RESOURCES to identify ADDICTION and Substance Use

FH OÖ’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

FH OÖ Compass upholds the 10 guiding principles of the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria. Therefore, FH OÖ Compass upholds guiding principle 2, which states: “We represent a value system that does not tolerate any form of discrimination, be it on the basis of gender, ethnic origin, religion, ideology, disability, age or sexual orientation.”

Additionally, FH OÖ Compass upholds guiding principle 10, which states: “We are committed to the fundamental right to education for all people and support people nationally and internationally in acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills.”

FH OÖ commits to creating and maintaining a safe, respectful, and inclusive learning environment for all students. Here you’ll find resources to identify addiction and substance use.

Identify Substance Use, Drug Use, and Addiction

According to the United Nations and World Health Organization, substance use is defined as “the use of psychoactive substances regardless of their controlled status, including hazardous and harmful” uses, and includes the following substances: drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and inhalants. 1

Drug use is defined as “the use of psychoactive substances outside the framework of legitimate use for medical or scientific purposes.” 2

The Council of Europe, European Union, identifies drugs as “all psychoactive substances (‘substances that people take to achieve a change of mental, physical or emotional state’) including tobacco, alcohol, medicinal drugs and volatile substances (inhalants).” 3

Moreover, it’s important for students and young people to understand substance use because “it is often in the teenage years that psychoactive substances are tried for the first time. Young people may be especially vulnerable – because of immaturity and inexperience.” 4

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, an addiction is defined as, “a repeated powerful motivation to engage in a purposeful behaviour that has no survival value, acquired as a result of engaging in that behaviour, with significant potential for unintended harm.” 5

Therefore, an addiction is a psychological or physical dependence on a substance or a certain behavior; however, it does not define a weakness of character, but a disease. People struggling with an addiction feel a strong compulsion or desire to consume a substance or perform a certain action. In this context, addiction always means a psychological dependence. A physical dependence is not always given but instead depends on the respective substance a person takes.

Criteria for recognition

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), addiction or dependence is said to exist if at least three of the following criteria have occurred over a period of one year:

    • Strong desire or compulsion to use a certain substance
    • Increase in consumption or behavior in order to achieve the desired effect
    • Decreased ability to control or complete loss of control over one’s own behavior, especially with regard to the onset, cessation, and quantity of use
    • Psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms upon reduction or cessation of use or behavior
    • Continuation of consumption despite knowledge of (own) (permanent) harmfulness
    • Withdrawal from social life and progressive neglect of obligations and interests

Addiction develops – in most cases – over a longer period and often comes insidiously. Therefore, the transition to addiction is often difficult to recognize, both for those affected and for their relatives.

Causes of addiction

The causes of a dependency disorder are many and varied. Physical and psychological, as well as social factors, play a role in the development of an addiction. In the case of a substance-related addiction, a habituation effect occurs after a certain time, depending on the type of substance. In other words, the body gets used to the consumption and adapts its functions to it. To achieve the desired effect and counteract tolerance, the substance must be consumed in increasingly higher quantities.

Often, dependence also arises from the positive feelings triggered by the addictive substance or behavior in the brain’s reward center. The increased release of the neurotransmitters leads to the person concerned getting into a mood s*he desires. This positive sensation, in the case of addiction, increases the desire to experience this state permanently or repeatedly.

In addition to physical dependence, genetic predisposition and psychological inconsistency, social and societal factors and the personal environment can also contribute to driving a person into addiction.

Consequences of addiction

Substance abuse can have severe consequences, depending on the addiction. From social consequences (e.g., debts, unemployment, criminalization, etc.) to psychological damage such as depression, sleep and concentration disorders or the complete disintegration of the personality, to physical illness (e.g., chronic damages, accidents, infections) and danger to life, addictions can have different effects.

Ways out of addiction - how do I deal with it?

An addiction can only be treated if the person concerned also wants the treatment and thus wants to find a solution to the addiction. In most cases, forced treatment leads to a relapse, because the person concerned is not actively working towards the goal of leaving the addiction behind.

Therefore, the first step is when the person struggling admits that s*he has an addiction and needs help. Accepting support and turning to an appropriate counseling center is essential in the subsequent steps. No one is at the mercy of addiction alone, there are many contact points that provide professional, psychological, and social work assistance. Trained staff members offer strictly confidential opportunities to talk. Based on the conversations, the information obtained from them and the personal situation, the further procedure of possible treatment or care is discussed together.

If a relapse occurs, it must not be denied. A relapse does not mean that all efforts were in vain or that one has failed. Despite good intentions and the knowledge gained from treatment, it is possible that addictive behavior will resume due to various influencing factors. In this case, it is important to contact (already known) counseling centers and discuss further treatment measures and steps. The exchange in self-help groups can also be supportive in case of addiction or relapse.

What is the best way to help a person with an addiction?

The desire to help someone with an addiction is legitimate, loving, and human. But what actions are helpful?

Even if a person struggling with an addiction jokes about it (or a casual approach to addictive substances is common in the respective culture): an addiction is an addiction and should, if possible, also be labeled as such to the family members.

If someone with an addiction must make and pay for the purchases of their addictive substances her*himself, this may be more troublesome than, for example, if a bottle of alcohol is provided by relatives at any time or the next computer game is given as a birthday present.

Friends and family members of someone struggling with an addiction are often affected by the addiction. However, it’s important for relatives to establish and maintain a boundary so that they are not consumed by the addiction. Relatives are encouraged to not take on or carry the negative consequences, everyday obligations, or everyday stresses of the person struggling with an addiction.

This is a fact and does not require excuses or justifications by relatives.

Friends, neighbors, relatives, and acquaintances are supporters in the fight to help a loved one struggling with an addiction. Sometimes, the assessment of the problem by outsiders is usually taken more seriously than by the immediate family or close circle of friends.

It is important that those with an addiction come to terms with their own addictive behavior and the consequences and directly address the problem. Out of care for their loved one struggling with an addiction, family members and friends often seek to control the addictive behavior of the person struggling. However, this is not possible; each person can only control his or her own behavior and actions.

What can I do for myself as a family member of someone with an addiction?

Usually, a family member’s addiction affects the lives of everyone in the family. The following tips can help you to take good care of yourself:

  • Prioritize your own health, and find time and space to rest.
  • Try to lead an independent life, take care of your own daily obligations, and maintain your social contacts.
  • Be aware of your own limits. Ask yourself what you can tolerate and what you cannot. Therapeutic measures should always be set by trained therapists, not by family members.
  • Seek help: it’s okay to not be okay; however, you don’t need to stay there. Seek professional help from psychologists and therapists to receive support.
  • Consider joining an Al-Anon meeting to receive group support from others who care about a loved one struggling with an addiction
  • Remember that you can only control your own behavior and your actions when dealing with a loved one who is struggling with an addiction. But you cannot control the behavior of other people.

Further information and resources about addiction and substance abuse

Learn about the FH OÖ Gender and Diversity Management Conference (GDM-K)

Need Help? Anonymously Report to the FH OÖ GDM-K

Need Help? Contact an FH OÖ Mental Health First Responder on your Campus

Need Help? Contact the ÖH FH OÖ Student Helpline

General Information and Resources for Rehabilitation Centers in Austria

Expatica – Information on Mental Health and Addiction in Austria

Information about the Austrian Addiction Prevention Strategy

Information and Prevention Resources about Drug Usage in the EU

Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) 

Find an Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meeting near you (meetings in English)

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