Drug and alcohol consumption is widespread across Australian society. Four out of five Australians have consumed alcohol in the past 12 months while only one in 10 claim to have never consumed alcohol.
But did you know that illicit drug use is also widespread? 42 per cent of Australians over the age of 14 have tried an illicit drug — and 15 per cent have used a drug in the last 12 months.
Why do people consume drugs?
There are countless reasons why people start consuming drugs. In many cases, people may try drugs for social reasons. This may be due to peer pressure, because they feel that drugs will allow them to fit in or belong to a group, or because it’s a ‘bad’ or edgy activity that may even provide them with desired attention.
Someone may also start consuming drugs because they believe it gives them a sense of confidence, or makes them feel that they can enjoy a party, concert or club.
It is also very common for people to consume drugs because they believe it helps fill boredom or loneliness, or because they feel it helps them forget about their stresses and worries.
Most people who try drugs do so because they are doing precisely that: trying it. The majority of those who try drugs do not develop a drug dependency (e.g. they do not become addicts). Nonetheless, trying any kind of drug carries a risk.
There is strong evidence that the rate of alcohol and drug use is higher in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. This is the case, for example, in locations like Melton, Moorabool and Brimbank. Northern, western and central Melbourne also records an above average rate of emergency department admissions for people who are intoxicated.
Recognising when someone’s drug use is a problem
The safest and most reliable way to prevent harm from occurring as a result of drug consumption is to avoid consuming it altogether. As mentioned, this is because consuming any drug carries a degree of risk.
It is possible that you may know of or be aware of someone’s drug consumption and that you are concerned for their wellbeing. This may be particularly true if you think that their ‘recreational activity’ may be becoming (or has become) a regular occurrence.
So should you be concerned?
What to look out for if you are concerned
There are a wide range of signs that suggest someone’s drug use is problematic. Consider the following if you are concerned about someone’s drug consumption.
- The person seems to consume drugs as a way to deal with emotional pain or other difficulties in their life. The drug taking is no longer done as something recreational or fun.
- The person seems to devote more time to acquiring and consuming drugs. This may be at the expense of responsibilities like their job, social life, hobbies or even their parenting and family duties.
- You know or suspect that the person hides or lies about their behaviour, whether it’s to you, their partner, spouse, colleagues or friends.
- The person is high, coming down, or otherwise under the influence of drugs when they see family, go to work, play sport, etc.
- You noticed that the person tends to get angry or depressed when they are denied or cannot access drugs.
- You suspect or know that the person is spending money that they do not have on drugs . This could be money earmarked for bills, debts accumulated from a seller (e.g. someone who deals in illicit drugs), money from a credit card, etc.
- The person has run into the law and is in legal trouble. This could be as a result of possession, driving under the influence, or due to their behaviour while affected by drugs.
- The person feels the urge to take drugs to get through the day or believes that drugs make them feel ‘normal’.
- The person constantly thinks or talks about drugs or getting high.
- The person has thought about, or expressed on various occasions, their desire to stop taking drugs.
- They think about, or have told you, that their drug consumption is a source of embarrassment or shame.
- You’ve noticed changes in their physical health (skin problems, change in weight, etc.) or they have injured themselves as a consequence of drug taking behaviour.
- There are marked changes in the person’s personality and mood. They may become more depressed, angry or even paranoid.
- The person blames or believes other people are responsible for their drug taking.
- The person’s friends or family have distanced themselves or have cut contact.
Concerned? Talk to a professional counsellor on 1300 096 269. It’s free to people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Want to know where else you can get help? Find out how to access additional community support.
The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.