Drug and Alcohol / Substance Use

What Are Substances?

Substances are things that change the way you feel and that can make the body react in a way that some people find enjoyable. Some things you might not think could be harmful, such as coffee or medications, are substances. Other things like alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin are substances too. People take substances by eating, smoking, drinking or injecting them.

What Happens When You Take Substances?

Substances can change your mood, change your brain, and have a negative effect on your body.

The more you use a substance, the harder it is to stop using it and the stronger the effect it has on your body and mind. For example, if you drink alcohol, you may have many of these problems:

  • brain damage
  • liver damage
  • stomach problems
  • heart and circulation problems
  • problems with muscles and bones
  • always feeling sick
  • blackouts
  • feeling tired all the time
  • problems getting a good night’s sleep

Stages of Substance Use

If you are using substances and you start having trouble doing your everyday activities, you are having a “substance abuse” issue.

There are five stages in substance use. The stages don’t necessarily go in order from one to the next. Some users can jump from experimental use directly to dependent use (addiction) without going through the other stages.

  1. Non-Use: You do not use substances.
  2. Experimental Use: You begin using. You may start using for many reasons: for example, you may want to know what it feels like, or a friend may push you to try it. Experimental use can be as simple as having a few puffs on a joint or drinking a single beer.
  3. Recreational / Social Use: If all your friends are drinking, you may feel like the odd one out unless you drink too, so you pick up a beer to fit in. This stage is dangerous because it can grow into regular use.
  4. Regular Use: If you are a regular user, you may drink every day or every weekend, or every time you are with a certain group of friends. This stage is dangerous because it can grow into dependence. Drinking daily is not recommended for anyone.
  5. Dependent Use: You are physically and mentally dependent on the substance. Your body will feel like you need the substance and your mind will tell you that you need the substance. Repeated and regular use is beginning to make you sick. Your social position, your relationships with family and friends are becoming difficult, and sometimes you don’t go to work, or you make mistakes. Money gets tight. Your mood is low. At this stage, you will have trouble controlling yourself. You will spend a lot of time thinking about your substance of choice.

Canadian Low Risk Drinking Guidelines Can Help You

As long as you choose to drink, you will be at some risk for the health problems mentioned above. You can limit the effects on your health by following these guidelines:

  • Men: drink no more than 3 drinks per day, and no more than 15 per week. If you drink more than 5 drinks on one occasion, you are binge drinking.
  • Women: drink no more than 2 drinks per day, and no more than 10 per week. If you drink more than 4 drinks on one occasion, you are binge drinking.

Are you concerned about your own drinking?

Speak to your health care provider or contact Shyanne Nolan, Registered Social Worker at 807-854-0051 to schedule an appointment for help with programs and resources available in the Greenstone area.

Are you concerned about a friend or loved one who drinks? Is Their Drinking Making Your Life Difficult?

Speak to your health care provider or contact Shyanne Nolan, Registered Social Worker at 807-854-0051 for help with resources and programs available in the Greenstone area.