What is meant by recovery?

Recovery means different things to different people but can generally be thought of as a process of improved physical, psychological, and social well-being and health after having a substance-related problem. It may or may not involve abstinence from that substance.

In January 2021, Dr Day produced the first UK Government Recovery Champion – Annual Report This document gives a helpful and comprehensive overview of the Recovery system in the UK. In it Dr Day states:

The concept of ‘recovery’ involves more than just control over substance use. It requires
better mental and physical health, but just as importantly it involves the development of a
meaningful life. Recovery is a process that often takes time to achieve and effort to
maintain. Medical interventions and professional treatment services only form one part of
the total picture, and I believe that the creation of a ‘Recovery Orientated System of Care’
(ROSC) offers the best chance of helping people move out of addiction. A ROSC involves
an equal partnership between ‘professionals by training’ and ‘professionals by experience’

One of the reports conclusions is that an ideal system of care blends both professional treatment services and peer-led recovery support, i.e. treatment professionals and people with living and lived experience of drug addiction.

Getting help

If you need treatment for drug problems, you’re entitled to NHS care in the same way as anyone else. Many people start by approaching their GP who can then refer them into treatment. Treatment may be at the GPs practice or at a local drug and alcohol service. It is always possible to contact the drug service direct, without going through a GP. The Frank website has a directory of Drug treatment services and the Frank drugs helpline (0300 123 6600) can give information on the different types of service available. Private treatment is also available but can be very expensive unless you get a referral through the NHS.

Once you are registered with a service they will talk you through your options and agree a treatment plan with you. You’ll also be given a keyworker, who will support you throughout your treatment.

Treatment types
Treatment depends on personal circumstances and may include a number of different strategies:

Talking therapies
Talking therapies, such as 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, 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 opioids like heroin completely. It helps you to cope with the withdrawal symptoms.

Some people find support groups like Narcotics Anonymous helpful. Your keyworker can tell you where your nearest group is.

Reducing harm
Staff at your local drug service will help reduce the risks associated with your drug-taking. For example, you may be offered testing and treatment for hepatitis or HIV.

Residential rehabilitation
Some people find the best option is to stay in a dedicated service.

Updated October 2021