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Why do people use drugs or alcohol?

People use and misuse drugs and alcohol for a lot of different reasons.

Although there are risks associated with drug and alcohol use, most people who use them will not go on to become dependent or cause harm to themselves or anyone else. Many people use drugs or alcohol recreationally or experimentally, and although it may be frightening or alarming, particularly as a parent, it does not usually develop into a more serious problem.

A small percentage of people will move on from experimental use to more regular use, and may become dependent on, or addicted to, the substance.

What does dependency mean?

Dependency, or addiction, is when someone no longer has total control over their drug or alcohol use. An individual can develop a physical dependency on alcohol and some drugs, such as heroin, or prescription medications.  This means they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not drink / use drugs. Many other drugs are not physically addictive, but can be just a psychologically addictive, such as cocaine or amphetamines.

When someone has developed an addiction, this can have a detrimental effect on the individual’s life and their relationships. Families and friends are left feeling confused, frustrated, helpless, stressed and angry about how the person’s addiction is impacting on their lives.

What can I do?

Finding a balance of providing support, and looking after yourself can be difficult, but there are many people in the same situation, and there is plenty of support available. Use the links below to find out what you can do, and where you get support.