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Addiction to Drugs/Is this addiction?

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Question
Ive been smoking weed for a couple years now. There have been months in between, even up to a year. This recent time I was in a situation where I could smoke all the time. So I did. I chose it over friends and family, and all I wanted to be was high 24/7 and I had an incredible tolerance. It was the next thing I thought about. I am currently majoring to be a substance abuse counselor but it bothers me that I know so much and cant even tell if I personally had a problem. I exceptionally smoked a lot. And I would love to be high every second just I care too much about life to do that. So, Im sober. I never had a problem quitting except for some withdrawals. I was high except for when I went to work. So, I could draw a line. But, its all I want constantly.

Answer
Hi Ashlyn,

The thing with substance dependency is that it is not a pure science in the general sense.  There is a technical definition of substance dependence in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM-V) and a few other definitions, but when you are in the moment it can be very difficult to figure out what is happening sometimes.  And anyway, an on paper definition doesn't help you much and because you aren't smoking right now you wouldn't count has having a drug problem.

But it's all about how you feel.  As you might have noticed from my past answers is that I don't actually think drug use should be illegal.  However, that doesn't mean that I don't think people can have problems with substances.  Many people smoke pot without having a problem, but if it is the only thing you were thinking about, and it is still on your mind a lot, then I think you might need some support.  Many people who work in the alcohol and other drug sector have used or had problems with illegal drugs and that gives them something special to offer, especially if they also have formal training.  I wonder if there was anything happening at the time your drug use increased.  Were you stressed or upset?  This can sometimes be enough to change occasional use into a problem.  And the fact "it is the only thing you are thinking about" is a real concern because this is going to get to you and prevent you being fully happy (no one wants to be thinking about doing something all the time).  I would ask you to consider two things - firstly, can you access some professional counselling?  Secondly is there other things you enjoy (or used to enjoy)?  It would be great to be able to talk things out but also indulge in some other fun activities.  Have you ever been someone who likes sport or music or skydiving?  Distraction with other activities is great.  But also talking through the things that are bothering you has real advantages.

I hope that has been some help.  Please don't hesitate to contact me again.  

Good luck and stay safe whatever you do!

Jacqui

Addiction to Drugs

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Jacqui

Expertise

I am a psychologist committed to Harm reduction, a philosophy that acknowledges people will continue to use drugs despite all of the effort put into stopping it (case in point - US government drug war ... trillions of dollars spent fighting and more people using). I advocate to support people who use drugs by reducing the harms associated with their use through needle and syringe programs (NSP), advocating for drug law reform, non-judgmental health services and reducing the stigma associated with drugs. I have worked in harm reduction in Australia (NSP, primary health care, drop in centre) for 10 years and also have 18 months managing a service providing care coordination for people with multiple and complex problems. I spent two years living and working in Cambodia as a Harm Reduction Advisor for a local Khmer NGO, primarily focusing on methamphetamine use. Now I am back in Australia and have worked in a prison providing drug treatment and currently work as a psychologist in a dual diagnosis service (for people with mental health and substance use problems). I have a Masters in Clinical Psychology so can also answer questions around mental health and drug use. Happy to answer questions about blood borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C, questions about opiates, amphetamines, cocaine, benzos and other substances. Questions about treatment (particulary methadone and buprenorphine). Questions about harm reduction and why it is the best approach. I will try to answer questions about drug tests. I DO NOT JUDGE PEOPLE NEGATIVELY DUE TO THEIR DRUG USE, AND DON'T DEMAND PEOPLE MARCH STRAIGHT OFF TO REHAB! If anyone has taken a sip of a coffee, or drunk a beer, then ... well we are all drug users, and I don't think we are going to see an end to it! Deal with the real.

Experience

Worked in the field in Australia and Cambodia for 15 years. Psychologist with Clinical Masters. Two significant research projects on drug use (one on HIV risk and its link with trauma and one on drug related stigma). Presentation at two international conferences and two Australian conferences.

Organizations
Registered as a psychologist with the Australian Health Practitioners Registration Agency.

Publications
Conference proceedings - IHRC 2004 (Chiang Mai), 2005 (Melbourne) & 2010 (Bangkok). Anex Conference 2005 (Melbourne) Stigma-Pleasure-Practice conference 2006 (Sydney).

Education/Credentials
Bachelor of Arts (Humanities), Bachelor of Psychology (Honours), Masters of Psychology (Clinical). And a multitude of training courses including advanced first aid, pre & post test counselling accreditation for HIV, significant amount of training on hepatitis C, etc.

Awards and Honors
Have presented at international conferences including the International Harm Reduction Conferences in Chiang Mai Thailand; Melbourne, Australia and Bangkok, Thailand. Also national conferences in Sydney and Melbourne Australia.

Past/Present Clients
I maintain confidentiality about my clients.

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