Substance Use and Addiction - There is Help

Written by Dr. Aleks Milosevic, C.Psych.

In our previous CFIR blog post, we talked about how to identify if you or a loved one are struggling with addiction. In this post, we will offer some tips on how to help yourself or someone you know who may be struggling with substance addiction.

What You Can Do

The good news is there are many treatment options to help address the problems associated with substance use.  Assistance can occur in the form of self-help groups (e.g., Alcoholic Anonymous), medications that reduce urges to use the substance, and psychological treatment on an individual or group basis. 

Psychological Treatment 

Seeking help from a registered psychologist or psychotherapist can help you or your loved one in a variety of ways. 

  1. Your psychological service provider will help you understand the unique reasons you want to cut down or stop using the substance, helping you increase your motivation to change and maintain your commitment to change. 
  2. Your psychological service provider will help you understand the way substance use is part of your life - the situations, feelings, and people associated with your substance use, the reasons you like using the substance, and the specific factors that increase or decrease your likelihood of using the substance. This can help you understand the things that set you up, or “trigger” you, to use so you can regain some control in these situations.
  3. Your psychological service provider will help you learn strategies to handle urges to use the substance and to deal with triggers differently, so you can reach your substance use goal, either controlled use or abstinence. 
  4. The emotional and relationship difficulties that may trigger substance use are worked through to prevent problematic substance use from re-emerging in the future. 

Tips For You

Here are some tips to help you start the journey toward changing your substance use patterns. 

  1. Keep a record of the situations, social interactions, feelings, and thoughts that come before using a substance or an urge to use. Notice consistencies in what you have recorded; these consistencies are some of your substance use “triggers”.
  2. Avoid triggers that can be avoided (e.g., avoid going to a bar if you are trying to reduce or stop using alcohol).
  3. Cope with your urges to use by trying one of these five basic strategies: distraction; thinking about the negative consequences of using; calling a friend or loved one; noticing the urge and watching it fade away; and challenging the thoughts you have about the substance (e.g., “It’s not a big deal to use just this one more time”, “I can’t deal with people if I’m not drunk”).

CFIR psychologists and psychotherapists can support you to address your substance use, whether you want to reduce your use or abstain completely.

Read more about our Substance Use Treatment Service.