Substance Misuse

Reading Family Information Service

This advice and guidance page looks at substance abuse and the organisations that are available nationwide and locally to support individuals and families.

Next review date April 2024

What is substance misuse?

There is a difference between someone who uses substances, which include things like caffeine, alcohol and illegal drugs casually and someone who 'misuses' them. Misusing substances can affect people’s mental health, especially if they already have a condition.

It’s quite common for people to use legal drugs like caffeine, nicotine or alcohol without much thought. Use of such substances is generally seen to be socially acceptable and in some circumstances encouraged. The use of alcohol and/or drugs is usually considered ‘substance misuse’ when it starts to have a negative impact on a person’s functioning.

Substance misuse is defined as intoxication by, or regular excessive consumption of and/or dependence on substances that have an effect on the brain, which leads to social, psychological, physical or legal problems. The most commonly misused drug is alcohol.

The Lower-risk guidelines and advice on reducing alcohol consumption can be found by visiting: NHS - Better Health - Drink Less

Women & Men are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week, and to spread their drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.

How do drugs affect people?

Substances can be divided into broad groups with a range of effects:

Stimulants (uppers)
Stimulate and speed up the central nervous system and cause people to feel more alert and awake. Stimulants include cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy.

Depressants (downers)
Slow the central nervous system. They might make someone sleepy, reduce heart rate, and reduce pain. Depressants include alcohol and cannabis. Cannabis can also cause hallucinations.

Sedative-Hypnotics (anti-anxiety drugs)
Are available medically on prescription but can be abused by people for their relaxing and calming effect. Addiction, withdrawal and overdose can occur. Sedative hypnotics include benzodiazepines like diazepam (Valium) and Temazepam.

Opiates and opioids
Can cause euphoria and provide relief from pain. There is high risk of dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Opiates include heroin and morphine.

Volatile Substances
Can act as stimulants, but they are generally depressants. They include solvents like glue, aerosols and lighter gas fuel.

Can cause intensified sensations, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations and impaired judgement and reasoning. They include Ecstasy and LSD.

Generally speaking, drug misuse can be detrimental to people for three main reasons:

    • Someone could become addicted
    • The drug could cause someone physical or psychological harm
    • Drug misuse can have a negative impact on someone’s quality of life

NHS site listing addictions: NHS Livewell/ Addiction

Where to go to seek help?

Who should the person go to first?

GP: Make an appointment at your local surgery 

Alcoholics Anon Helpline 0800 9177650

Drink Line 0300 123 1110

UK Narcotics Anonymous 0300 999 1212

SOURCE - Young Peoples Drug & Alcohol Service : offers information and advice for young people under the age of 18 in Reading  who are using drugs or alcohol. Services include training, education, support, one-to-one work, family support sessions and support for children of substance using parents.

Change Grow Live ~ CGL Reading: first port of call for all drug and alcohol advice, referral and assessment in Reading for 18+ years. Come here to be assessed for all your needs. 

Arcade (Amethyst Resource Centre for Alcohol & Drug Education)'s aim is to present young people with positive choices for a healthy lifestyle. Young people are frequently presented with choices, from which TV channel to watch through to which GCSE options to choose. Choices related to drug and alcohol use can sometimes appear harmless yet prove to have serious consequences. 

Talk to Frank provides information about drugs including an A-Z of drugs, what to do if you're worried about someone and contact details so you can talk to someone in confidence. Tel: 0300 123 6600.

We are With You: (formerly Addaction) is a UK charity specialising in drug and alcohol treatment. Services are free and confidential. 

Adfam provides help for families of drug and alcohol users, find information, local support & helplines.

DrugFam Local support for families and friends affected by someone else's use or misuse of drugs or alcohol.

Al-Anon Family Groups provide understanding, strength and hope to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else's drinking. 

Alcoholics Anonymous UK is a network of independent self-help groups whose members encourage each other to stop drinking. First names only are used to preserve anonymity. The AA Helpline is 0800 9177650.

Drink Aware is a website offering information on sensible drinking

UK Narcotics Anonymous is a self-help organisation whose members help each other to stay clear of drugs. The UKNA Helpline is 0300 999 1212. 

Parent Channel TV is a great website from Family Lives, aimed at both parents, children and young people. It offers support and information on a huge range of topics from Learning and Education to Bullying and Healthy Eating. All information is provided via short film clips and different short films will be regularly featured on the website.

Related Advice

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Page last reviewed: 27/04/2023

Contact the Team

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