Problematic drug use

Using drugs can be fun, but it can also be a real struggle. Besides risks to your physical health, all recreational drugs have the potential to become the object of addiction. Below you can read more about what defines problematic drug use and addiciton, what you can do if you notice it in yourself, or if you notice it in a friend or a partner.

Am I addicted?

This is often the first question people ask when they notice that their drugs use is causing them trouble. This question is not so easily answered though; it’s a question of definition. It’s more useful to ask yourself; is my drug use causing me problems with my health, social relations and/or employment and income? And am I capable of not using drugs – either by self-disciplne alone or with the help of friends or family – for a sustained period of time? If you find your drug use is causing you problems, but you are not able to stop at all or that you’re quick to relapse, then  this is a good reason to seek professional help.

There is an official checklist that healthcare professionals use to determine whether you qualify for the diagnosis of substance use disorder, and to determine the severity of the disorder. The checklist goes as follows:

  1. Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you meant to.
  2. Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to.
  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance.
  4. Cravings and urges to use the substance.
  5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of substance use.
  6. Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships.
  7. Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use.
  8. Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger.
  9. Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance.
  10. Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance).
  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.

If you experience two or three of these symptoms, your condition qualifies as a mild substance use disorder; four or five symptoms indicate a moderate substance use disorder, and six or more symptoms indicate a severe substance use disorder.

I’m losing control. What can I do?

If you notice that you’re losing control of your drug use (you use more or more often than you’d want; you have to use to feel normal; you keep using despite the harm it causes) there is only one thing to do: Ask for help.

You’ll have to admit that you have a problem you cannot solve on your own. There’s no shame in needing help from outside to get through a difficult period: Disclose your situation to friends and/or family. Ask for advice or seek treatment at a professional healthcare provider. You can always send us an email with your name and phone number so we can call you and go through the options of what kind of (professional) support is out there.

My partner or friend is addicted or using too much drugs. What can I do?

It can be very difficult to tell a loved one that their drug use is (becoming) problematic, especially if you also take drugs sometimes. You don’t want to patronise them, hurt their feelings or make them angry. Maybe you’re afraid that if you say something they will leave and refuse further contact. Still, it is important that you speak up. We have to take care of each other, even if that care is not always welcomed with open arms.

  1. Read these tips on how to talk to loved ones about their drug use.
  2. Find out what kind of support is available for the person using too much drugs.
  3. Find out what kind of support help is available for you, as partner or friend.
  4. Ask for advice. You can always send us an email with your questions, or request a callback by leaving your name and phone number to discuss your particular situation.
  5. Remember that a substance use disorder often develops over a longer period of time, and that recovery from a substance use disorder similarly takes a long time and is almost never a smooth or simple process. If you’re supporting someone who is struggling with their drug use, you will have to be patient and committed to having difficult conversations repeatedly.  This can be very stressful and cost a lot of energy; consider what your needs are to sustain that effort without sacrificing your own wellbeing. You have to take care of yourself if you want to take care of someone else.