/ Mind/ Recognizing Signs of Problematic Substance Use
Signs your relationship with substances requires a rethink, and how to do it
Substance use can be fun and casual, it can be a coping mechanism, and it can become problematic all-too easily. But how do you know when you or a loved one has crossed over into addiction territory?
Over the pandemic, the use of substances rose with higher numbers of opioid overdoses and 25.7 percent of Canadians reporting weekly binge drinking episodes in a survey from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CAMH).
Some of these substances come with higher stigma than others and some appear more dangerous at face value – 70% of worldwide drug-related deaths are connected to opioid-use, for example.
But even if you’re consuming a substance, like alcohol, that is more socially acceptable to others (in 2018 nearly 6 million Canadians age 12 and over reported consumption levels that would classify them as “heavy drinkers”) that doesn’t mean your habit isn’t getting in the way of your life.
“Often an individual may not view substance use as problematic, particularly with alcohol,” says Inkblot therapist Kiren Sandhu. “Because we grow up seeing others do it. We think, ‘it’s social so it’s OK’.”
We have just as many misunderstandings surrounding the concept of addiction. “We tend to assume that a person has control and that they’re choosing it,” says Sandhu. “So we may not be as empathetic or understanding.” Despite our preconceived notions about substance use, the reality is that when someone’s struggling, it’s almost always not in their control, but there is help.
Like Sandhu said, because use of substances is so ingrained in our social lives, it’s not always easy to tell when our use becomes problematic. Here are some signs that your substance use, or the use of a loved one, is becoming problematic.
The first thing to note is, this is a very common challenge, and that you or your loved one are not alone. “Some people think ‘no one else is experiencing this’, but we need to normalize talking about it because I think people feel isolated,” says Sandhu. Here are some steps you can take to start working on your relationship with substances.
Keep your mind open during this process, as you may not even be aware of why you’re reaching for substances in the first place. Taking a mindfulness approach to your consumption is a great way to slow down, and question if a substance is the right answer to your current problem.
From there, make small changes: Cut back, seek help where you can, and know that you’re not alone.
Help reduce the stigma around men's mental health by learning more about the symptoms and stressors from an Inkblot practitioner.
The first step towards supporting our colleagues in the workplace is understanding mental health stigma and how it can show up at work.
Learn what postpartum depression is, including its different types, signs and symptoms, causes and risk factors, diagnosis and treatment options.