..The Intuitive Times
Wellness for Teens


Uses and Misuses of Drugs and Alcohol

by Darren O'Handley

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When asked what are the effects of using alcohol and other drugs, most people think about what the actual high is like or what are the immediate risks of the drug. We generally know that by using drugs, we run the risk of being involved in accidents, doing things we may later regret or overdosing on the drug.

These risks are present regardless if this is the first time you use the drug or the one hundredth time. But what are the life changes that occur as using becomes a problem for the user? To sum it up, as drugs become more important in a person's life, other things become less important. People find changes in their family relationships, school/work, behaviour, ability to have fun, ability to deal with emotions, not to mention possible legal problems.

Family relationships change as a person's usage starts to become a problem. One finds one's self spending less and less time with family members. A misuse of drugs and alcohol can lead to one becoming evasive about what they are doing, and where they are spend their time. A great deal of time is spent avoiding being caught, and lying in order to continue using. As families find out what is really going on, arguments about the using begin and youth find themselves not being trusted by those around them.

School and work become affected as using becomes a regular occurrence. Young people stop attending regularly, or find themselves unable to concentrate when in class. Teenagers may start having difficulty with remembering information, skipping classes to get high, or coming to class high. It is common to see people losing student's lose part time jobs because of being high at work or becoming unreliable on the job. In terms of behaviors, people find themselves doing all kinds of things that they never thought they would do, from lying,, to telling off everyone around them. Users start to feel that everyone is out to get them and that they begin to feel that how they are acting is a result of others not the drug use. Some people find themselves taking items that are not theirs in order to maintain their using.

One's ability to have fun sounds like a strange change. Most users ask me, "What do you mean? . I use for fun." In a way, this is the problem. Before using becomes an issue, people tend to have a number of interests, hobbies, etc., things in their life they do to have fun. As using becomes a problem, people tend to stop or cut down on these activities because they get in the way of using. After a while, all a person does is use. The irony is that, in time using stops being fun to people.

For some, using becomes a way to escape or deal with difficult emotions. If I feel sad, I get high. If I'm mad I get high. After a while, people stop knowing how to deal with these feelings without getting high. The quick fix has become the only fix. In addition to becoming dependent on a chemical to deal with feelings, it is common that over time people become numb to feelings.

In terms of legal difficulties, the more using changes your behaviors, and outlook, the greater the risk of getting involved in illegal activities.

People tend to think, if any of those things started to happen to me, I would stop using. The problem is that the changes can be gradual, and a lot of the time, people do not notice them, or they blame the changes on others.

Drugs can affect people physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. In general, the earlier you start to use, the quicker the impact as people are developing in these areas as they grow. If you see yourself in the descriptions given, or if you are questioning whether or not using is effecting your life, talk to someone about your usage. A Drug Counsellor can help to assess the effects of your usage and make some recommendations. After all it is up to you if you want to take the recommendations or not.

Darren is a Youth Counsellor with PEI, Queens County Addiction Services

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