In my book - Working with alcohol and drug users - I make the point that there is no such thing as drug counselling instead there is a group of drug counselling approaches. People use drugs for a variety of reasons and the drug counselling approach varies for each differing reason. I discuss this in chapter 4 when I list the 6 main reasons or types of drug use. These being:
Experimental drug use and counselling.
Rebellious drug use and counselling.
Recreational drug use and counselling.
Situational drug use and counselling.
Symptomatic drug use and counselling.
Dependent drug use and counselling.
If one is working with a recreational drug user, what one does is quite different compared to working with a dependent drug user. Indeed we have a somewhat odd situation when it comes to counselling drug users. By far the largest group in number are the recreational users but one rarely sees them in drug counselling. They rarely seek drug counselling because they do not see they have a drug problem and indeed the drug use does result in very little disturbance in their life. One only tends to see them in counselling when they come for some other reason and the drug use gets mentioned as a sideline to the counselling for other difficulties.
A much smaller group is the dependent drug user who is the ‘addict’ type of user. One sees them much more often in counselling even though over all they represent only a small group of drug users. In counselling these people, in my book, I focus on the relationship the person has with their drug of choice.
In this sense the drug counsellor becomes like a couples counsellor but working in reverse. Instead of counselling the ‘couple’ to repair their relationship the drug counsellor is working with the drug user to end his relationship with the drug. Working with how to break the attachment to the drug, just like one can have an attachment to another person. I highlight three main ways this can be done.
This approach does provide some insight for the average person on what the life of the dependent drug user is like. Think of a time when you were in a relationship that was not good for you but you stayed in it despite that. Recall how difficult it was for you to leave and how hard it was to break the attachment to the other person and all the pain and grief you experienced when it ended. Recall how you went back to the relationship knowing that it was the wrong thing to do. If you have had this experience then you are given some insight into what the dependent drug user feels and what they experience as they endeavor to give up the drug.
It is very easy to sit on the sideline an have the view that the drug addict is simply a weak willed individual who is a loser and just a drain on society. Have you ever stayed in a relationship which you knew was not good for you and may have even been quite destructive for you and the other party? If you have then you know that is not just a matter of being weak willed. Leaving a relationship where there is a significant attachment is not an easy thing to do and that is the dilemma for the dependent drug user.