Explore By Topic: Substance Misuse

Your discussions about drugs and alcohol can affect people grappling with substance misuse, whether personally or through someone they know. By carefully considering how you communicate those narratives, you can minimize harm and promote resources and messages of hope.

Need to Know

Substance misuse is when someone uses drugs or alcohol in a way that is unhealthy, harmful or illegal, often leading to negative consequences for their health, relationships, and overall well-being.

Substance misuse encompasses illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin, as well as inappropriate use of legal substances such as prescription pills or excessive alcohol consumption.

According to recent research, almost 17% of Americans over 12 years of age deal with substance misuse annually.

It’s important to recognize the signs of substance misuse, such as changes in behavior, physical health issues, neglecting responsibilities, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

It’s essential to distinguish between sharing experiences related to casual use versus substance misuse, which can have serious health, legal, and social consequences.

Substance misuse can stem from various factors, including mental health issues, peer pressure, stress, and trauma.

Treatments for substance misuse vary and can include therapy, support groups, and, in some cases, medication-assisted treatment.

Things to Avoid

Avoid glamorizing or trivializing substance use.

Refrain from sharing content that could be interpreted as encouraging or promoting substance use.

Be cautious not to diagnose others or suggest that someone has a substance misuse issue based on limited information.

Steer clear of sharing explicit details about substance use that could trigger others or provide a how-to guide for substance misuse.

When discussing recovery, avoid endorsing specific treatment centers or medications without acknowledging that recovery is personal and what works for one person may not work for another.

Your Opportunity

Encourage open and honest dialogue about the challenges of overcoming substance misuse, and emphasize that seeking help is a courageous and admirable step.

Share personal stories of recovery and resilience to inspire others and reduce the stigma associated with substance misuse.

Highlight the warning signs that may indicate problematic levels of drug or alcohol use.

Highlight the importance of self-care and healthy coping mechanisms, and remind your audience that those practices can vary from person to person.

Provide resources and information for your followers who may be struggling with substance misuse or seeking ways to support loved ones.


Mental Health Media Guide

Get more tips on telling stories involving drugs or alcohol in the Mental Health Media Guide.

The Jed Foundation →

Visit the JED Mental Health Resource Center to learn more about substance misuse.

Dial 988 Hotline →

Dial 988 for a free conversation with a trained counselor 24/7.

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