‘Substance misuse’ refers to the harmful use of substances (like drugs and alcohol) for non-medical purposes. It includes substances like glue, petrol, caffeine and prescribed medication. People who misuse substances do it regardless of the consequences because they might enjoy the feelings they get, or they use substances as a way of escaping painful and distressing thoughts. Some substances, like alcohol and heroin, can be physically addictive so for people who misuse them regularly it can be extremely hard to stop – they need to do this safely to minimise harmful effects on their bodies.
Many people use substances from time to time – this is known as recreational use, and for most, there are no harmful effects. Longer term, regular misuse is known to cause a range of problems however, and can lead to the person being isolated from family and friends, being physically unwell, experiencing mental health problems, unable to maintain education/employment and becoming involved with the police if crimes are committed.
There are many different ways to seek help and support for substance misuse issues; take a look at the links at the side of the page for further information.