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Substance Misuse

What is Substance Misuse?

The World Health Organisation defines Substance Misuse as: “the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs”.

The long-term misuse of drugs and alcohol can have profound effects on our physical and mental health, and it is often difficult to address due to the addictive nature of the substances as well as societal pressures and the normalisation of some types of substance misuse.

Alcohol misuse includes excessive and harmful drinking and alcohol dependence.

Drug misuse involves the regular and/or excessive consumption of psychoactive substances. In England and Wales, the most commonly used drugs in England are thought to be:

  • Cannabis
  • Powered cocaine
  • MDMA
  • Ketamine
  • Amphetamine

For more information, please see United Kingdom drug situation 2019: summary - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Substance misuse can be associated with many other difficulties including:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Aggressive or violent behaviour
  • Depression and other mental health difficulties
  • Homelessness
  • Financial problems
  • Family breakdown
  • Unemployment
  • Involvement in criminal activity

How are we tackling substance misuse in Wiltshire?

In 2021, the government produced its National Drugs Strategy , “From Harm to Hope”, a 10 year plan to cut drug-related crime and save lives.

Wiltshire’s Community Safety Partnership are working to delivery this strategy at a local level in Wiltshire, looking at substance misuse as a health-related concern and the wider role society plays in preventing people from becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs, as well as reducing substance-related crime.

The wider impact on people’s lives is why is it so important to ensure that there is support available for those who want it, and their families. Below is a list of commissioned drug and alcohol services which are available to residents in Wiltshire who want help with their alcohol and/or drug use.

Synthetic Opioids

Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council Public Health teams held a webinar on synthetic opioid preparedness. As a result, in the decrease of heroin supply across the UK, we are seeing synthetic opioids being added to the drug supply chain to increase the potency of low-quality heroin.  Since June 2023, there have been more than 100 drug related deaths involving Nitazenes a powerful synthetic opioid across the UK, with at least 40 more cases awaiting further analysis.  Synthetic opioids are man-made drugs that mimic the effects of natural opioids (such as opium or heroin) but can be much more harmful.

 The webinar covers: 

  • Synthetic opioids – the background and what the emerging threats are. 
  • The national response and risk mitigations 
  • The local risks and response 
  • The Wiltshire and Swindon Local Drug Information System 
  • Harm reduction information and approaches 

The webinar can be viewed here

Where can I go for help?

If you or someone you know is drinking too much or deeply involved in drug misuse, it can be very worrying. The COVID-19 pandemic has added many extra pressures to people’s lives and substance misuse services have seen an increase in people coming forwards for support. There are many places in Wiltshire which offer help for substance misuse, and their families:

  • Connect: Wiltshire Substance Use Service working with residents of all ages, offering support and education to people who want to address their substance use, offering support to the wider family network too. This support is free and confidential and can be delivered either in hub or in the community whilst maintaining high levels of confidentiality.
  • The Wrap: an online platform for young people 18 and under, by South West based charity - Developing Health Independence (DHI)
  • Wiltshire Council’s website provides more information on substance misuse, and where you can go for support. You can also complete a confidential self-assessment if you are concerned about how much you or someone else is drinking.
  • Talk to Frank: a straight-talking website with information on types of drugs, the impacts and where you can go for help