Substance misuse refers to using alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications in a way they are not meant to be used. Substance misuse amongst young people can vary from experimentation, occasional social usage, through to dependency and addiction. Substance misuse, of any form, can have a detrimental impact on young people’s health, well-being and functioning.
Alongside peer group culture, expectations and norms, parental attitudes, and the examples that parents set regarding their own use of alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, and other substances, are a powerful influence on the decision making, attitude, and behaviour of a young person.
What you might notice if a young person is misusing substances:
- Not wanting to pay attention to things such as personal hygiene (eg, washing) or eating
- Not seeing friends as often, or doing other things they used to enjoy doing
- Not wanting to go to school/ college
- Sleep disturbance (difficulties getting to, or staying asleep, restless sleep, day/night reversal, or excessive sleeping during the day if awake at night)
- Finding drugs or drug paraphernalia (such as vapes, pipes, syringes, and scales)
- Erratic, changeable, or uncharacteristic behaviour and labile (changeable, up and down) emotional states
- A change in friendship groups
- Poor motivation and concentration which may impact on academic performance and achievements
- Poor physical health
Things that might help someone who is misusing substances:
- Acknowledge and understand your influence in role modelling attitudes, decision making, and behaviour towards alcohol and drugs. Encourage open discussions about substance misuse, including reasons why people enjoy certain activities (such as drinking alcohol) as well as the drawbacks, the dangers and consequences.
- Help young people to make safe and considered decisions which includes how to say ‘no’, and not give in to perceived or real peer pressure.
- Remaining open and curious to the lived and felt experience of the young person will help you both to better understand the drivers and rewards (factors which make substance misuse more likely) for the young person.
- Helping young people to develop an awareness and understanding of their substance misuse behaviour, and how this is having a detrimental impact on their wellbeing and/or functioning. Having open, non-judgemental, non-blaming/ critical conversations, sharing concerns and observations may be a starting point.
- This website is helpful if you are concerned about substance misuse in a young person; Click here
- This website is helpful if you are concerned about solvent abuse in young people; Solvent abuse advice and support
- This website offers information and advice about how speak to a young person about substance misuse; Children and drugs | NSPCC
- This website offers information, advice and support about substance misuse; We Are With You
- This website offers information, advise and support for families affected by drugs or alcohol; Family Advice
- This website is helpful for young people affected by a parent’s alcohol use; Nacoa
- Drinkline; A helpline for people who are concerned about their own drinking, or someone else’s. Open Monday-Friday from 9am-8pm, and at weekends from 11am-4pm. Freephone: 0300 123 1110
- If a young person is in crisis they can call 116123 or text YM to 85258 (free to call or text 24hrs a day 7 days a week)
- Share concerns with your child’s school/college and identify whether additional pastoral support is available
- Seek advice, guidance and support from Young Minds Parent Helpline: 08088025544