Defining Addiction

Over the past 25 years, there have been any number of scales, diagrams, scorecards, screening tools etc which have attempted to provide a clear framework for the treating clinician to utilise in making their assessment regarding a clients likelihood of being addicted to a substance.

In Victoria the State Government has provided a 2 Step Process.


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This process provides the treating clinician with tools to gauge the client’s level of use and the psychological impact their use may be having on them such as their anxiety levels.

There are multiple definitions of addiction, here is one example that may help you.

It’s not what you drink or when you drink or how often you drink but what happens when you drink.

If you cannot guarantee your behaviour before you pick up a drink then it is time to seriously think about getting some professional help.

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Characteristics of addiction

Here are some guides that may assist you


  • Experiencing short-term blackouts or memory loss.
  • Mood swings.
  • Using alcohol to relax or relieve stress.
  • Not attending to your responsibilities due to your drinking.
  • Drinking by yourself.
  • Attaching yourself to people or groups of people who drink like you do.



  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Weight changes
  • Poor sleeping habits.
  • Increased aggressive tendencies.
  • Personality changes.
  • Feelings of being not wanting to do anything.
  • Depression.
  • Changes in the people you mix with.
  • Engaging in criminal activity.

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21Renews Comprehensive Assessment Tools

At 21Renew we use both the SELF COMPLETE INITIAL SCREEN FOR ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG PROBLEMS and the AOD COMPREHENSIVE ASSESSMENT as a starting point to assess where the client is at. We then look at

  • why and how the use of alcohol, drugs or gambling commenced,
  • the pattern of use,
  • the clients work history including past and current stress levels created by the job,
  • personal and family relationships and what bearing they have had on the clients use,
  • and any other relevant information prior to making a determination as to where the client fits on the following scale


Mild abuse Medium abuse Heavy abuse Dependence Addiction



This methodology provides a comprehensive picture of where the client is at and allows us in conjunction with the client to create a plan going forward.

Recently we had a client who had been to three alcohol & drug rehabs and had been diagnosed by all three as being addicted to cocaine and, also addicted to alcohol.

Those treatments were unsuccessful

Following our comprehensive screening and assessment we came to the conclusion he was not addicted to either substance but had suffered a mid-life crisis and as a result of that he had become a heavy abuser of cocaine and a medium abuser of alcohol. We formulated a plan for him based on these conclusions and he has followed the plan resulting in him getting his life and business back on track and he is functioning perfectly well.

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The Cycle of Change

It is important for everyone involved to understand the cycle of change and it is best summed up in an article by ADFAM

  1. Pre-Contemplation

People in pre-contemplation do not recognise they have a problem or issue with their use of drugs, alcohol or gambling

It is always best to seek professional assistance in how to move people forward and out of pre-contemplation.

  1. Contemplation

In this stage the client is starting to think about making some changes or getting  help with their alcohol, drug or gambling issues.

  1. Planning

When someone is in the planning stage they are actively preparing a way forward on how they are going to treat their substance or addiction issues

  1. Action

Once the person has moved into action the best support you can provide is to be supportive and positive with them.

  1. Maintenance

At this stage of the cycle the person has made the changes and is now moving along with their plan.

It is important for everyone involved to understand the maintenance phase can bring with it some challenges. Communication is the key to overcoming issues that arise.

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At 21renew we add a further stage and that is to work with the client to ensure they have a plan going forward with how they want to live their life and what they want to achieve in their life. We believe this is critical to the client being successful in the maintenance stage of the cycle.