Further aspects of drug use ambivalence

Since the release of my book Working with Drug and Alcohol Users a number have asked an interesting theoretical question. It relates to the diagram of drug use ambivalence.

drug use ambivalence  Jpeg

Drug use ambivalence

Problematic drug user


Why is it the Free Child that does not want to use drugs and the Adapted Child aspect of the personality that does want to use drugs?

There are six motivations to use drugs or alcohol. Only the last two are problematic and can cause some damage in the person’s life

Experimental use

Rebellious use

Recreational use

Situational use

Symptomatic use – problematic

Dependent use – problematic


My response is that the diagram shown above is for those who have problematic drug use. Those people who are using drugs in such a way that it advances some negative aspect of their life script. Those people who are using drug so that they suffer psychologically.

ciggie smoker

However there is quite a sizeable group (most people) who use drugs and alcohol in a non problematic way. They use drugs and alcohol such that their life script is not advanced and their relationships are not damaged in any significant way. The best example of this would be the recreational drug user who I discuss at length in the book. For this type of drug and alcohol user the following ego state diagram would probably be a better representation of the theory behind the recreational drug user.

non problem drug user Jpeg

Recreational drug user

As the drugs are not being used in a destructive fashion it would not be seen as a function of the Adapted Child ego state. Therefore one could put it as a Free Child activity. Also with this type of user there is little or no ambivalence as the drug use is not a problem and thus the person has little motivation to stop it.

Other ambivalence

With further consideration one can also formulate another kind of ambivalence where two ego states are in conflict about drug use. Some people and indeed certain groups think that drugs (and at times alcohol) are wrong. It is wrong or immoral to use drugs regardless of whether they harmful to the individual or not.

These views it could be said, reside in the Parent ego state thus making the following form of drug use ambivalence. The person would experience some kind of internal conflict. Two different aspects of the personality both want opposing things. In this case to use drugs and to not use drugs. This view can be found in some religious groups or temperance movements.

drug ambivalnce P to C Jpeg

Hydraulic theory of the personality

This diagram is sometimes referred to as the hydraulic theory of the personality. It represents the personality as a set of forces or energies that some times work in the same direction and sometimes not. In this instance they are not and the energy in the Parent ego state is in direct conflict with the energy in the Child ego state. This can then be used to explain how symptoms develop such as depression, anxiety and so forth. When the two forces collide there is another energy created which provides the basis of the symptom development.

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