- What are the effects you hope to get from ‘using’? e.g. to be more sociable, to be liked and ‘fit in’ with your friends, to relax, to forget about painful experiences, feelings or thoughts, to be more creative, express what is on your mind, etc.
- Are you ‘using’ by yourself?
- Has your pattern of drug use changed since you first started?
- Has your tolerance changed? e.g. does it take more alcohol now to feel a buzz?
- Do you have trouble with your memory?
- Do you ‘use’ on a regular basis?
- during every party/social gathering
- every weekend
- several times a week
- If you are using alcohol, is it difficult to stop after two or three drinks?
- When you attend a social gathering, is it the availability of alcohol and/or drugs that “makes the party”?
- Did you use to have personal goals that are now hard to get motivated for?
- When under the influence, do have great plans to write, compose or do something special, but somehow never follow through?
- Have your leisure activities become more limited? e.g. you no longer play tennis, hike as much, read for leisure, etc...
- Have you changed your circle of friends based on their ‘using’ habits?
- Do you feel annoyed when others remark on your ‘using’ habits?
- Do you put yourself at ease by thinking your substance use is no different from that of your friends; that using is part of partying which is part of being an adult…etc…
- Do you at times think about ‘cutting’ back, but never get around to it?
- Did you previously enjoy your work and now have trouble attending your job?
- Do you participate in risk-taking behaviors, at times even after experiencing negative consequences? e.g. having unprotected sex, driving under the influence etc…
- Do you have financial difficulties as a result of your substance use?
- Do you ever feel guilty/ashamed about your behavior when under the influence?
- Do you have alcoholism or addiction in your family history?
If you fear that you are creeping too far in to drug use, or one of your friends is, seek help or talk to your friend about what you see happening. Consulting with a trained professional in either case is a good idea; some valuable information and support becomes available once you take that step. And if you vehemently deny, or your friend denies, that drug use is a problem that often indicates there is a problem. To get one’s life back under control requires using less (or not at all); if you can’t do it on your own, seek help.
How to protect yourself from HIV
People with HIV or AIDS can do a number of things to stay healthy, which is why it’s important to know your status. Although there is no treatment that cures HIV, drugs are now available that can prevent AIDS-related pneumonia and other serious diseases; other medications help the body fight the virus itself. However, many of these drugs may have unintended, harmful side effects.
The only way to be 100% sure you won’t get HIV/AIDS is to abstain from sex and intravenous drug use. If you’re sexually active, using condoms correctly each and every time you have anal or vaginal sex provides the best protection against HIV transmission. While there is not enough scientific evidence available yet to be certain, there are many individuals who also state that they have gotten HIV from participating in oral sex (as givers to infected men). It is advisable to consider using condoms for oral sex as well, especially because other STDs like syphilis and gonorrhea, which can increase your risk of getting HIV, can be transmitted via oral sex.
HIV is rarely transmitted in the following ways
- Blood transfusions and organ transplants: The risk of acquiring HIV from a blood transfusion today is estimated to be about 1 in every 600,000 transfusions. The risk of acquiring HIV from an organ transplantation is probably similar. Before 1985, there were no tests to screen blood and organ donations for HIV. Today, blood and organ banks screen out most potential donors at risk for HIV infection in advance. They then do extensive testing on specimens of blood, blood products, and organs for HIV and other blood-borne germs.
- The health care setting: There is a very small, but real, risk of health care workers getting HIV from patients as a result of needle stick accidents and other substantial blood exposures. The risk of patients getting infected from health care workers is also very small. A large series of studies of HIV-infected surgeons and dentists have not shown any transmissions to patients. Nonetheless, seven patients may have become infected from a dentist with AIDS in Florida, and several other transmissions have been traced to surgeons.
- Casual contact: HIV is not spread by casual contact. It dies quickly outside the body and is easily killed by soap and by common disinfectants such as bleach. There is no risk of HIV infection from:
- donating blood
- mosquito bites
- toilet seats
- shaking hands
- sharing eating utensils
- food or objects handled by people with HIV or AIDS
- spending time in the same house, business, or public place with a person with HIV/AIDS