Substance misuse

While each person’s experience with dependence or addiction is different, there are certain types of mental and physical symptoms of substance misuse that are important to understand. These symptoms will vary depending on your substance(s) of choice, how long you have been misusing the substance and your overall mental and physical health.

Certain drugs impact the mind and body differently than others, but regardless of your substance of choice, addiction will impact your life in negative ways and symptoms will worsen over time if effective treatment is not sought.

The following lists briefly describe some of the more common outcomes of substance misuse, but keep in mind that your experience may differ depending on your behaviour and circumstances.

Physical symptoms

  • sleep disturbances
  • unintended weight gain or loss
  • chronic fatigue
  • sinus issues or watery eyes
  • digestive concerns
  • skin rashes or breakouts
  • dental decay
  • heart and/or circulation problems
  • organ damage or failure

Mental symptoms

  • poor decision-making abilities
  • inability to concentrate or focus
  • confusion and disorientation
  • memory loss
  • powerful cravings for your substance of choice


When your substance of choice becomes your obsession, you will be unable to prioritise the things that were once important to you in the same way. Addiction can get in the way of success at work or at college/university, and can make it impossible to maintain healthy relationships with the people you care about. And sometimes, drug misuse can result in financial hardship and legal problems, depending on the substance involved

Break the cycle and get some help and guidance


Getting help for drugs

If you need treatment for drug addiction, you're entitled to NHS care in the same way as anyone else who has a health problem. With the right help and support, it's possible for you to get drug free and stay that way.


Where to get help for drugs

Your GP is a good place to start. They can discuss your problems with you and get you into treatment.

They may offer you treatment at the practice or refer you to your local drug service.

If you're not comfortable talking to your GP, you can approach your local drug treatment service yourself.

Visit the Frank website to find local drug treatment services.

If you're having trouble finding the right sort of help, call the Frank drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600. They can talk you through all your options.

Charity and private drugs treatment

As well as the NHS, there are charities and private drug and alcohol treatment organisations that can help you.

Visit the Adfam website to see a list of useful organisations.

Private drug treatment can be very expensive, but sometimes people get referrals through their local NHS.


Getting help for alcohol

If you're concerned about your drinking or someone else's, a good first step is to see a GP.

They'll be able to discuss the services and treatments available. 

Your alcohol intake may be assessed using tests, such as the:

As well as the NHS, there are a number of charities and support groups across the UK that provide support and advice for people with an alcohol misuse problem.

For example, you may want to contact:



Getting help at work

Drugs and alcohol abuse will probably be affecting you at work and may put yours and others health and safety at risk.

We would encourage you to speak to your manager about your problems so as they can offer support and guidance, but also assess your risk in the work place. Please see Occupational Health policy on substance misuse.

We would encourage your manager to make a referral to Occupational Health so we can offer advice and guidance to them as to how to support you.

You can also refer yourself to Occupational Health for guidance.

Contact us

Occupational Health Services

10 Parks Road

Oxford OX1 3PD

 01865 (2)82676


Opening hours

 Monday - Thursday: 8.30am to 1pm and 2 to 5pm

 Friday: 8.30am to 1pm and 2 to 4pm


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