Where can I get help?

There are different kinds of help available for people who have problems with drugs or need advice and information. Below we briefly describe the different types of help that are available across the country.

Please see our Find a service page for directories of drug services in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Types of help

Telephone helplines

Frank offers a live chat facility on their website, email support, an SMS number – 82111 and a 24 hour telephone helpline – 0300 123 6600.

QUIT gives advice and support to give up cigarette smoking. Telephone 0800 002200. Email advice stopsmoking@quit.org.uk.

Families Anonymous provide help for families of drug users. Telephone helpline 0845 1200 660.

Release provide advice and help with legal issues.

Family doctors

The family doctor or GP is the cornerstone of health services in the UK. They should be able to offer help and advice on drug problems and on other health issues. They can give advice, sometimes prescribe substitute drugs (particularly for heroin users) and should have information on local specialist services.

Non-specialist young people’s advice & counselling services

These types of services exist in some areas. They do not specialise in drugs but they do specialise in working with young people. Colleges, universities, youth clubs or youth projects sometimes offer similar confidential services for young people. An organisation called YouthNet run an online service of this sort.

Hospital based drug services

These are usually for people who are heavy, long term drug users, particularly injecting heroin users. Many of these services can prescribe substitute drugs, especially to stabilise or bring people off heroin.

Treatments vary between different clinics. These services usually require a letter of referral from a GP, social worker, probation officer or local drug service.

Drug advice & counselling services

These give information and advice and offer counselling and other forms of support to drug users and/or their partners, family or friends. They usually offer simple advice over the phone as well as seeing people by appointment. Services offered vary from area to area.

  • Some services operate drop in services while others are only by appointment.
  • Some services meet people only at the project base while others will come out to meet clients in their homes or elsewhere in the community.
  • Some services have their own doctors who can prescribe substitute drugs. This service is mainly for heroin users and usually involves prescribing methadone either on a detoxification basis (reducing dose over a period of time) or sometimes maintenance basis (constant dose over a period of time until people are ready to give up).
  • Some services have syringe and needle exchange facilities.
  • Some services work with self help groups and rehabilitation centres.

The services are nearly always confidential – no one else outside their service will know you have been in contact. Until recently few such services have worked with young people under the age of 16. They usually have more experience of working with the 18 plus age range especially those who inject drugs like heroin. This is gradually changing and while some still only see under 16s with parental consent, many are now working with under 16s, without parental consent if necessary.

The names of these services vary. In some areas they are called Community Drug Teams or Drug Advice Services but often they have a name that is specific to the area they operate in.

Please see our Find a service page for directories of drug services.

Residential rehabilitation centres

These are for people with longer term drug problems, usually involving dependency. Users live in them for up to a year in an attempt to kick the habit. If there is no such facility in your area local people may be able to go to centres elsewhere in the country. Costs can be met through benefits although there are funding problems for these services. Information about them can be obtained through your local drugs advice service.

Please see our Find a service page for directories of drug services.

Self help groups for drug users, parents and families

These exist in many areas. Your local drugs advice service should be able to tell you what is available. You can also contact one of the following national organisations.

Narcotics Anonymous – this is a network of self help groups for drug users based on the Alcoholics Anonymous approach Tel. 020 7730 0009. Email helpline: NAhelpline@ukna.org

Adfam – a national charity for families and friends of drug users. They may be in contact with family support groups in your area.

Families Anonymous– Involved in support groups for parents and families of drug users in different parts of the country. Helpline 0845 1200 660.

Needle/ syringe exchange schemes

These are for injecting drug users – whichever drugs they use be it heroin, amphetamine, steroids or other drugs. They aim to ensure that drug injectors do not have to share injecting equipment and to limit the spread of HIV (the virus which leads to AIDS) and other infections such as hepatitis. Some have their own separate building, some are based within drug advice projects, some are mobile services which move around different areas and others operate from chemist shops or hospitals.

Some schemes include outreach workers who meet users in their homes or on the streets. They are confidential services. Users do not have to give their name. As well as giving out clean injecting equipment they also offer advice, information and access to health services.