There’s no doubt about it 2020 hasn’t turned out as expected!
Whether you feel you’ve breezed through it or it’s been a struggle, coping mechanisms (healthy or unhealthy) have been at the centre of most of our lives.
Research done by Neurosight during Lockdown 1.0 found a significant increase in student use of cannabis, ketamine and benzodiazepines.
Whilst cannabis is the most used drug (after alcohol) among students it doesn’t come without its issues.
Using cannabis on a regular basis can impact your motivation and ability to focus on university work. Setting boundaries such as a start time can ensure you don’t start smoking the day away before you’ve done everything you needed to do.
Taking regular breaks from cannabis will help prevent you from becoming dependant on it, dependency can set in when you are using cannabis daily, for some people they can feel unable to sleep or even eat without it.
1 in 5 students who accessed SPACED at UWE Bristol last year did so for their ketamine use.
Smaller amounts of ketamine can reduce your ability to perceive danger or make sensible decisions like when is a safe time to cross the road. While a larger amount will have an anaesthetic effect leaving people unable to feel pain, which can be fatal.
The dangers of ketamine, when used on its own, are generally the risk of accident as mentioned above, but adding other substances to the mix can increase the chance of overdose – mixing ketamine and depressants such as alcohol, ‘benzo’s’ or opiates can cause you to rapidly lose consciousness which can lead to choking and can stop your breathing.
Whilst there is research being done into how pharmaceutical ketamine could offer a treatment for those with depression the risks to mental health for illicit ketamine users is still very real. Research suggests that ketamine can cause a relapse in psychosis and schizophrenia for people with pre-excising diagnosis as well trigger as paranoia, anxiety, and low mood.
A benzodiazepine such as Diazepam (Valium) is very effective at reducing the feelings of anxiety but tolerance and dependency can set in quickly, meaning your brain will need more and more to get the same effect. Treating anxiety with benzos can result in the anxiety becoming worse as it can cause a rebound effect.
Benzos work on the GABA receptors in the brain, this is the same as alcohol – so using alcohol and benzos together increase the effects of both drugs – but also the risks. Using benzos and alcohol together can result in the electrical activity in the brain being reduced so much that fatality can occur.
Whether you’re using drugs to relax, de-stress or manage your own mental health, there are alternatives to this. Building up healthy coping mechanisms early on in your drug taking career can help prevent psychological addiction later on.
Write down your feelings
This isn’t for anyone but you, so it can be as long or short as you like. Starting to think about how you’re feeling and why this might be, this can be a great way of getting it out; so you can move on or focus on something else. Learn more about this.
Talk to someone you trust
Similar to writing down your feelings, talking them through with someone you trust can feel liberating. They might not have all the answers, but you could feel less isolated and more supported than you did before speaking to them.
Create a relaxation list
It’s best to do this when you’re feeling good. When we are feeling sad, anxious or stressed, our adrenalin is rushing and it impairs our ability to think logically, which makes it even more difficult to make good decisions. Check out some tips for relaxation here.
Getting in some exercise is a great way to reduce your stress levels. Not only is it keeping you active, but it is a great way to clear your head and escape.
These are a few ways to help you cope with difficult feelings, emotions or situations. If you feel you would like more support you can contact the Wellbeing Service for counselling and mental health, drugs and alcohol support.
Becky Risley Senior Drug & Alcohol Practitioner UWE/DHI