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Overcoming addiction

7-minute read

Key facts

  • You can become addicted to many different things.
  • Addiction can badly affect your life and hurt the people around you.
  • Many addiction treatments and services are available.
  • Quitting is a gradual process — it often takes several attempts.

What is addiction?

Addiction is the repeated use of a substance or an activity, even though it may be harmful.

People can become addicted to many different things. Common addictions are:

Addiction can badly affect your life and hurt the people around you. But it’s possible to overcome addiction and reduce the harm to you and others.

Deciding to make a change

Only you can decide to overcome an addiction. Quitting is a gradual process — it often takes several attempts.

When breaking an addiction, you may have withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • tiredness
  • mood changes
  • insomnia
  • cravings
  • aches and pains

These can be unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening. Withdrawal symptoms can be challenging. But don’t give up hope if you find things difficult. Quitting is easier if you:

  • have support
  • set goals
  • are prepared for challenges

Reaching out for support

Talk to your doctor, mental health professional, counsellor or drug and alcohol service about your decision to quit. Be honest about your situation. Support from your friends or family members can also help.

Your doctor can refer you to a treatment service. You can also contact some services directly. Call the Alcohol and Drug Foundation on 1300 85 85 84 to find out about these services.

Addiction is also associated with depression and anxiety. The Beyond Blue helpline can provide mental health support 24 hours a day on 1300 22 4636.

Is there treatment for addiction?

Many addiction treatments and services are available, including:

If you are a carer, carers associations in your state or territory can provide counselling. They can also help to organise respite care. Visit the Carer Gateway or call 1800 422 737 (Monday-Friday, 8am-6pm) for more information.

Healthy ways to cope with stress

Some people take drugs, use alcohol or other things because they think it helps them cope with stress. But it can lead to an addiction, which can add to your stress.

When trying to break an addiction, withdrawal symptoms can also be stressful.

There are healthy ways to cope with stress, such as:

A counsellor can give you relaxation strategies, such as:

  • deep, controlled breathing
  • ways to relax your muscles
  • visualising a safe place

Triggers, cravings and staying in control

Knowing your triggers can help you avoid them. Avoiding your triggers can help you stay in control and prevent relapse.

You can’t avoid all triggers, so a plan is important to manage your cravings. A counsellor can help you prepare a plan to cope with cravings.

The stress relief strategies mentioned above can also help distract you and manage cravings.

Don't let a relapse stop you achieving your goals

People with addictions commonly relapse. This is part of the withdrawal process. It is okay to acknowledge any negative feelings you may have after a relapse. However, remember that breaking an addiction often takes more than one attempt. Keep reminding yourself why you are trying to quit.

Building a meaningful life without addiction

There are things you can do to help you stay addiction free.

  • Do things that you enjoy and that mean a lot to you.
  • Set goals and have things to look forward to.

It can help to stay connected to positive people who are recovering from addiction, through support groups.

Meaningful hobbies that socially engage you, such as volunteering, might also help.

Resources and support

More information

Support services and helplines

Support apps for your phone

  • The Right Mix — is an app that reduces the impacts of drinking.
  • High Res — is an app that builds resilience in serving and ex-serving Australian Defence force personnel and their families.
  • Quit Now: My QuitBuddy — a free app that helps smokers quit.
  • Smiling Mind — free meditation app for young people, from Beyond Blue.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2022

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