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Alcohol and substance misuse


Alcohol misuse means drinking excessively - more than the lower-risk limits of alcohol consumption.

To find out how risky your drinking is, you can take a free, confidential test at Drink Coach.  You can also get guidance from  an alcohol treatment specialist or download the app to help you reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.

For more information about the health risks of drinking too much alcohol, visit the NHS website.


Drug misuse can be harmful to your health in both the short term and long term, and could possibly lead to addiction.

For more information about the health risks of using drugs, visit the NHS website.

Needle exchanges

Sharing or reusing needles can cause serious problems for people who inject drugs. Needle and syringe exchanges provide advice, information and clean equipment to people who need them.  To find your nearest service visit the Open Road website. 

Where to go to get help and support in Essex

If you feel you're having problems with drinking, drug use, or addiction, or you're worried about someone else's drug or alcohol use, there are many ways to get help and support.

Visit your GP

If you are worried about your alcohol or drug use, you should discuss your concerns with your GP.  Your GP can assess the nature of your problem and help you choose the most appropriate treatment

CHOICES (Open Road)

The first point of contact is CHOICES, run by Open Road. CHOICES is a free and confidential service to support anyone affected by drugs and alcohol, whatever their age or circumstances.They provide a range of services to individual and their families in Essex.

You can contact them on:

Phone: 0844 499 1323

For further advice or to find out more about the services they provide, visit the Open Road website.

Find a local support group

The following organisations all provide free confidential advice and support and have local support groups/meetings:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous is an organisation which allows people who have problems with alcohol use to support each other, stop drinking, and to stay sober.
  • Al-Anon offers support and understanding to the families and friends of problem drinkers.
  • Alateen is part of Al-Anon, but is for young people aged 12-17, who have experienced living with someone with an alcohol problem.  By attending meetings, young people gain an understanding of the illness and feel the benefits of realising they are not alone.
  • The Frank website offers a wealth of information and confidential advice on all types of drugs.  You can also use their postcode lookup to find out where to go for support in your area.

Support for young people in Essex

The first point of call for young people in Essex is also CHOICES.  See their contact details above.  You can also find information on the Essex Young Peoples Drug and Alcohol Service (EYPDAS) website. 

Healthwatch Essex provides useful information in their guide to health and well-being for young people. Further information can be found in their A-Z guide on The Truth about Drugs

Supporting someone with a substance misuse problem

Are you worried that someone you know is using drugs or drinking more alcohol than they should?  As well as trying to support them, you may need some help and support yourself. The following organisations provide free confidential advice and meetings locally:

  • Adfam is an organisation providing support to families affected by drug or alcohol use
  • Al-Anon Family Groups offer support to anyone whose life is affected by someone's drinking
  • Families Anonymous is a world-wide fellowship of family members and friends affected by another's abuse of mind-altering substances, or related behavioural problems. 

Mental health and substance misuse

When someone with a mental health problem also misuses drugs or alcohol they are said to have a 'dual diagnosis'. People with a dual diagnosis often need additional support.

The first step would be to talk to your GP.   

If you do not feel confortable talking to your GP, you could also contact the Adult Mental Health and Wellbeing team at Essex County Council.

Alternatively contact Futures in Mind, who provide support with recovery and peer support from mental health problems and/or substance and alcohol misuse in Essex.

Learning disabilities and substance misuse

Here are some easy read guides for people with a learning disability:

Guide to common drugs (PDF, 659KB) - A leaflet by Cambridgeshire Drug and Alcohol Action Team

Understand more about the effects of alcohol  - A series of leaflets by Easy Health

National organisations that offer support

  • Addaction is a UK wide treatment agency, helping individuals, families and communities to manage the effects of drug and alcohol misuse.
  • Alcohol Concern provides general information about alcohol, and can help put you in touch with your nearest alcohol advice centre.
  • CGL (Change Grow Live) is a charity working with individuals, families, and communities across England and Wales who are affected by drugs, alcohol, crime, homelessness, domestic abuse, and antisocial behaviour.
  • The Counselling Directory is a national database of counsellors and psychotherapists who are members of a recognised professional body. They also have a section about Alcoholism.
  • Cocaine Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences, strength, and hope with each other so that they can solve their own problem, and help others to recover from their addiction. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using cocaine and all other mind-altering substances.
  • Drugs-Meter tells you how your drug use compares to other people just like you.
  • Narcotics Anonymous is a non-profit society of men and women for whom drugs have become a major problem. The society is made up of recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean.
  • SMART Recovery (SMART) is a science-based programme which helps people manage their recovery from any type of addictive behaviour, including an addiction to alcohol.
  • Turning Point provides a variety of services to support people with substance misuse problems to recover.
  • Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. If you're worried about your own or someone else's drinking, you can call their free helpline.
  • Drinkaware  is a national independent charity providing a wealth of information and tips on reducing alcohol consumption and drinking sensibly.
  • The NHS website provides advice and information on alcohol and offers a database of support and treatment services
  • Samaritans provide confidential non-judgemental support 24 hours a day for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
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