Alcohol and Substance Misuse
Substance misuse (usually the abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs) is the excessive use of that substance.
It can lead to dependency. It results in physical or emotional harm and may be the cause of difficulties in relationships, at home and at work. With repeated use, “tolerance” develops so that a person has to take more of the substance to achieve the desired effect. Stopping using the substance may lead to a state of withdrawal with physical and psychological symptoms (66).
Substance misuse is a growing problem around the world. In the West, alcohol remains the most commonly misused drug because it is a key part of our social lives. In small quantities it may even have a beneficial effect on health. But alcohol dependence leads to potentially fatal physical illnesses, and to psychological and social difficulties such as increased rates of divorce, poor performance at work, increased traffic accidents, acts of violence or death from suicide (66).
Drug trafficking and dealing is a multi-million pound business. Illicit drug use is becoming more common, particularly among young people.
Drugs of misuse include opiates such as heroin, stimulants such as cocaine and crack, hallucinogens such as LSD, and cannabis. Drugs available on prescription from a doctor or bought in a chemist can also sometimes be misused, and long term tranquilliser use can lead to dependence. People may also misuse substances such as solvents and some glues. Drug use is linked with risks such as accidents while someone is intoxicated, overdose, or infection from sharing injecting equipment. Regular drug use is linked with a variety of bad effects, both physical illness, and psychological and social problems and can lead to criminal behaviour to pay for the drug habit (66).
What causes substance misuse?
The cause of substance misuse are unknown, but it is likely that several factors may be important. People with easy access to alcohol or drugs are at higher risk of becoming substance dependent. Young people with behavioural problems or who have not learned to deal with the stresses of life are more liable to misuse drugs. Peer pressure can be another factor. Alcohol misuse tends to run in families and there is evidence that genetic factors contribute to this. Nicotine addiction is an example of how prevalent an addictive behaviour can be and how much social influence can be brought to bear on the development of addiction. Once somebody has become alcohol or drug dependent, other life difficulties such as unemployment, poverty or homelessness will impair their ability to regain control over their addiction (66).
What treatments are available?
Health professionals can help to identify problem alcohol and drug use as early as possible. A person may not be aware that he/she is becoming substance dependent, but may seek help for some of the consequences of his/her alcohol or drug use (66).
Therapy can help you address the causes of addiction to help you stop your addictive behaviour (4). Counselling and psychotherapy may be provided via Skype and FaceTime in the comfort of your home, office or any place of your choice.