Drug Abuse


Drug addiction is a chronic disease identified by persistent drug seeking and use that is difficult or impossible to control, despite the negative impact on a drug taker's life.

The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a 'relapsing' disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.

Treatment for drug abuse

This depends on your personal circumstances and what you're addicted to. A key worker will work with you to plan the right treatment for you.

Your treatment may include:

Talking therapies

Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), help you to see how your thoughts and feelings affect your behaviour.

Treatment with medicines

If you're dependent on heroin or another opioid drug, you may be offered a substitute drug, such as methadone.

This means you can get on with your treatment without having to worry about withdrawing or buying street drugs.

Detoxification (detox)

This is for people who want to stop taking opioid drugs like heroin completely. It helps you to cope with the withdrawal symptoms.


Some people find support groups like Narcotics Anonymous helpful. A key worker can tell you where your nearest group is.

Reducing harm

Your drugs workers will help you reduce the risks associated with your drug-taking. You may be offered testing and treatment for hepatitis or HIV, for example.

Visit the NHS website for more information about treatment for specific drugs, read:

Getting help

If you need treatment for drug addiction, you are entitled to NHS care in the same way as anyone else who has a health problem.

With the right help and support, it is possible for you to get drug free and stay that way.

Where to get help for drugs

Your GP is a good place to start. They can discuss your problems with you and get you into treatment. They may offer you treatment at the practice or refer you to your local drug service.

If you are not comfortable talking to your GP, you can approach your local drug treatment service yourself.

Visit the Frank website to find local drug treatment services.

If you're having trouble finding the right sort of help, call the Frank drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600. They can talk you through all your options.

Charity and private drugs treatment

As well as the NHS, there are charities and private drug and alcohol treatment organisations that can help you.


The national organisation campaigning for effective alcohol policy and improved services for people whose lives are affected by alcohol-related problems.

Drugsand.me is a social enterprise providing accessible and comprehensive drug education interventions to reduce drug-related harm. Parents’ page has a range of advice for parents and carers on how to tackle conversations with kids about drugs, useful links and a downloadable version of their toolkit.

DrugScience is an independent, science-led drugs charity, bringing together leading drugs experts from a wide range of specialisms to carry out ground-breaking original research into drug harms and effects.

Formerly DrugScope, DrugWise provides access to evidence-based drug, alcohol and tobacco information and resources, including an international knowledge hub.

National drug information service with fact files and FAQs.

Includes information on alcoholism, binge drinking and caring for someone with an alcohol problem.

Organisation providing free legal advice on drug issues, and a helpline - 0845 4500 215.

Support and guidance on parental drug and alcohol misuse.

Parents and families:

A set of informal self-help groups made up of people with a common interest in working through the problems that co-dependency has caused in their lives.

Are you affected by someone else's drug or alcohol addiction? Are you bereaved through drug or alcohol use? Contact their free helpline from 9am-9pm, 7 days a week on 0300 888 3853.

Provides help and support for anyone caring for a child.

Support for families and friends concerned about drug abuse or related behavioural problems.

Provide a ‘Family & Friends’ service. A trained volunteer will provide information and support via email and signpost you to local services.

Offer advice and relationship counselling for couples, and also provides advice for parents and other family members to help families deal with difficult times.

Work to improve support for families affected by substance use throughout Scotland

Grandparents and kinship carers:

The national charity which champions the vital role of grandparents, especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances.

Advice for parents and other family members whose children are involved with, or require, social services.

A voluntary organisation providing information about care and support for older people, their carers and families.

Children and Young People:

Provides films and practical approaches to help parents, teachers, social care staff and others with early recognition of potential mental health conditions in children.

Criminal Justice:

Promotes the just treatment of prisoners' families by the prison system and society across the UK.

The free and confidential national helpline for families of offenders, providing information and advice on all aspects of the criminal justice system.


Website with information and guidance for anyone that has lost a loved one through drugs or alcohol.

Private drug treatment can be very expensive, but sometimes people get referrals through their local NHS.