People use substances, including alcohol, drugs that are prescribed, and street drugs, for many different reasons. Some of these include:
- As a social activity, such as having a drink with friends, smoking a joint with peers or doing a party drug at a rave;
- Because of a desire to fit in with a group of peers who are using drugs;
- To cope with pain, either physical or emotional;
- To cope with strong or intense emotions, both negative and positive;
- To avoid experiencing withdrawal from prescribed or street drugs;
- To manage mental health symptoms, such as feelings of anxiety, attention deficit disorders or depression;
- To feel some relief from life struggles such as poverty, homelessness and trauma.
Many people who use substances do not go on to develop a problem. However, others develop both physical and psychological dependence to the drugs or alcohol that they use. This includes using alcohol and drugs in ways that cause more risk or problems for the person or their friends and family.
Many studies have looked at why some people develop a substance use problem and others do not. We know from this research that many people who develop a problem have a history of some type of trauma in their life. These experiences can heavily affect a person’s ability to cope with the ongoing issues that they face.
Substance misuse may have negative impacts on health, personal relationships and overall wellbeing. Some impacts are viewed by society as being more “normal” or “acceptable,” such as missing work because of a hangover, or getting drunk at a bar or a work party and embarrassing yourself. Other impacts are seen as more serious or unacceptable, such as overdose, going to jail or losing your home or your children.
We acknowledge that individuals living with addictions deserve to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect. In Guelph and Wellington County, we recognize that we all play an important role in responding to these issues together. It is for this reason that we initially developed our 4-pillars municipal drug strategy. We continue to work together to bring the strategies to life in meaningful ways, trying our best to help those who are impacted and harmed by substance misuse in our community.