Substance Misuse

What is substance misuse?

Substance misuse is when a substance is used repetitively in a way that is damaging – and it can also lead to dependence. Dependence happens when a person develops a tolerance for a substance over time and experiences withdrawal symptoms without it.

Our approach

If you are struggling with substance misuse, we will carry out a comprehensive assessment of your current needs. It’s important for us to understand whether you are experiencing psychological or physiological dependence.


A psychiatrist will typically oversee your treatment to determine whether you could benefit from taking medication as part of your treatment plan. We also place a significant emphasis on understanding the psychological roots of your substance misuse difficulties.


This will involve motivational interviewing to help us understand your commitment to change. From here, we will determine which type of psychological support you could benefit from, depending on whether you are looking to become abstinent or wanting to follow a reduction programme.

consultation taking notes

Examples of substances that are often misused include:

  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamines
  • Club drugs
  • Ecstasy
  • GHB
  • Ketamine
  • LSD
  • PCP
  • Nicotine

Frequently asked questions

You should seek support for substance misuse if you are finding yourself increasingly dependent on a substance (psychologically or physically). Physical dependency means that you are needing to take a substance at regular intervals throughout the day in order to not experience withdrawal symptoms. Psychological dependency would mean that you are reliant on it to manage daily life. You may be finding that your substance misuse is having an impact on your life, whether that involves your performance at work or your relationships with the people around you.
If you think you are struggling with physiological dependence, it is likely that you will need to detox from a substance and this is more safely carried out in an in-patient setting. If this is the case, we recommend speaking to your GP who will be able to discuss the options with you. Otherwise – and if you believe your dependence is more psychological – an assessment with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists will help determine the best next steps for you.

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Dr Stacie Tay

Dr Stacie Tay attained her BSc (Hons) Psychology at the University of Nottingham and worked as a psychologist at the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore, before returning to the UK to complete her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University College London.   

Dr Tay has worked in a variety of settings within the NHS for more than eight years, including primary and secondary care, specialist psychological services and forensic inpatient settings. She currently works as a Clinical Psychologist at the North East London Foundation Trust.  

She has extensive experience working with individuals and groups, providing evidence-based psychological therapies including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) and Mindfulness-based approaches as well as Schema-informed therapy.   

Dr Tay’s clinical experience involves working with people who present with a range of mild to severe mental health difficulties. This includes depression, anxiety (OCD, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, health anxiety, phobia-related disorders, PTSD), stress related issues, low self-esteem, complex trauma, interpersonal difficulties, grief and bereavement, and long-term health conditions.