Drugs and Alcohol

Treatments for drug and alcohol addiction

Treatment for drug or alcohol abuse can be accessed by going to your GP and is always confidential. Many GPs have expertise in treating addictions and some have specialist addiction nurses who work alongside them.
There are many different kinds of treatments available. Sometimes two or more kinds of treatments will be used together to help a person break their drug habit. It takes some people longer to recover than others and some do relapse (start drinking or taking drugs again), which means having to start treatment again.
Talking therapies
Talking therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are often used to help people talk through what has happened and how it can be fixed. Many people we spoke to, who had been offered counselling as part of their treatment, said it had helped. There were a few people though who didn’t like counselling and a few hadn’t liked their therapist.
Those who’d seen psychologists often found them very helpful because they seemed to understand the realities of people’s lives. Several participants stressed how important it was for them to feel that therapists, health professionals and youth workers could relate to them and understand their points of view.  
Drugs, Mental health and antidepressants
A few people who had used cannabis and other drugs for a long time experienced mental health problems including depression, paranoia or drug-induced psychosis.
Psychosis is a term used to describe a condition where a person loses touch with reality. They might experiences symptoms such as hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there) and delusions. Doctors might prescribe antipsychotic medication to help calm the mind and reduce abnormal thoughts. They can prevent people being overwhelmed by anxiety and insecurity. Antipsychotic medication can have a strong effect as it starts to work on slowing down the mind. A few people found it difficult to cope with. Harry described the medication he took as being ‘like a sedative’ because it calmed him down. Some said their medication made them feel ‘numb’. 
Cannabis and other drugs should never be taken when also taking prescribed antipsychotics or antidepressants because of the combination can risk intensifying the effects/side effects of both. Craig didn’t tell his doctor the whole truth about the drugs he used and thinks that may have put him at risk.
Treatment for heroin addiction
Getting off heroin takes time and motivation. Treatment usually involves being put on methadone or buprenorphine, as substitutes for heroin. The person takes a certain amount of this prescribed medication under the supervision of their community pharmacist. If all goes well the dose is slowly reduced and eventually stopped. Jim decided to stop taking heroin after being arrested. He joined a treatment programme and says it’s helped him to get his life back together. When we spoke to him he’d been on methadone for 18 months. He managed to reduce the methadone dose and feels that a positive frame of mind has helped him deal with the heroin cravings.
Learning new life skills
Some people talked about how coming off drugs meant learning to lead a different kind of life without taking alcohol or drugs to get them through the day. As they got better and were able to take control of their lives some people found their willpower and confidence returned. For example, Chloe needed personal development coaching as well as drug education.
See our resources section for links to further help and advice.
Last reviewed :July 2018.
Last updated: January 2015.


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