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Some of us sip a glass of wine to “take the edge off” before a social gathering. Others may step out to vape during a break.  

It’s common in our culture to use substances for fun, relaxation, and connection. These substances aren’t always dangerous in moderation. But over time, or with excessive use, they can lead to harm.

People may turn to certain substances to deal with something negative in their lives. This can be anything from social anxiety, to work-related stress, to past trauma.

If substance use starts to have negative effects on other parts of a person’s life, then it may be time to take a step back. Another cause for concern is if the person can’t function without the substance. These are both signals to re-evaluate one's relationship to the substance.

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Managing substance use
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It’s possible for people to become too involved in using different kinds of substances. This could include alcohol, cannabis, opiates, cocaine, and tobacco. You can also become overly involved in certain behaviours such as gambling or sexual activity. 

In the beginning, substance use is often fun. You might use substances to deal with negative emotions such as low mood, loneliness, boredom, or worry. But as time passes, you may realize that you’re having trouble controlling your substance use.

Here are some signs of problematic substance use:

  • Having cravings for a substance

  • Wanting to cut down or stop using a substance, but not being able to 

  • Using more of a substance than you planned to, or using it for a longer period of time

  • Being unable to meet your obligations at work or at home 

  • Continuing to use substances even though it’s causing problems in your relationships 

  • Using substances when it puts you or others in danger, including negative effects on your health

Taking too much of a substance at once can also lead to overdose, which can be fatal.

If you’re in immediate danger or need urgent help, call 911. You can also talk to a trained crisis responder.

Steps towards wellness

Developing a plan to surf your cravings when they strike can help you stick to your goals.

There are many ways you can reduce the risk of harm when you use substances, to protect yourself and others.

Join a Peer Support group for people who are seeking to change their relationship with substance use.

We can connect you with a counsellor or crisis responder. They will understand what you’re going through and can help you get through it.

Supporting someone struggling with substance use

The process of overcoming problematic substance use can look different for different people. When supporting someone through their substance use journey, it’s important to understand that the path to wellness is not a straight line. There will likely be some ups and downs along the way. 

Try not to blame or criticize the person, or lecture them about what they’re doing wrong. Instead, be patient and empathetic. Talk to them about what they’re going through, if they’re open to having a conversation about it. It may be helpful to encourage them to seek additional support. You could offer to help them find Peer Support, or a professional who is trained in substance use treatment.

Supporting someone through substance use and addiction concerns can be difficult. Make sure you engage in self-care and also seek support when needed.

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