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 cognitive, behavioural and physiological problems develop which 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, and 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 however 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, but any drug, including heroin, cocaine, crack and cannabis, comes into this category, as does the 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, including sociocultural, psychological, cognitive-behavioural, and biological factors.

Where to Access Help

Buckinghamshire has a number of services available for those affected by their own or someone else’s substance misuse. Please be aware that it is important to seek help to withdraw from alcohol if someone is alcohol dependent. This needs to be assessed by a professional in order to ensure that the correct intervention/medical intervention is offered. Please see the section ‘Where can I go for local help, support and advice’ for more information.

Last reviewed: 11/03/2021