"reducing alcohol and drug related harm in our communities"
Drugs and addiction

Drugs and addiction

Addiction (dependence) can affect individuals in different ways and is very complicated. There is no test to show if an individual will become addicted. A small number of people are genetically predisposed to addictive behaviour. If they use drugs, they are more likely than others to become addicted.

However, addiction to a drug is influenced broadly by 3 main factors – the drug, the person and the environment. Drug factors include the drug’s addictiveness, how long you’ve been using it and how much you normally use. Person factors include the role of genetic differences and the individual’s capacity to cope with stresses. And environmental factors include availability of work and social integration.

Some drugs are more highly addictive (e.g. crack cocaine, heroin and tobacco); some are liable to cause dangerous immediate effects (such as the hyperthermia seen with ecstasy use or heart attacks with crack use); some can lead to specific long term physical damage (including crystal meth, ketamine and alcohol); and some drugs  can have a stronger psychological or psychiatric impact and might, for example, trigger onset of pre-existing mental conditions (with khat, amphetamine or cannabis known to have these effects). However, there's no way of you knowing beforehand the harmful effects to which you may be particularly sensitive.

Knowing when drug use is becoming a problem

Using any drug can cause problems in the short term but if you use drugs over a prolonged period the chances of it having an adverse effect are increased. It may cause problems for your physical or mental health, your safety, get you in trouble with the law, impact on relationships, your finances or your ability to work.

Some signs that things are getting beyond your control include;

  • Using drugs more often than before
  • Using greater quantities or strengths of the drug
  • Injecting drugs
  • Using more drugs than was intended
  • Passing out while using drugs
  • Not being able to remember what happened after using drugs
  • Doing embarrassing things whilst on drugs
  • Problems with friends, partners, parents etc as a result of drug use
  • Finding it hard to have a break from using drugs
  • Other people telling you that you have a problem
  • Being worried or anxious about using drugs
  • Not being able to afford using drugs, but carrying on anyway
  • Not being able to cut down on drug use
  • Only feeling O.K. when high on drugs
  • Doing dangerous things when high on drugs
  • Having to take more and more drugs to produce the same effect

If you think you may be developing a problem with drug use you should speak to your GP or one of the helping services listed on this website.

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