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  • People Needing Support
  • Friends/Family Needing Support
  • South Western Sydney Mental Health Directory
  • A South Western Sydney Mental Health Resource

    For Friends/Family

    Information About Mental Illnesses

    Substance Use Disorder

    Click on any of the buttons below to view more information

    Signs and Symptoms

    Substance misuse is the harmful use of drugs or alcohol for non-medical purposes. Often associated with the use of illicit drugs, legal substances can also be misused, such as alcohol, prescription or over-the-counter medication, caffeine, nicotine and volatile substances (e.g. petrol, glue, paint). Most people with a substance use disorder are using alcohol.

    Addiction is a physical and/or psychological need to use a substance, often caused by regular continued use. Some substances are more highly addictive than others. Some people are more likely to become addicted to a substance depending on mental, physical and lifestyle factors.

    Signs and Symptoms

    • Regularly or continued substance use to cope emotionally, socially or physically
    • Neglecting responsibilities and activities that are important or enjoy (e.g. work, study, family, hobbies, sports, social commitments)
    • Participating in dangerous or risky behaviours as a result of substance use (e.g. drink driving, unprotected sex, using dirty needles)
    • Relationship problems (e.g. arguments with partner, family, friends, or losing friends)
    • Physical tolerance – needing more of the substance to experience the same effects
    • Withdrawal – physical and mental withdrawal symptoms when you are not using the substance or needing the substance to feel “normal”
    • Losing control of your substance use – being dependent or unable to stop even if you want or try to
    • Substance use takes over your life (e.g. spending a lot of time using, finding or getting the substance and recovering from the effects)

    (Reference: Lifeline) 


    Substance misuse and addiction can be treated through counselling, medication, rehabilitation centres, self-help programs or support networks. You might need to try a number of options before you find what works for you – it’s important to keep trying.

    What you can do: 

    It is difficult to accept you have a problem and to ask for help. Be honest with yourself and others and get the help and support you need.

    1. Recognise when your substance use has become a problem – realising and accepting that you are abusing or addicted to substances is the first step to finding help.
    2. Get support – getting through this on your own can be difficult. Talk to friends, family, your doctor, other health professionals or a telephone helpline about your substance use.
    3. Investigate options for help – manage and treat substance misuse and addiction through counselling, medication, rehabilitation centres, self-help programs or support networks. You might need to try a number of options before you find what works for you – it’s important to keep trying.
    4. Find alternative coping strategies – if you are using substances to cope with life or escape personal problems, find other ways to manage the situation and deal with life’s stress and pressures. By dealing with other problems in your life you can make it easier to recover and not relapse.
    5. Deal with setbacks and keep going – Recovery can be a long and difficult road. Expect some setbacks and don’t focus on failures, focus on your plan and understand your triggers and how to best respond to them in future.

    (Reference: Lifeline)

    Who Can Help

    There are a number of Mental Health Professionals who can offer support. These professionals could include General Practitioners, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Occupational Therapists, Mental Health Nurses or Social Workers.

    Australian Drug Information Network (ADIN) is an online directory of Drug & Alcohol services located across Australia – Click here

    Australian Drug Information Service (ADIS) is a state-wide support, information, counselling and referral service for people who are having issues with alcohol or other drugs, concerned about someone else’s alcohol or other drug use, or just have general questions about alcohol or other drugs – Sydney Metro: (02) 9361 8000Regional & Rural NSW: 1800 422 599

    For Further Information

    Alcohol and Drug foundation 

    Your Room

    Lifeline – Substance Abuse & Addiction

    beyondblue – Alcohol and Drug Use

    beyondblue – Drugs, Alcohol and Mental Health

    National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre – Fact Sheets