Mental health and substance misuse – what you need to know this Mental Health Awareness Week

There are many reasons why a person might start misusing drugs or alcohol, including mental ill health.

This week (9th – 15th May) is Mental Health Awareness Week, a national initiative organised by the Mental Health Foundation, designed to raise awareness of mental health and encourage people to speak up.

As an accredited testing laboratory, trusted by members of the public, the legal sector, and the workplace sector to provide drug and alcohol testing, AlphaBiolabs understands how a person struggling with their mental health can sometimes turn to abusing certain substances to help them cope.

Whether they’re battling with prolonged pain that leads to a dependency on prescription drugs, or they’ve been through a traumatic life experience that has led them to drink heavily, there are all kinds of reasons why a person might start misusing alcohol or drugs.

In this article, we explore how mental ill health can lead to substance misuse, and the signs to look out for if you suspect a family member, friend or colleague might be battling a problem with alcohol or drugs.  

Mental health and substance misuse

According to a report by the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities, titled Adult substance misuse treatment statistics 2020 to 2021, nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of people in treatment for substance misuse also reported having a mental health treatment need, demonstrating a clear correlation between mental ill health and individuals turning to substances for support.

Although drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs might feel like the right decision when you’re struggling with mental health, many substances can make the situation worse.

Furthermore, certain substances can contribute to a person developing a mental health problem when they may not have had one before.

Every person’s body responds to drugs differently, and there are many factors that contribute to your experience of using drugs (including alcohol), such as where you are when you take them, how much you consume and your mental state at the time.  

Whatever a person’s reasons for taking drugs or drinking alcohol to excess, the fact remains that a dependence on drugs or alcohol can negatively impact a person’s day-to-day life in many ways.

This includes everything from creating financial issues and debt to the impact on personal relationships, all of which can make a mental health condition even worse.   

What are the signs that someone is abusing alcohol or drugs?

It’s important to remember that just because you suspect a person is abusing alcohol or drugs, it does not necessarily mean that they are.

Some of the signs and symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse can also indicate that they may be struggling with their mental health or another underlying medical condition.  

Whatever the real cause, if you have suspicions that a family member, friend, or colleague may be struggling with substance abuse, it’s important to approach the conversation from a position of concern, and not to be accusatory or judgemental.

Here are some of the signs you can look out for if you suspect that someone you know may be abusing drugs:   

  • Slurred speech
  • Persistent itching in one area of the body
  • Weight changes
  • Lack of interest in appearance or personal grooming
  • Mood swings
  • Reclusive behaviour
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or social events
  • Erratic or impulsive behaviour
  • Wearing clothes that cover the whole body, even in hot weather – this can sometimes be to hide signs of drug use

And here are some of the signs to watch out for if you are worried that someone you know is struggling with alcohol dependency:

  • Prioritising drinking above all else, even when it is having a detrimental impact on their daily life 
  • Lack of concentration
  • Reduced productivity, including at work 
  • Drinking at all times of the day such as the morning or lunchtime
  • Behavioural changes such as irritability, mood swings or uncharacteristically aggressive behaviour
  • Memory loss because of drinking
  • Risk taking, such as driving a car while over the limit
  • Weight changes

Where can I order a test for drugs and alcohol?

Whether you suspect a friend or loved one of drug or alcohol misuse, or simply need a test for other personal reasons, AlphaBiolabs can help.

We offer two types of at-home peace of mind drug and alcohol tests for members of the public: a Home Urine Drug Test Kit and a Drug and Alcohol Nail Test.

Available for just £18, our Home Urine Drug Test Kit is a fully self-contained urine screening kit, that tests for 14 drugs and their metabolites, with only a urine sample required. Results are available in five minutes.

Our Drug and Alcohol Nail Test allows you to test for drugs and alcohol, drugs only or alcohol only, with only fingernail or toenail clippings required.

Both tests are easy-to-use and can help put your mind at rest or enable you to seek the correct support for a loved one struggling with drug or alcohol misuse. However, as the name suggests, peace of mind tests are for your personal information only and results cannot be used for legal matters.

If you require a legally instructed drug or alcohol test for use in court, you can also explore our legal testing services.

For confidential advice on which test is best for you, call our friendly and discreet Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email

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Contact us today to speak to find out which test is best for you.