Substance Misuse

What is Substance Misuse?

Substance misuse refers to the use of psychoactive substances in a way that is harmful or hazardous to health. This includes alcohol and illicit drugs. The use of such substances can lead to dependency where problems develop, these problems can be:

  • cognitive, behavioural and physiological.

This results in a strong desire to:

  • take the drug
  • difficulties in controlling use
  • persisting in its use despite harmful consequences
  • a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations
  • increased tolerance
  • sometimes a physical withdrawal state. (WHO, 2017)

Substance Use, Misuse and Dependence

What is Substance use?

  • Use of alcohol or drugs occasionally without being addicted comes with the risk that it can lead to addiction.

What is Substance misuse?

  • Regular use of alcohol or drugs which may be causing issues in their life that may affect their job, personal life, or even their safety. People who misuse drugs and alcohol do it regardless of the consequences.
  • Alcohol dependence is the most common form of substance misuse. Any drug comes into this category, including:
  • heroin
  • cocaine
  • crack
  • cannabis
  • misuse of glue and aerosols

What is Substance dependency?

  • Also known as addiction. Symptoms of substance dependency include:
  • developing a tolerance for the drug
  • going through withdrawal symptoms without it and
  • struggling to cut back on it.

There are many factors that can influence whether someone is dependent or addicted to drugs or alcohol. This includes sociocultural, psychological, cognitive-behavioural, and biological factors.

Where to Access Help

Last reviewed: 09/09/2022