Substance Dependency

Dave Wells has extensive experience through is many roles supporting people with substance abuse issues.

The approach by Dave Wells takes into account not just the substances being abused but the broader context of a client’s life. The therapy therefore involves exploring the issue of substance dependency holistically and historically – from a whole-person, whole-life point of view – in the aim of create an awareness and understanding of any issues that may lie in the foundations of the addictive behaviours.   This is not to say that drug-use is always a result of difficulties in your past, or it is always negative.  Many people engage in recreational drug-use and can manage their use to be complimentary to their life roles and responsibilities.  However, as all substances that have not been scrutinised on the safety for consumption, there are risks to your health and the health of others.

There are substances (Drugs) that are legal and illegal.  Many people do not place legal substances in the same category of an illegal drug, simply based on how they are viewed by Australian law.  However, Legal substances have proved to be more, or as detrimental to a person’s life and health, in comparison to some of the illegal drugs for many reasons, such as accessibility, physical addictiveness, etc.

Of course a healthy adult is someone who does not need to engage in substance taking, but most people who abuse a substance would like to be able to control their use, but for a variety of reasons the substance controls them.  This is why Dave Wells works with people who live with a substance use disorder, from the perspective of it being a health condition rather than viewed from a legal perspective.

The main focus of drug use being on the legality of the substance, results in creating many barriers for people who want to address the condition.  Asides from placing a person at risk of being penalised by committing with an  offence by law, many in the community stigmatise, place judgements, and alienate people who live with substance addiction, therefore further enforcing reasons for a reluctance to accessing support.

Before the client and therapist relationship can be successful in supporting a person to move-past having a substance abuse, it is essential that the client has been responsible for taking the steps to engage in therapy.

Dave Wells believes in an integrated approach to supporting people with substance addictions and can support the client to engage a team of key health professionals and disciplines to suit the person’s individual needs.   Through the use of cognitive behavioural strategies, motivation, goal-setting and problem-solving techniques, substance use addictions can be addressed and relapse prevention methods implemented.

Facts on substance addiction

  • Substance abuse is a health issue.
  • There are a number of terms used to describe a person’s reliance on a substance.

– Dependence – or abuse/use disorder – occurs when a person needs a substance, e.g., alcohol or drugs, to function normally. Abruptly stopping use of the substance leads to withdrawal symptoms.

– Addiction – the person has a strong urge to use the substance and cannot stop it, even if they want to.

– Tolerance – to a substance (needing a higher does to get the same effect) is usually part of addiction.

Factors that give rise to substance abuse

While substance use often begins for recreational reasons, any of the factors listed below can lead to substance dependency.

  • The action of the drug
  • Peer pressure
  • Stress, chaotic lifestyle
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Children seeing their parents using drugs (environment)
  • Genetic make-up (co-dependency)

Stages of substance dependency

  • Experimental use — typically for recreational use and involving peers. The user may enjoy defying parents or other authority figures.
  • Regular use — the user misses more and more school or work; worries about losing drug source; uses substance to ‘fix’ negative feelings; begins to avoid friends and family; may change friends to those who are regular users; develops increased tolerance and ability to ‘handle’ the substance.
  • Problem or risky use — the user loses motivation; does not care about school or work; has obvious behaviour changes; thinking about drug use is more important than all other interests, including relationships; the user becomes secretive; may begin dealing drugs to help support habit; use of other, harder drugs may increase; legal problems may increase.
  • Addiction (dependence) – user cannot face daily life without substance; denies problem; physical condition deteriorates; loss of ‘control’ over use; financial and legal problems increase and worsen; ties with family members or friends may break; may become suicidal.

Commonly abused substances

  • Opiates and narcotics are powerful painkillers that cause drowsiness and sometimes cause feelings of well-being, elation, happiness, excitement, and joy. These substances include heroin, opium, codeine, and narcotic pain medicines that may be prescribed by a doctor or bought illegally.
  • Stimulants are drugs that stimulate the brain and nervous system. They include amphetamines, cocaine, methamphetamine (Ice, Speed, etc) and drugs used to treat ADHD, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin). A person can start needing higher amounts of these drugs to feel the same effect.
  • Depressants cause drowsiness and reduce anxiety. They include alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines (Valium, Ativan, Xanax, etc), chloral hydrate, and paraldehyde (a sedative and hypnotic pharmaceutical drug). Using these substances can lead to addiction.
  • LSD, trips, mescaline, psilocybin (mushrooms), and phencyclidine (PCP or ‘angel dust) can cause a person to see things that are not there (hallucinations) and can lead to psychological addiction.
  • Marijuana (cannabis) and hashish, can produce a feeling of euphoria — or high — by stimulating brain cells to release the chemical dopamine. When smoked or otherwise inhaled, the feeling of euphoria is almost immediate. Other changes in mood can occur, with relaxation frequently being reported. Some users experience heightened sensory perception, with colours appearing more vivid and noises being louder.  For some, marijuana can cause an altered perception of time and increased appetite, known as the “munchies.”

Effects and behaviours of substance abuse

  • Avoidance of responsibilities and important people in our lives
  • Confusion
  • Continued use even when health, work, or family are affected
  • Episodes of violence
  • Hostility when confronted about substance dependence
  • Lack of control over substance use; inability to stop or reduce intake
  • Making excuses to use substance
  • Missing work or school; decreased performance
  • Need for daily or regular use of a substance to function
  • Negative effects on health
  • Neglecting to eat
  • Neglecting physical appearance
  • No longer able to take part in activities
  • Risk taking
  • Secretive behaviour to hide substance use

There are many different substances that a person can become addicted to and for some people, the use of a substance may be for recreational reasons and not become a problem. Other people unfortunately, can become dependent on a substance and continue to take it to avoid the effects of withdrawal. At this point, the substance has gained control over the substance user, and the individual’s character and behaviour have already changed and professional support should be accessed.

How can Dave Wells help with issues around Substance Dependency?

 When working with people with substance use issues there is a tendency to focus on substance use per se’ and forget the broader context of peoples’ lives.

Dave Wells utilises a number of therapeutic approaches.  In general, the area of drug use is often viewed from a legal perspective; however substance abuse is an issue of health.  Most who have a substance in control of their lives would like to gain back control of their usage, however for various reasons the substance controls them.  Dave Wells  takes a holistic approach to substance abuse exploring holistically to encompass a historical and current day approach to create an understanding and awareness of the problem.  Various therapeutic approaches are used to address substance dependency including Cognitive behavioural strategies such as motivational interviewing, goal setting, problem solving and relapse prevention.

Substance dependency, especially in the form of using illegal drugs is stigmatised with many opinions based on the illegality of the substance/s and second-hand incorrect information.  This often leads to alienation and as a result a  reluctance to access support.

Dave Wells has had a vast experience in many areas of supporting people with substance abuse difficulties from a humanist approach underpinned by knowledge, experience and empathy.