What does substance misuse feel like and how can it affect me?
Different substances like alcohol, tobacco, legal or illegal drugs will naturally affect us differently. The same substance can also cause different effects for different people.
Aside from the effects of the substance itself, some of the feelings and effects of substance misuse can include:
- Experiencing a desire to escape your emotions by using the substance
- Prioritising your use over family, relationships, work or school commitments
- Feeling guilt and shame about your use, or your behaviour when under the influence, or afterwards
- Isolating yourself, or hiding your use from others
- Spending money on the substance even when you can’t afford it
- Making sure you never run out of the substance
- An inability to stop using the substance
- Feeling paranoid or manic.
“I would go to meals… alone; I would drink… alone. My mind was so hazy from all the drinking on top of what it already was that the days my brain just didn’t cooperate grew.”
Aside from the substance itself, the environment we’re in, and the way we’re feeling and thinking before we consume some substances can have just as big an impact on how they affect us as the substance itself.
For example, having a drink out with friends when we’re celebrating can leave us feeling very different than having that same drink when we’re on our own at home, and already perhaps feeling a bit down or lonely. We might find it harder to control our drinking or negative thoughts in that situation.
Substance misuse can create a range of physical effects too. They might include:
- Losing or gaining weight
- Not sleeping well
- Experiencing physical withdrawal effects like nausea or pain
- Experiencing cravings
- Panic attacks
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
If you notice any of these in yourself, remember there are things you can do if you’re experiencing cravings, some clear next steps to feel better, and long term strategies that work to manage substance misuse.
“Once you start taking it frequently, it becomes a physical thing. You need to have it to get through the day.”