For many of us, the issues of drug and alcohol misuse hit close to home, if not on a personal level, then because someone you know has struggled or is struggling with it.

In Canada, approximately 21% of the population will experience addiction at some point during their lives. Unfortunately, the impacts of the pandemic, including stress and boredom, have led people to increase their consumption of substances.

In Durham, local services have seen a spike in alcoholism and overdoses from opiates. It is important to note that having a substance abuse problem is not due to a lack of willpower or a lifestyle choice. Instead, it is a complex issue, but one that is thankfully treatable. Today, we are calling your attention to the gravity of using substances as a coping tool.

Why people might use substances:

Drugs and alcohol can provide a temporary relief from reality to cope with physical affliction, difficult emotions, and other issues by enhancing pleasure and decreasing inhibitions and anxiety.

Using substances impairs our:

  • Learning
  • Judgment
  • Decision-Making
  • Memory
  • Behaviour

What abusing substances can lead to:

  • Addiction
  • Crime
  • Vehicular accidents
  • Overdose
  • Infectious disease
  • Organ damage
  • Relationship problems
  • and much more

Substance abuse:

Does not refer to addiction, but overindulging in or using substances in the wrong way, whether it be illegal drugs, alcohol/marijuana, prescription medications, or other legal substances. 

Signs of substance abuse include:

  • Changes in attitude/personality
  • Increased aggression or irritability
  • Rapid weight loss/gain
  • Trouble sleeping/sleeping too much
  • Having a different social network
  • Lack of taking care of oneself
  • Being more reclusive

Relation to mental health:

Abusing substances and having a mental health disorder often co-occur.

The most common connection exists when someone with a mental illness “self-medicates” or treats their unpleasant symptoms with drugs and/or alcohol.

For example, someone with low energy or a lack of motivation takes Adderall or cocaine to get things done.

This does not help address an underlying mental health condition and only adds new problems, worsening mental health.

Conversely, some substances can trigger symptoms such as paranoia, delusions, or depression.

The good news is…

that it is never too late to adopt healthier outlets and coping strategies through education and awareness.

An example:  A woman with a stressful job goes to the bar every day after work. Unwinding with friends and drinking alcohol helps her relax and forget about the day’s worries. One day on her way home, she gets pulled over by a police officer, and cited with a DUI. Her conviction not only suspends her license, but  requires her to pay a fine, participate in community service, and attend a substance abuse program. These consequences make her reexamine her alcohol use. She decides to stop drinking after work so that she no longer risks getting a DUI. Instead, she goes to the gym to help her release the tension of her stressful job.


Alternative Coping Methods:


“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”

Steve Maraboli

Author: Life, the Truth, and Being Free