Drug Abuse Problems

Drug Abuse has been a global problem for several hundred years and shows little sign of diminishing.

Typically when people think about the phrase ‘drug abuse’ they picture Heroin users ‘shooting-up’ with dirty needles, but it may surprise people to know that research into the harmful nature of drug use in the UK showed that alcohol was by far the most harmful drug to individuals, inter-personal relationships, the country’s economy and the social fabric.

You can access the drugs harm research paper here.

There is very little appetite, of course, to banning the sale of alcohol, particularly when one considers the scale of the tax revenue it generates for governments, but it is, according to the medical profession, an addictive substance and on that basis alone surely there should be a moral imperative to ban it!

Many people, of course, are able to use recreational drugs such as tobacco, alcohol, cannabis or cocaine without developing abusive relationships with them or suffering any negative consequences, but for some users, it can become a significant problem with the potential to destroy lives.

Logic would seem to dictate then that it is NOT the drug itself (whatever it may be) that ’causes’ addiction but something about the person that is ‘using’ that may lead to a dependent relationship with that drug.

Given these considerations it seems apparent that the psychological model of drug addiction is much more compelling than the bio-medical modelling of ‘addictive chemical hooks’, and as such, suggests that psychosocial counselling can be an effective tool for change.

Key Features of Drug Abuse

Drugs are often used as a form of ‘coping strategy‘ when things feel overwhelming but when people use drugs as a substitute for coping on a more consistent basis, things can easily get out of control.

There are a multitude of reasons why people try out drugs, often this can be due to peer pressure in adolescence and the need to feel like one belongs to the right group.

Sometimes drug abuse offers a way to escape from some previous traumatic experience.

It does not necessarily follow that all abuse will lead automatically to a state of addiction because a person’s character, personality and life history can play important roles in determining susceptibility to addictive behaviours.

Abuse and addiction are not necessarily problems unless they impact upon a person’s life or on the lives of those around them.

However, if you ARE using drugs and it IS having a negative effect on your life or the life of your loved-ones, then it is likely that you have a drug abuse problem.

Addiction – Behaviour or Illness?

Addiction, like many other human behaviours, seems to have been classified as a mental illness which has been built around the concept of ‘chemical hooks’ which produce physiological effects that no amount of deliberative choice is able to influence.

In other words, persistently using a substance that has been classified as ‘addictive’ renders the user unable to exercise the choice to stop using because they propose that the addictive chemical acts independently of the person.

In this way addiction is situated as a property of the chemical itself rather than as a human behaviour.

This proposition though, raises a number of issues, including;

  • Why don’t all alcohol drinkers become addicts? The chemicals in alcohol are the same for all drinkers after all.
  • How do some people find it relatively easy to quit smoking cigarettes and other struggle year upon year – they’re both using the same ‘addictive’ nicotine aren’t they?

The answers to these questions provide a clear rationale for addiction to be a form of behaviour rather than a biological illness.

Psychosocial Factors in Drug Abuse

As is true with almost all psychological problems and conditions, the degree of vulnerability to drug abuse is determined by personal factors such as the quality of the early nurturing environment, personality type, social conditioning and any previous mental health problems.

Psychosocial factors may include:-

  • Addictive behaviours in a family which normalised drug use.
  • Childhood emotional traumas.
  • Other prevailing psychological problems such as Depression or Anxiety.
  • Drug use at an early age.

The Impact of Drug Abuse on the Brain

Addictive behaviour is complex (due to so many factors being involved) and despite the fact that all drugs produce slightly different effects on the Brain, one effect that all abused drugs have in common is their ability, through repeated use, to actually effect the way the Brain functions.

Recreational drugs produce a pleasurable effect by triggering the release of Dopamine into the bloodstream.

These feelings are so pleasurable that the Brain wants the experience to be repeated.

The importance of these feelings can become so profound that the brain regards them as being as important as other “survival” activities such as eating or drinking.

This behaviour can become “normalised” and impede the ability to rationalise in a clear way, leading to the belief that one cannot “cope” or “survive” without the drug.

Under these conditions, the urge to keep using the drug becomes so dominant that the mind starts to develop arguments to deny that there is a problem in order to facilitate continued use, often leading to a total inability to gauge the amount of drugs that are being consumed, or “need” to be consumed.

On the positive side is the fact that all of these Brain behaviours can also be “unlearnt” and with the right type of therapy and personal effort drug abuse and addictions CAN be resolved.

Common Indicators of Drug Abuse

If you recognise any of these behaviours in yourself, then don’t hesitate to contact us to arrange a free initial consultation when we can discuss the problem in complete confidentiality:-

  • Your substance abuse is starting to become more important than your home life, work or schooling and you are starting to neglect your responsibilities.
  • You are taking risks whilst using your drugs, for example driving whilst under the influence.
  • You are having problems with the law, for example being arrested for disorderly behaviour or convictions for theft through trying to obtain funds for buying your drugs.
  • Your relationships are falling apart due to fights or disagreements which may be frivolous.
  • You need larger quantities of drugs to get the hit that you used to get with smaller quantities.
  • You are starting to experience more severe withdrawal symptoms when you are without your drug such as nausea, depression or anxiety.
  • You feel “powerless” to keep the amount of drugs you’re using to a level you can control.
  • Your primary focus has shifted to using your drug and you may have quit doing the things you used to enjoy such as socialising or keeping fit.

Once you’re ready to face your drug abuse problem then you have already taken the first important step towards solving it and can move towards seeking a solution.

Whichever recovery option you decide to take, being honest with yourself and obtaining the help and support of friends and family can undoubtedly help you to make the move to a drug free life.

Overcoming Drug Abuse Problems

Because drug abuse is a behavioural problem (something a person ‘does’) counselling approaches which include behavioural elements tend to led to the best outcomes.

The psychosocial counselling on offer at Lee Psychology involves not only behavioural modification, but also takes account of an individual’s life context and history.

This is certainly the case with our CORE programme course.

The CORE Programme

The CORE Programme was devised and written by Paul in 2020 and combines all the best elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with additional knowledge drawn from research in Personal Construct Theory, Attribution Theory, Self-Determination Theory and Social Constructivism.

It is particularly useful for drug abuse problems because a significant component of unhelpful relationships with drugs is related to a person’s core beliefs, particularly their Locus of Control.

It is a 10 module course normally taken over a 10 week period with weekly hour long counselling sessions (either face-to-face or using Zoom), but can also be followed as a ‘teach yourself’ course for those with more manageable levels of drug abuse.

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Ready to Begin a New Journey?

If you’d like to find out more about overcoming or recovering from your emotional distress or mental health difficulties then why not arrange a free initial consultation with us.

During this consultation we will discuss your particular problems and the potential solutions in a safe and confidential environment without you having to commit to any counselling programmes or sessions going forward.

It is our view that not only do you need to decide whether the Lee Psychology approach suits who you are and what you have been through, but also whether or not you feel you will be able to work effectively with us as individuals.

To arrange your free initial consultation please contact: