a friend about it?
If you answered 'no' to any of the above then it’s probably a sign that it’s becoming a problem. A positive step is to seek information from a reputable source, ring a helpline, talk to someone you trust, or discuss with a health professional.
I can't cope/study/enjoy myself without them
People can use substances to “self-medicate” for emotional distress, social anxiety or difficulties with concentration. However, illicit substances can exacerbate difficulties or create new struggles. A health professional can help you address the underlying issues.
Below are three things you can do to boost success.
Keep yourself safe
Most illegal drugs are made in clandestine labs without regulated testing or safety protocols which means there is no “safe” dosage. So if you make the choice to take something, use safe partying strategies to minimise harm such as: start small, stick with friends, try not to mix drugs and limit alcohol/caffeine use.
It’s worth remembering that if we’ve been removed from the party scene for awhile our tolerance for substances is reduced. The last thing anyone wants when we finally get to celebrate is to overdose and require medical assistance.
Check the facts
There are some great resources available online with reliable drug facts. Whether we decide to use or are on the fence, we want to understand the risks and make an informed decision. It can also help us to know if a friend is in trouble and how to help. There are a huge number of substances covered from cannabis to GHB, codeine to alcohol. Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it is safe. If you want to talk to someone, health professionals are there to support you, not judge or criticise so it’s worth reaching out.
Take one thing at a time
Changing patterns of behaviour can feel overwhelming. Start small and pick one situation you want to address. For example, initially you might want to replace one day of drinking with playing sport or hanging out with friends who don’t drink. This gives you some time to find out which strategies will work for you. Reducing use is good enough for some, stopping might be best for others. We won’t know what is useful until we start making changes and assess the benefits.
Need more info?
- Drug and Alcohol Services in SA
- Centacare Drug and Alcohol Counselling
- Know your options
- Aboriginal support services
- Aboriginal Nunku support
- Specialist youth support - Sonder
Take an alcohol usage quiz
Worried about a friend?
Let them know and that you want to help. Encourage your friend to seek support and if it feels OK for you, offer to support them in finding the right help.