Alcohol & Substance Misuse

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About Alcohol & Substance Misuse

Alcohol misuse includes harmful, hazardous and dependant drinking. It essentially means drinking to excess which may affect you health and wellbeing.

We often talk about alcohol consumption in units. It is important to be aware of what a unit of alcohol is. Otherwise is is easy to drink harmful without being aware of this.

Examples of units of alcohol contained in standard drinks

One small glass of wine (abv 12% , 125ml) -1.5units
One pint of lower strength beer (abv 3.6%)- 2 nits
Small single shot of spirits(ABV 40%)- 1 unit 
It is recommended that men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. If drinking this amount it should be spread over at least 3 days. 


We commonly use a short questionnaire to screen people for alcohol misuse/dependence.

If a person answers yes to two or more of the following questions the possibility of alcohol dependence should be looked into further 

  • Have you ever felt you needed to cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about drinking?
  • Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

Alcohol dependence can often led to issues such as anxiety and alcohol related depression. People who drink excessively on a regular basis may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking such sweating and shaking. Acute alcohol intoxication puts people at risk of personal injury(e.g. head injuries).

Long term alcohol abuse puts your health in serious danger. Effects include liver damage, increased risks of strokes, heart disease , liver and bowels cancer and pancreatitis

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Alcohol can be both physically and psychologically addictive.

Sometimes people can have a family history of alcohol dependence. This may be partly genetic but is also influenced by your family's attitude to alcohol and the environment you grow up in. 

Using alcohol to deal with stressful events, such as bereavement or losing a job, can also trigger heavy drinking, which can then lead to alcohol dependence.

The treatment depends on the severity of the problem. 

-Counselling and CBT are often helpful

-Medication is sometimes used. Medications may aim to decrease your cravings for alcohol. These are used in combination with psychological therapies. These medications are specialist prescribed.

-Detoxification is required for those with regular high alcohol consumption. They need to be monitored by specialist services during this period.

Prevention is always better than a cure. If you feel you are drinking too much, it is advisable to try to cut down your alcohol intake . If your find it difficult to go several days with out alcohol, this is a sign you may becoming dependent on alcohol. People often self medicate with alcohol when they are feeling low or anxious. However alcohol is a depressant in itself. It may make you feel better in the short but will exacerbate these problems in the longer term. Speak to your doctor if you feel you may be drinking to much.

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