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Support for recreational drug and alcohol problems

Find support options for drug and alcohol problems, and for your mental health. Includes information on talking therapy, self-help groups and medication. 

It can feel hard to ask for help for drug and alcohol problems. This may feel especially difficult if you also struggle with your mental health. But there are ways to get treatment and support for both.

This page covers:

Addiction support organisations

Visit our page of useful contacts for drug and alcohol addiction to find details of organisations and services who offer support.

GP and specialist services

If you are looking for support with your drug or alcohol use, often the first option is to:

These services can discuss your drug use and how it is affecting you. They can also explain your treatment options, and refer you to a specialist for more support.

If you visit your local drug and alcohol service, they should assign you a key worker. This is likely to be a doctor, nurse or drug worker. They can make a care plan with you, and keep seeing you regularly to offer support.

Whichever service you use, they should discuss your options with you and take your opinions into account. They should do this before you start any treatment or support.

What is dual diagnosis?

A 'dual diagnosis' is when doctors diagnose you with both severe mental health problems and problems with recreational drug use. Having a dual diagnosis can help you access the support you need.

Visit Rethink's website to find information on getting help if you have a dual diagnosis.

Self-help groups

You might find it helpful to join a self-help group for your drug or alcohol problem. For example, Alcoholic Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

These groups can provide support with drug use and addiction. And they can help you find a community of people who have experienced drug and alcohol problems.

You can often join these groups yourself. But if you're finding it difficult to contact these groups, your GP or drugs and alcohol service might be able to help. Someone from a drug and alcohol service may also be able to attend your first meeting with you.

Sobriety has allowed me to tackle a lot of deep-rooted issues.

Contingency management

Drug and alcohol services may offer a programme called contingency management.

This programme offers incentives for positive behaviour with certain drugs. These are often to encourage you to stop or reduce your drug use. The incentives might include vouchers for food and other rewards.

You can speak to your local drug and alcohol service if you would like to know more about contingency management.

Talking therapy

Your GP or drug and alcohol service might offer you a talking therapy. This may include behavioural couples therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Behavioural couples therapy

If you are in a relationship, you and your partner may be offered couples therapy. This can help you and your partner work through any issues, including problems with drugs and alcohol.

It can also help your partner find ways to support you. In certain cases, you may be able to have therapy with a close family member.

If you are offered this therapy, it should be for at least 12 weekly sessions. You are only likely to be offered this if your partner or family member does not also experience drug problems.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Your GP or drug and alcohol service may offer you talking therapy to help with your mental health. This includes if you have stopped using drugs but still experience mental health problems.

If you experience depression or anxiety, they are likely to offer cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)CBT aims to help you change your behaviour by focusing on on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and actions.

Our pages on talking therapy and counselling have lots more information about different types of therapy, including how to access them.

I know it’s always going to be hard. Every time something goes wrong in my life, I am tempted to use. 

Medication and detoxification (detox)

If you have addiction problems with opioids such as heroin, your doctor or drug service might offer you a substitute medication. This will be another type of opioid drug that you take instead, such as methadone.

You might continue to take the substitute medication for a long period. This is known as 'maintenance' treatment. It can help prevent you experiencing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Or you might take the substitute medication for a shorter period, and eventually come off the drug completely. This is known as detoxification, or 'detox'. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has more information about opioid detoxification.

You can only access these substitute drugs with a prescription. You can speak to your GP or local drug and alcohol service if you would like to learn more.

This information was published in June 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

References and bibliography available on request.

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