When does a drug become a problem?

Substance Use   ›   Drugs  ›   When does a drug become a problem?

Find out how taking a drug can become a problem in your life and what physical and psychological dependency are like.

First, take the time to paint a picture of your drug taking. How do you take the drug? When and where? Are you generally alone or with someone? How much does it cost? Do you feel like you always want more?


Your drug taking is a problem if:


  • you spend a lot of time planning to buy the drug
  • you take the drug alone
  • you neglect other activities (sports, arts, etc.) to spend more time taking the drug
  • you need more of the drug to get the same effects
  • you’re spending more and more money on the drug
  • you trade your personal possessions to get the drug
  • you commit crimes to be able to buy the drug


When does drug taking become dependency?

You don’t wake up from one day to the next and find you’re dependent. Dependency sets in gradually, even if you think you have control over your drug taking. You need to be very alert!


  • Physical dependency appears when the person has developed tolerance, which means his/her body has gotten used to the drug and he/she needs more and more to get the same effects. If he/she stops taking the drug, it can trigger withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Psychological dependency is an irresistible need to take one or more drugs. The person feels he/she can’t manage without it. He/she doesn’t take the drug for fun but because he/she thinks it’s necessary to feel good or to handle stress, fear, grief, anxiety, or difficult situations. A person who is psychologically dependent on drugs finds it hard to control his/her drug taking.


Some drugs (alcohol, tranquillizers, sleeping pills, opiates, minor and major stimulants) can create physical dependency, and all mind-altering substances can create psychological dependency.


How can I get help?

First you might look for some pointers to reduce or stop your drug taking (avoid certain friends, prepare answers for people who ask questions about the changes in your drug taking, do activities you like).


But if you think drugs have become a problem for you and you’ve become addicted to one or more drugs, look for support from people you trust. Ideally, you should consult a counsellor who’s familiar with drug-related issues, as it can be very difficult to get out of this situation alone.


I want to help a close relative to stop taking drugs

Acknowledge your own limits: decide how much you’re able to help without taking too much on yourself. First ask yourself if the desire to quit comes from him/her or you. The decision has to be made by the person who’s taking drugs or the chances that he/she will quit are very low. It’s also a question of values: if the fact that your partner takes drugs is against your values, you need to talk it over together. Can you find a compromise? Ask yourself what’s negotiable for you and what isn’t.


  • When your friend isn’t under the effect of the drugs, tell him/her that you’re worried about his/her drug taking.
  • Listen to him/her without judging or preaching.
  • Suggest that he/she talk to a professional at school, the CLSC, or Tel-jeunes.

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