Commonly abused substances

Last week, the death of 27 year old British music artist, Amy Winehouse, was widely reported; drawing attention to her battle with addiction to drugs and alcohol, which she immortalised in the song ‘Rehab’.
The death of a public figure brings home to us, the harsh reality: that people can and do die from substance abuse and dependency. The dangers are there, not just for celebrities or the rich and famous, but for anybody who abuses or has an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
There are always mixed reactions and opinions when it comes to drug or alcohol related deaths; some focus on the ‘inevitability’ of the death, some make judgements, others look for ways of making sense of events; but how much thought is given to the process of addiction which leads a person to that tragic conclusion?

Addiction or ‘Substance Dependency’ is still commonly thought of as a ‘self inflicted disease’ or ‘moral problem’ which perpetuates the stigma associated with it and makes it harder for people to be understanding and sympathetic towards the sufferer. In reality, addiction is a complex health problem which affects both brain and behaviour and requires effective treatment and intervention to address.
The vast majority of people who experiment with drugs and alcohol do not set out to self destruct. Rather social status, peer pressure, curiosity, availability, thrill seeking, and emotion management are some of the factors influencing a person’s choice to use substances. Biology, genetics and environment all play a part in determining whether that person will become addicted, regardless of their race, gender, social class or interests. No single factor determines whether a person will become addicted to drugs or alcohol which makes it hard for most to people to say it will never happen to them or a member of their family.

It can be hard for others to understand why someone would continue to engage in damaging or life threatening behaviour and a common misconception is that ‘they could stop if they wanted to’. Moving from substance use, to abuse, and to dependency can be like crossing an invisible line and very soon control and choice is taken out of the equation as the substances begin to affect a person’s judgment, reasoning and emotional control.
Addiction can create feelings of helplessness, frustration, fear and depression; not just in the sufferer but in those around them. As well as providing individual counselling and treatment plans for the substance user, BOSASNet also offers much needed support to the loved ones of someone abusing or dependent on substances.

If you would like further information about substance use, dependency and addiction or you are worried about yourself or others, please contact BOSASNet on 395 9119 or 7265 9891; or visit

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