Using alcohol and/or drugs often starts as a way of coping with difficult situations or feelings. Using helps you feel more in control and more able to manage.
The problem is that as you start to rely more and more on alcohol or drugs to help you feel better, you move from use to misuse, and drink and drugs start causing their own problems. You develop problems in your relationships. Your work or study suffers. You may get into trouble with the police or begin to have money problems. You might start to feel more overwhelmed. All of these things get worse as you continue to drink or use drugs, and so you drink and use more drugs to help you feel better, which results in making the problems even worse. At this point, you may begin to feel controlled by very strong cravings and/or physical withdrawals when you need to use.
Here are experiences that people who are misusing alcohol or drugs commonly describe:
How your body might feel:
If you’ve been drinking heavily over a longer period, then your body and brain adjusts to having that level of alcohol. This means that you’re becoming dependent on alcohol. If you suddenly stop without discussing this with your doctor it can be very dangerous and may lead to serious brain damage or death. If you’re experiencing serious physical withdrawals your body may react in the following way:
Thoughts you might have:
Feelings you might have:
Things you might do:
You might also wish to have a look at the simple screening tool developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that can help you identify if your drinking is putting your health at risk. The AUDIT is used internationally by medical professionals to check for alcohol harm, including dependence. You’ll find the AUDIT screening tool on the website of organisations such as Drinkaware, where you can take a confidential online self-assessment of your drinking.
If you recognise some of the experiences described above and you’d like to find out more about alcohol and drug misuse, have a look at the ‘Learn’ section of this website. You’ll also find some helpful tips and advice on managing your use of drugs and alcohol in the ‘Manage’ section.