Substance Use

Thinking About Using Alcohol or Drugs? Try This Instead.

Article by Lisa Smusz, MS, LPCC

There are many reasons someone might start drinking alcohol or using other drugs: stress, boredom, curiosity, loneliness, and depression are all common reasons. People use substances , or things like shopping or TV, to meet their needs, especially when they’re not doing well. But sometimes the thing we use to meet our needs makes more problems.

If you’re thinking of using alcohol or other drugs, ask yourself why. Once you understand your reasons you can make a choice about the best way to meet your needs.


Boredom isn’t actually a sign that you need more entertainment, it’s most often a sign that you need more purpose. Different people find purpose in different ways. For some, setting goals or learning a new skill meets that need. Have you always wanted to learn to cook? Do you want to try drawing or painting? Maybe you have an instrument that you’ve always wanted to learn to play. Make a list of a few things and try one. For others, purpose is about doing something that matters to you. For example: helping someone you care about, teaching someone else a skill, earning money, or creating something. All these ideas can end boredom in a way that’s more long-lasting.


Many people feel sad and depressed at times. We may be missing our friends or family, having trouble finding work, or struggling with finances. Some people turn to drugs and alcohol to escape from the hard things they are facing. They hope to feel better, even just for a short time. While substances may make you forget about your feelings for a short time, they often make feelings of sadness worse. Other ways of dealing with depression can be both quick and better for you over time. Exercise, sunlight, meditation, and regular sleep all can help. One of the best things we can do is connect with others: sharing your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or family member can make you feel better. So can talking with a mental health professional. Check out this article for more ideas on where to find someone to talk to.


Aside from the normal stresses of life, there are many stresses that newcomers often deal with. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol, try some mindfulness exercises. You might be surprised at how quickly they can help, and instead of harming your health. Mindfulness can help your health in the long run if you do it regularly.

Fear of Missing Out 

Sometimes people worry they don’t want to miss out on things. After all, it’s fun to be part of something. But what’s not fun is feeling like you need to drink alcohol or use drugs to fit in. There are many things to do on your own or with friends without alcohol or drugs. You could share a meal, play a game, watch a movie, or learn a new hobby or skill. Have fun with it!