Drug & Alcohol Recovery and Education Centre

"Turning Lives Around"




When Is It An Addiction?

Using drugs or other substances is categorized as a "disorder", "misuse" or "abuse" when the use causes continuing or growing problems in the user's everyday life and functioning. The problems that a lot of addicts encounter include missing work or school, driving under the influence, legal problems and problems with friends or family relationships.

Addiction or dependency usually becomes noticeable in substance abusers when they continue their pattern of drug use in spite of suffering significant problems in their lives.

What are the types of Addictions?

Physical Addiction

Physical addiction is where your body becomes used to a particular substance and begins to become dependent on it (like tobacco for smokers). It is an indication that a person has developed a tolerance to that substance and now requires a larger dose to get the same effects. People who develop a physical dependence may start to notice withdrawal symptoms if they go too long without having another hit. Common signs of physical addiction include:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns.
  • Feeling sick after a period of time without your drug.
  • Developing a tolerance.
  • Changes to weight (gain/loss).

It is dangerous to try and cut some drugs “cold turkey” – detoxification from alcohol or drugs should be done under professional supervision because of the body’s dependence on those substances. Do you need help to detox?


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Psychological Addiction

Psychological dependence relates to the need or craving for a drug on an emotional level. Psychological addiction can be characterised as the overwhelming desire to have a substance, because of the satisfaction or fulfilment it brings or its ability block out past pains by changing states of consciousness (i.e. creating intoxication). The signs of psychological dependence include:

  • Use of drugs or alcohol as a way to forget problems or to relax.
  • Withdrawal or keeping secrets from family and friends.
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be important.
  • Problems with schoolwork, such as slipping grades or absences.
  • Changes in friendships, such as hanging out only with friends who use drugs.
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about how to get drugs.
  • Stealing from others and/or selling belongings to be able to afford drugs.
  • Failed attempts to stop taking drugs or drinking.
  • Anxiety, anger, depression and/or mood swings.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Paranoid thinking.


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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol or Drug Abuse?

It is important to remember that if an individual has any of the following symptoms it does not necessarily mean that he or she is using drugs and/or alcohol. The presence of some of these symptoms could be related to a host of other problems (i.e. stress, depression). Whatever the cause, they may warrant attention, especially if they persist or if several of them are occurring at one time.

The key thing to look for is change; be aware of significant changes in an individual’s physical appearance, personality or behaviour.

Behavioural Symptoms

Mood Swings - Virtually all mood-altering drugs produce mood swings from euphoria to depression. A user may be passive and withdrawn one minute and angry or hostile the next.

Personality Changes - A normally energetic and outgoing person becomes chronically depressed and uncommunicative.

Defensiveness - Blaming or claiming to be persecuted or victimized.

Overly Emotional - Inappropriately happy, depressed, hostile, or angry.

Overly Self-Centred - Always has to have their own way and will do anything to have it.

Tendency to Manipulate - Making excuses for failure or finding ways to have other people handle their problems or bear the consequences of their actions or behaviours.

Strained Communication - Unwillingness or inability to discuss important issues or concerns.

Withdrawal from Family Activities - Refusing to eat at family meals, participating in celebrations or holidays or making any adjustments for family life.

Change in Dress and Friends - Sudden deterioration of long friendships/relationships, deterioration in personal appearance and hygiene, spends time with suspicious friends and/or co-workers.

Lack of Self-Discipline - Inability to follow rules, inability to complete household chores, inability to complete school/university assignments, inability to complete or keep up with work-related duties and commitments, inability to keep appointments or general commitments.

Apathy - Little or no interest in meaningful activities such as clubs, hobbies, sports, or other activities.

School, University and Work Problems - Excessive lateness, excessive absences, drop in grades or job performance, missed deadlines, failure to turn in assignments and take tests/exams, possibly suspension, expulsion or job loss.

Anxious Behaviour - Chronic jittery, jerky or uneven movements, fearfulness, compulsiveness and talkativeness.

Physical Symptoms

Change in appearance – Sudden gain or loss of weight.

Poor physical coordination.

Loss of appetite, increase in appetite or any changes in eating habits.


Bloodshot or watery eyes.

Consistently dilated pupils.

Nausea, vomiting.

Frequent colds, sore throat, coughing.

Chronically inflamed nostrils, runny nose.

Dizzy spells, stumbling, shaky hands.

Consistent run down condition.

Speech pattern changes, slurred speech, faster speech, slower speech.

Irregular heartbeat.

Relapse Warning Signs

Chemically dependent individuals can demonstrate relapse behaviours at any time throughout their recovery process, but they are especially prone during the early stages of recovery. The relapse process starts when a person falls into old patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. The following are signs of relapse at any stage in recovery:

Lack of gratitude for recovery or what has been achieved in the recovery process.

Complacency when things begin to improve - The chemically dependent person believes that they no longer need to focus on their recovery efforts; they are convinced they will never begin using again.

Lack of self-care as they become exhausted, develop or return to irregular eating habits or poor health habits in general.

Self-pity - The chemically dependent person talks and acts as if no one else has it as hard as they do.

Increasing denial or return to denial - The chemically dependent person starts rationalising, justifying, minimising or generalising addictive thinking and behaviours.

Blaming others instead of taking personal responsibility for one's own thoughts, feelings or behaviour.

Unable to accept feedback from others who are concerned.

Isolation and attempting to solve problems on their own; not sharing what is going on with others in a a counselling or support group environment.

Wanting too much too quickly or setting unrealistic goals.

Attempting to control one's recovery through manipulation and blaming of others for their problems.

Discounting a recovery program - Stopping 12-Step meetings such as AA or NA, not utilizing a sponsor or unwilling to allow others to help.

Signs & Symptoms of Substance Abuse in the Workplace

Frequently absent from work for no justifiable reason.

Tardiness and leaving work early.

Long lunches or other unnecessary breaks.

Decreased job performance.

Avoiding supervisor or other co-workers.

Poor personal hygiene/appearance.


Does this sound like you, someone you love or an employee?


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Addiction Treatment

Drug and alcohol treatment, unfortunately, is something of a taboo in Australian as it is in many places in the world. People don’t talk about addiction treatment because they don’t understand it, or because they’re ashamed of it, or because they think people will look at them funny if they bring it up. As a result, addiction treatment, especially residential detoxification and rehabilitation is generally not well understood.

Treatment is not the freewheeling horror show that sometimes gets portrayed in movies and on TV. Addiction treatment is a trying and difficult process for clients, but it’s not the stuff of fantastical nightmares. Patients in addiction treatment struggle every day towards the hope of a brighter tomorrow; addiction treatment services are first and foremost places of optimism, support and aspiration. The best addiction treatment programs help recovering addicts navigate the long road to recovery with a minimum of discomfort and aim to ensure that every patient works towards a positive and permanent behavioural change.

Such success is only possible for those individuals who understand the nature of addiction itself, and who understand the functional dynamics of effective addiction treatment. Addiction treatment may not be a freewheeling horror show, but neither is it an easy thing, and only through fierce determination and diligent self-education can anyone hope to beat drug addiction once and for all.

We have tried to answer your questions throughout this website, however you are always welcome to call us on 1800 818 872 with any questions. Maybe it’s you who’s fallen victim to drug addiction; maybe it’s someone you love. In either case, you can’t afford not to act.

Drug addiction is nothing if not the most dire of problems, and hesitation can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

By the same token, though, proper action can make all the difference in the world, and addiction treatment offers real hope to those individuals who have the courage to pursue it.


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Do I really need professional addiction treatment to overcome my drug addiction?

the vast majority of people need professional addiction treatment to overcome a drug addiction.

Many drug addicts and alcoholics make the mistake of believing that they can kick their habits whenever they want to: that they can stop using drugs or alcohol through a simple act of will, at a moment of their choosing. Unfortunately, they are wrong.

Professional alcohol and drug addiction treatment confronts addiction as it actually is: as a clinical disease with very real clinical roots. Those who believe that they can heal themselves through willpower, misconstrue the nature of addiction itself. As is true of any disease, addiction can only be overcome with intensive professional care. For example, no cancer patient believes that he can beat cancer simply by choosing to do so without any other interventions.

Of course, the decision to seek professional help is often a very difficult one to make. Admitting yourself to a rehabilitation treatment centre means facing the truth: that you have a problem, and that you don’t have the ability to solve it by yourself. However this is also the first step towards recovery.

Make the first step towards recovery.


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What’s the difference between casual drug use and hard-core drug addiction?

In plain terms, there is no such thing as a “casual” drug habit. Regular drug users, no matter how firmly they believe otherwise, are rarely in control of their drug use. What that means, in the most general sense, is that any drug user is a prospective addiction treatment patient.

What do I need to know about addiction treatment?

Addiction is a two-headed disease, one that exists in both physical and psychological dimensions. Successful addiction treatments, such as the Watershed programs, are those that deliver both physical and psychological therapy to recovering addicts.

Upon entering an addiction treatment centre, many patients experience up to a week of drug withdrawal: a period in which their bodies shake the physical dependencies associated with drug addiction. Because chronic drug abuse warps an addict’s internal chemistry, the first phase of recovery is often a physically trying one.

The withdrawal, or detoxification, phase is just the first stage of treatment services available at Watershed. Again, addiction operates through both physical and psychological mechanisms, and no addiction treatment program is complete if it fails to address its patients’ mental health. Effective addiction treatment programs work because they impart those emotional skills that are vital to a patient’s long-term recovery through a second stage of longer intensive rehabilitation stage: the centred strength and life skills that allows recovering addicts to face the real world without leaning on their drug or alcohol habits for chemical support. Watershed also offers a third stage option, its halfway house called Carinya, where clients can be supported on a longer term basis while pursuing work and study options, and planning for their future.

What determines the success of an addiction treatment program?

It’s important here to distinguish what exactly qualifies as a “successful” addiction treatment program. Addiction treatment, at its heart, is a lifetime proposition. Strictly speaking, there is no final “cure” for alcoholism and drug abuse; addiction never really goes away, and addicts continue to grapple with their demons long after they’ve checked out of an addiction treatment facility. Intensive physical and psychological addiction treatment is essential, in other words…but it isn’t sufficient to long-term addiction recovery.

Most successful addiction treatment programs are those that meet the big-picture treatment needs of their patient. Because addiction recovery is a lifelong process, addiction treatment does not and cannot end after a patient’s initial month at an addiction treatment centre. Indeed, only with access to aftercare addiction treatment options, such as Carinya or the Watershed non-residential day programs, and independent addiction treatment support groups (such as AA, NA and SMART) can an addiction treatment patient reasonably expect to sustain the gains made in his or her first thirty days of sobriety.

Aftercare addiction treatment options and independent addiction treatment support groups are rarely within the realm of a recovering drug addict’s expertise, and that’s why it’s vital that you find an addiction treatment facility such as Watershed which can provide for your long-term needs. Addiction treatment is too hard to do on your own; you need help, and you need it from people who know what they’re doing. A successful addiction treatment program is successful both because of the effort its patients put into their recovery and because of the knowledge its caregivers bring to their work.

If you want to get better, you’ve got to work for it, but you’ve also got to entrust your care to an addiction treatment centre with a proven track of record success.


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Watershed acknowledges the traditional custodians of country and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future.

Watershed holds accreditation with the Australian Council on Health Care Standards (ACHS).

Formerly: Wollongong Crisis Centre

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