Changing patterns of consumption
NOTE: Quotes are presented word for word apart from minor editing for readability and clarity. Identifying details have been removed. Square brackets show text that has been added, e.g. ‘I want to maintain [my current level of drug use]’. Ellipses within square brackets […] show where text has been removed, e.g. ‘Counselling was good but […] I would have liked more information about other treatment options’.
Many of the people interviewed for this website talk about changing their patterns of consumption and comment on the various parts of life that contribute to these changes. They describe different types of change, including cutting down, taking a break, stopping altogether, replacing one drug with another, or otherwise varying routines of consumption. Some of these changes occur without any particular plan or effort. While some seek treatment or attend self-help programs to create change, others use informal strategies to change or vary their consumption habits. It is these strategies that are the focus of this topic (For treatment and self-help approaches, see other subsections under Creating change: treatment, self-help and other responses).
People give a variety of reasons for their decisions to create change. These include reducing cost, concern about health and well-being, and managing caregiving responsibilities. Many people point out that when their circumstances change so do how and when they take drugs. For example, becoming a parent, changing jobs, or starting a course of study can involve organising drug use around a new routine. A death or illness in the family can also prompt change. As Bobby (M, 49, on a disability support pension, heroin and alcohol) explains, ‘When my father passed away, I thought, “What would he have done?” He would’ve treated me […] with compassion […so] I did it for him, like jumped off [heroin]’. Several say that injury or a health condition can also lead to change. Likewise some of those who had been in contact with the criminal justice system talk about how their experiences prompted changes in consumption (see also Contact with the criminal justice system).
Our participants describe a range of strategies for creating change, for example, changing social circles, moving to a new place, taking up meaningful work, and pursuing new hobbies and interests are all discussed. Some offer strategies specifically aimed at cutting down, such as limiting the amount of alcohol or other drugs purchased, avoiding social situations linked to alcohol and other drug use, restricting their own access to cash, discarding the details of contacts for illicit drugs, and only consuming on special occasions or weekends. Keeping track of consumption and making changes when necessary is a common strategy. Also, a few say they cut down, stopped or otherwise varied their consumption habits by replacing one drug with another, taking part in religious worship and prayer, or relying on willpower and persistence.
The support of family and friends in creating and maintaining change is identified by many of our participants as important. Although many say they still vary their patterns from time to time, or express a continuing desire for change, several say they’re satisfied with their current consumption patterns and describe the benefits they offer.