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Harmless or harmful?

How to cut back on substances and reduce the risk associated with use

Substance use is a complex issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It includes any drug, alcohol, or medication that can be taken orally, inhaled or injected. Although some substances are considered harmless when consumed in moderation, it is crucial to understand the potential risks associated with their use.

The Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing (the Centre) wants people to know how to identify problematic substance use and reduce the risks.

Are there any substances that are completely safe and without risk?

The short answer is no. Even substances that are considered safe when taken in moderation can be harmful, when consumed excessively.

The key to avoiding harm is to practice moderation and to be aware of the potential risks of anything you eat, drink or administer to your body.

What about alcohol?

Recently, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (funded by Health Canada) released guidelines that have changed dramatically.

For instance, it states that no amount of alcohol is considered safe. This statement has raised concerns about whether alcohol belongs in a healthy lifestyle.

Ultimately, this is a personal decision that everyone must make for themselves. However, it is important to be fully informed about the risks of alcohol consumption and to make choices based on good science.

Gateway substances – is there such a thing?

Can a ‘gateway’ substance lead to addiction? Can we predict who will become addicted and who won’t?

While some substances may be more likely to lead to addiction, it ultimately depends on a person's vulnerabilities. Substance use is typically influenced by biological, psychological and social factors. Those with a family history of addiction, trauma or other risk factors may be more susceptible to addiction.

Addictive personalities

To deal with their feelings, people can use almost anything as a coping mechanism. From eating to gaming to exercise, most things can be done in excess.

The Centre says that building connections with other people is key to avoiding problematic substance use. Studies have shown that people who are socially disconnected are at an increased risk of addiction. It is important to practice moderation and develop various coping strategies.

Risk of overdose

Nipissing has some of the highest overdose rates for opioids in Ontario. The Centre says that people who use opioids should not use alone. If they are using alone, they are advised to call an overdose prevention line (1-888-688-6677).

Buying and using opiates can have deadly consequences - what someone sells one day can be different from what they sell the next. And opiate amounts can change dramatically, which means that people who are highly sensitive to the level of opiates they consume can easily self-administer a lethal dose, without even realizing it.

Do you have problematic substance use?

Detecting ‘problematic’ substance use in our own behaviour can be difficult because it can become part of our coping patterns, making it difficult to identify as a problem. It can be a way of self-soothing and finding comfort. For many, it is hard to admit that something that used to work is no longer working. We generally do not have an objective view of ourselves.

Here are some common indicators of problematic substance use:

  • Relationship breakdowns;
  • Using against your will, using more frequently and in larger amounts;
  • Overspending;
  • Missing work or reduced effectiveness at work;
  • Hiding the amount and frequency of use from others;
  • Health complications;
  • Choosing to use substances instead of being with others;
  • Using alone; and
  • Justifying use to ourselves and others.

Substance use can be a complex and potentially harmful issue. By understanding the potential risks of substance use, being aware of common indicators of problematic use and practicing moderation, the risks associated with substance use can be reduced.

If you or someone you know is struggling with problematic substance use, it is essential to seek professional help and support.

The Centre provides free confidential addictions counselling. There are no waitlists for the walk in/call in clinic and many of their other services.

Call today 705.472.6515 today. There is help available.