Coping with alcohol problems

Introduction

The use and misuse of alcohol and other drugs is one of the more  controversial issues in our society, and often a source of conflict between  generations and between sections of society. It's not the purpose of this page -  or of the Counselling Service - to tell people how to behave or to seek to label  them as alcohol or drug abusers. Alcohol and other drugs are powerful substances  with a potential to harm users or to tempt them into over-indulgence, so we do  encourage students to take care of themselves when considering using them and to  avoid taking any risks which they might regret later.

No universal classification of what constitutes unhealthy use exists. Many  classifications ignore the fact that alcohol and drug use is an accepted part of  many social sets. What is seen as risky behaviour by one group is accepted as  normal by another.

Use of drink and drugs can be classified as -

Abstinent

No use is made.

Controlled

People have made a conscious  decision, have evaluated the risks and can stop if they want.

Impulsive 

Use is unpredictable and can lead to unexpected accidents and harm. However  there is not continual use or dependency.

Habitual

The use of alcohol or  drugs have become a significant and important part of the person's life-style.  Stopping would not be easy.

Dependent

There is a high degree of physical  and psychological addiction. Alcohol and drug use disrupts or rules the person's  life. Stopping is not possible without considerable support. 
Obviously  abstinence and controlled use is the least worrying category and dependency the  most problematic. However many people making impulsive or habitual use of drink  and drugs are not totally happy with their situation.

Consequences of drinking

If you are wondering about your drink or drug use, have you considered the  following?

Psychological consequences

  • Are you using drink or drugs to escape from a problem which you might be  able to solve if you faced it? If so you may be perpetuating your shyness,  anxiety, depression, unhappiness etc. rather than dealing with it for once and  all.
  • Drink and drugs don't permanently change our world. They allow us to feel a  temporary confidence or happiness, but the effect is usually one of borrowed  time.
  • Often the unhappiness or anxiety returns even more strongly once the effects  wear off.
  • Drink and drugs can cause psychological problems by themselves. Alcohol can  commonly cause depression; drugs can also cause depression, or can trigger  anxiety or even psychosis (loss of reality).

Social consequences

  • Drink and drugs are often seriously expensive, so uncontrolled use can lead  to financial problems.
  • You can quite easily end up in trouble with the law. Although drinking  alcohol is legal, it can lead to assault and driving when drunk which are not.
  • Similarly, although the law may turn a blind eye to personal use of certain  drugs, this attitude is not consistent. Sentences for any supplying can be heavy  and unpredictable.
  • Any conviction for drink or drugs offences may severely limit the  opportunities open to you in the future.
  • Pronounced use of drink or drugs tends to rigidly define social groups, so  it may limit your circle of friends.
  • Continual or large scale use of alcohol has a bad effect on most people's  sex-life.
  • You can quite easily end up in trouble with the law. Although drinking  alcohol is legal, it can lead to assault and driving when drunk which are not.
  • Similarly, although the law may turn a blind eye to personal use of certain  drugs, this attitude is not consistent. Sentences for any supplying can be heavy  and unpredictable.
  • Any conviction for drink or drugs offences may severely limit the  opportunities open to you in the future.
  • Pronounced use of drink or drugs tends to rigidly define social groups, so  it may limit your circle of friends.
  • Continual or large scale use of alcohol has a bad effect on most people's  sex-life.

Physical Consequences

  • Drink definitely lowers people's ability to resist harming themselves when  they have problems.
  • Drink can lower people's inhibitions against hurting others.
  • Drink greatly lessens people's ability to say no to unwanted sexual  encounters which they would have definitely avoided had they been sober.
  • Many serious accidents are drink and drug related.
  • There are long-term health risks.

All these things will not happen to everybody. You may be lucky and avoid any  serious mishaps. However, all these consequences are seen routinely enough by  anyone involved in welfare work to suggest they are not exaggerated or unusual.  

Coping with alcohol problems

Taking Control

  • If you want to take more control of your use of drink or drugs  the following suggestions may help.
    • Make a list of the advantages and drawbacks of your alcohol and drug use  which are personally significant to you.
    • The above list of possible consequences may help focus your mind. Then  decide whether you would like to lessen the disadvantages.
    • Keep a diary of your consumption over a week.
    • Be honest about the amounts you are using.
    • Consider whether you could limit your intake by changing your routine so as  not to put you in tempting situations.
    • Talk to someone whom you trust about your use. See if they feel you have  cause for concern. 
      Consider what you are using. In particular note when you  use concentrated or particularly dangerous forms of drink and drugs. Can you  substitute a less potent alternative?
    • Consider the social pressures to consume. Can you limit your exposure to  these - e.g. stop buying in rounds, meeting in pubs, partying late etc.?
    • Consider what emotions trigger consumption. Are you using drink and drugs to  help deal with certain feelings - frustration, anxiety, shyness, boredom etc.  Can you find alternative means of dealing with these feelings?
    • Try a month of abstinence. See whether you can do it, and if you can find  different ways of dealing with problems.
    • There may be distinct advantages to being able to bring your sober and  unstoned self to look at various problems!