A pathway to a healthier you

Drug use and dependence

Substance use and dependence can affect anyone. No one starts using drugs with the intention of becoming dependent. But we know it affects around 1 in 20 Australians. This is no different for nurses and midwives. 

Using substances – why we do it

There are many reasons. A recent stressful life event such as a divorce, accident, or illness can lead to substance use as a coping mechanism. 

For nurses and midwives, the demands of our profession can make us vulnerable to health issues, including addiction. We experience work stress and burnout, are exposed to health dangers, as well as death and trauma. Some assume they are immune to the negative consequences of drug and alcohol use because we work with drugs. All of this can increase the likelihood of substance use. And for some of us, the way we use it becomes a problem.

Recognising dependence

Substance dependence involves using too much alcohol or other drugs. Often it leads to problems with health and everyday functioning. 

Dependence isn’t voluntary. For many, dependence is not a conscious choice. It is a compulsive behavior that affects the brain.

Reading signs that there could be a problem

Signs that you or someone you know might be having a problem with substances include:

  • using more of a substance than intended, regularly
  • trying to cut down or stop, regularly, but never succeeding
  • Cravings, or a strong desire to use the substance.
  • Using substances again and again, despite knowing about the potential damage or danger.

Assessing your health risk

Do you think you have a problem with drugs? Find out if your substance use is posing a risk to your health with the Drug Use Disorders Identification Test (DUDIT) 

Your assessment and results are 100% anonymous and confidential. 

Realising its impact on your life, health, relationships

Your use of substances is having an impact on your life if you:

  • fail often to meet responsibilities at work, home or school
  • keep using even when it causes relationship problems
  • give up social, work or leisure activities 
  • use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance.

Getting support

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Peer support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Smart Recovery are available in many locations throughout Australian cities and regional areas. They provide support for people with alcohol and drug problems who want to stop drinking or using drugs.

Can't stop?

If you are ready to walk away from a harmful habit, we're here to support you. 

Substance use disorders and dependence can include

  • misuse of illegal drugs (such as cannabis and amphetamines)
  • use of medicines, like painkillers or sedatives, for non-medical reasons

A 2019 survey found that many of us use pharmaceuticals for non-medical uses:

  • nearly 1 in 25 in the past year
  • 1 in 9 in their lifetime 
  • 1 in 5 daily or weekly. 

These 2019 stats were collected about Australians aged 14+years. 

Pain killers or relievers and opioids were most commonly used for non-medical purposes: Second most common: tranquilisers or sleeping pills.  

The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet
Rachel Naomi Remen

To help tackle the harmful stigma and misinformation surrounding substance use and dependence, Rethink Addiction provides a space to share the real stories of addiction. These are real people who have lived with addiction, supported a family member or friend, or have been involved in providing clinical care or peer support.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation Drug Facts website provides a comprehensive and trustworthy list of both prescription and illegal drugs. Each listing offers detailed and straight-forward information about subjects such as what they look like, the short and long-term effects, withdrawals and getting help.