We promote the point that choice around our lifestyle is mostly up to us. While genetics, environment and the health system can also impact on our health and wellbeing, in the context of drugs and alcohol the choice is ultimately ours and the consequences of use and misuse are clear and so are the laws.
As a community we need to have an honest conversation on why people use and abuse drugs and alcohol. Some reasons are:
- Risk taking – as boys and men we are hard wired to take risks;
- Experimental and boredom;
- Peer pressure;
- Recreation – to have fun;
- To feel good and forget, to cope with difficult times in our life, to self-medicate and mask.
The reasons are complex and varied and through our life we have been challenged and we will continue to be challenged.
Recent research reveals some alarming statistics around drug use:
- 46% of drug users use for fun!
- 54% of drug users used for self-medication.
Regarding using drugs for fun, surely there are many other things we can do that don’t damage our body and mind (i.e. embrace and explore our passions and interests). The consequences of drug use are serious from several angles:
- The risk factor is extremely high for many illicit drugs, we may only have three chances with a drug before we are affected either medically and/or by addiction;
- Purity of the drug is unknown and varied (often we don’t know what’s in it?);
- Health effects can be permanent (psychosis);
- Many legal and financial implications for users;
- Relationships become fractured (conflict, violence, distrust).
With regard to self-medication, we need to acknowledge some of the stuff going on in our lives and some of the pain we may be suffering. Denial of this, exacerbated by drug use, and the shit will hit the fan. We need to talk about and ultimately deal with stuff in our life, not self-medicate.
Alcohol is our biggest societal drug of choice, there is a lot of literature and research suggesting how alcohol is dangerous to our body when misused. This usually focuses on the appropriate daily standard drinks consumption, links to various diseases such as cancer and then societal issues around binge drinking. On an individual level we need to work out if we can drink, and how do I behave when drinking (do I get angry and aggressive, take unnecessary risks). Because alcohol is a mood enhancer, we need to know what our safe limit is, have regular alcohol-free days and not use it to self-medicate (when distressed) but enjoy it.
The difficulty in life is choice, illicit and excessive use of drugs and alcohol is all our personal responsibility. What then can we do, as a society, about the misuse/abuse of drugs and alcohol? Primary care is standing up and saying “no, it’s not all right” (culture). As a collective we can make a difference whether that is in the family, community group and/or workplace, you are not alone. As peers we can make a difference whether it be in the school, workplace or footy club by saying “no, it’s not all right”. We all have a right to a safe place!
Terry and the Team
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277