At a time when the crystal debate is running hot and people are re-examining how our community uses drugs, it is timely to look at the different types of drug use that exist so that we can try and make sense of the issue. Although there are those people who lump all drug use together, the reality is somewhat different. Essentially there are six types of drug use and people may move in and out of these at different stages in their lives.

Therapeutic use describes the situation where a drug is given by a medical practitioner or used to treat an illness. This also covers self-medication, i.e. smoking cannabis to assist with pain relief. Experimental use is when someone may try a drug for whatever reason and then choose to discontinue it after a short period of time.

Ecstasy is a drug that is usually used in a specific social situation and this is referred to as recreational use. This type of drug use may occur infrequently. The person makes a choice to use the drug and suffers few, if any, withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes this drug use can move into becoming intensive use. This is also called bingeing. It occurs when a person uses a drug heavily over a short period of time. This use may continue for hours, days or even weeks depending on the drug and the situation. We are currently seeing this situation with many crystal users.

Situational use is where a drug is used to cope with a particular situation. A good example of this type of drug use is when students use speed in order to stay awake to study. Finding yourself smoking when you have a drink in your hand is also an example of this type of drug use, when certain situations (e.g. drinking in a pub) trigger particular drug use behaviour (e.g. smoking).

Finally we have our most problematic type of drug use -“ dependent use. This describes a situation where a person uses a drug regularly for so long that the drug-induced state feels normal to them and they feel compelled to use the drug in everyday life, even though it could be causing them great problems. There is lots of talk about members of our community becoming dependent or being addicted to crystal. There is the belief that somehow this drug is so much worse than any other.

Obviously there are many who are having problems with the drug. However, not all crystal users are the same -“ each user is unique, with different motivations for use and their own set of problems, if any. Equally as damaging, but much more socially acceptable, is alcohol. This drug leads to dependence (about 10 percent of all drinkers), violence, emotional, financial and relationship problems and, of course, unsafe sexual behaviour. Sound familiar? Why as a community are we not concerned about this?

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug, and no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?

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