Substance misuse is the harmful use
of substances (like drugs and alcohol) for non-medical purposes. The term “substance misuse” often refers to illegal drugs. However, legal substances can also be misused, such as alcohol, prescription medications, caffeine,
nicotine and volatile substances (e.g. petrol, glue, paint).
Addiction is a physical and/or psychological need for a substance, due to regular, continued use. Some substances are highly addictive, others are less addictive. However, the symptoms of addiction are similar no matter which substance is used.
TYPICAL SIGNS OF SUBSTANCE MISUSE OR ADDICTION INCLUDE:
• Neglecting responsibilities and activities
you used to enjoy (e.g. work, family,
hobbies, sports, socialising)
• Participating in dangerous or risky
behaviours (e.g. drink driving,
unprotected sex, using dirty needles)
• Criminal problems (e.g. disorderly
behaviour, drink driving, stealing)
• Relationship problems (e.g. arguments
with partner/family/ friends, losing friends)
• Physical tolerance (e.g. needing more
substance to experience the same
effects, symptoms of withdrawal when
• Losing control of your substance use (e.g.
unable to stop using, even if you want to)
• Substance use takes over your life (e.g.
spending a lot of time using, finding/
getting drugs and recovering from
WHY DO PEOPLE MISUSE SUBSTANCES?
People use drugs and alcohol for many reasons. We might use substances to relax, have fun, cope with or escape a problem or dull emotional/physical pain. However, using substances to cope with problems or numb your pain doesn’t make the problems go away and can make them worse. Also, you might come to depend on drugs or alcohol as a way of coping, rather than seeking help and finding more positive strategies and solutions.
HOW DOES SUBSTANCE MISUSE AND ADDICTION AFFECT WELLBEING?
Substance misuse and addiction can have short and long-term effects on your:
• Physical health – e.g. nausea, sleep
problems, weight gain/ loss, infections,
accidents, chronic disease
• Mental health – e.g. depression, anxiety,
• Personal relationships – e.g. arguments,
• Work and financial situation – e.g. job
loss, debt, unemployment, criminal
For information visit:
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