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Drugs, Smoking and Alcohol

Substance misuse is when someone's drinking or drug use becomes harmful or dependent. They might continue to drink or take drugs even if it puts them or others at risk of illness, psychological problems or physical accidents.

Dependent drinking or drug use is when someone craves alcohol or drugs and continues to use them even though it causes them social, health or even financial problems.

Some people use alcohol or drugs as a way of dealing with difficult feelings and emotions. These feelings could come from stressful, upsetting or abusive experiences or they might be linked to a mental health problem. But alcohol and drugs can make bad emotions feel even worse and this can have a negative impact on mental health. 


Drugs include illegal substances (eg heroin, cocaine and cannabis), misused household products (eg gases, glues and aerosols), some medicinal drugs and new psychoactive substances (aka so-called ‘legal highs’).  It is now illegal to supply ‘legal highs’ for human consumption.  Like many illegal substances, it is often unclear what they actually contain and they can be harmful; giving another person a psychoactive substance can put them at risk.

When you take a drug you are putting a substance into your body which makes you feel, think or act differently.  Drugs can affect your concentration and your mood; you might feel sad or happy and as a result do something you later regret eg have unprotected sex.  Taking any form of drugs can potentially be lethal and, as they affect everyone differently, there is a risk of overdosing even if this wasn’t intended.  Also, you can never be entirely sure what is in a drug and whether it has been mixed with another substance.

If you are worried about drugs, speak to a trusted adult or a member of the safeguarding team.

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Smoking is illegal under 18 years of age and it is also an offence to sell to, or buy tobacco products including e-cigarettes for, children under 18.

Tobacco contains nicotine which is an addictive substance.  There are thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke, these chemicals restrict blood flow to the skin.  The younger someone is when they start smoking the more damage to their body later.  By the mid-20’, someone who has started smoking at a young age will already have more wrinkly, baggy skin than a non-smoker.  Smoking also results in a range of health problems, including cancer.

If you have a worry relating to smoking, speak to a trusted adult or a member of the safeguarding team.

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Drinking alcohol has short and long term risks.  Alcohol enters the bloodstream really quickly and is then carried into all your internal organs, including your brain, and makes you feel drunk. 

Drinking alcohol negatively affects your usual good sense and judgement.  This means you might do something you later regret (which you might not remember as alcohol also affects memory).  You might hurt yourself (alcohol is also a painkiller and you might not realise you how badly you have hurt yourself until later), you might get into a fight or argument, you might put your personal safety at risk and you might have unprotected sex.

In the long term alcohol can damage your internal organs and is a factor in many types of cancer and life-limiting illnesses.

It is against the law for under 18 years to buy alcohol or ask anyone else to buy them alcohol.

If you have a concern about someone’s alcohol use, speak to a trusted adult or a member of the safeguarding team.

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