One cigarette here, two drinks there!

According to The Alberta Youth Experience Survey – Alberta Health Services, Addiction and Mental Health (2009), 4.7 % of students in grade 7 to 12 smoke, 49.5% drink and 27.9% have used some kind of illegal drug including cannabis. For those of us who fall in one of these categories, or have friends or family that do, how do we know when these habits become a problem? And where can we turn to for help?

Drug Abuse The Facts

The most obvious sign of addiction is when the user develops a need for the substance and can no longer function normally without it. Such signs can be as subtle as needing a cigarette first thing when you wake up in the morning, not being able to go to a party without drinking, smoking a joint to help you fall asleep at night or to help you relax.

Signs of addiction can be physical, psychological or both and could include:

  • Relying on drugs to get through a certain situation or event
  • Blackouts
  • Losing interest in other activities
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Increased tolerance (needing more to get the same feeling)
  • Experiencing withdrawal (sleep patterns, eating habits, weight change etc…)
  • Problems in school or work
  • Changing friends
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety, anger and/or depression

Addictions can also lead to serious mental health issues and even psychosis. A recent documentary featured on CBC – The Downside of High – stated that teenagers who start smoking marijuana before the age of sixteen are four times more likely to become schizophrenic and have double the risk of developing recurring psychosis, paranoia and hallucinations.

The psychological factors involved with addictions are significant and the physical effects on your body are just as critical. Just look at some of your favourite musicians and how weathered and old they look! Drugs, nicotine and alcohol can negatively impact your liver, your skin, and many other organs. This is why it is important to recognize addiction and seek help before it is too late.

What next?

  • Talk to someone you trust
  • Contact one of the many organizations that are familiar with addiction
  • 24-hour AADAC Help Line at 1-866-332-2322.
  • 24-hour Crisis Line 403.266.1605
  • Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC) at (403) 253-5250
  • CHR Addiction Centre at (403) 944-2025
  • Visit Online Resources
  • Remember addiction is treatable

Creating a healthy balanced lifestyle is important!

If you think you might have a problem with alcohol, drugs or nicotine, take action and get the help you deserve. You have your whole life ahead of you…why not make it a healthy one. Get rid of your Addictions – start now!

Julie McLaughlan,
Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region