Drug Misuse - What Are The Treatment Options?

Harm Reduction

Harm reduction services are mainly focused on preventing diseases passed on by contaminated blood (particularly HIV and hepatitis infections), preventing overdose and drug-related death. Harm reduction examples include:

  • Needle exchange services,

  • Safer injecting advice and support services.

  • Advice and information on preventing infections associated with drug misuse, particularly hepatitis A, B and C, and HIV (blood-borne viruses)

  • Testing, advice, information and counselling around hepatitis and HIV

  • Hepatitis A and B vaccinations

  • Treatment for hepatitis B, C and HIV infection

  • Overdose prevention services and reducing drug-related death

  • Client assessment and onward referral where appropriate

  • Community Prescribing

Structured Day Programmes

Structured day programmes run a set of activities for a fixed period of time (e.g. 12 weeks). Clients attend these services according to a set attendance level (usually 3-5 days a week), as set out in their care plans. There is a timetable of activities which will either be the same for everyone, or be set individually for clients according to their needs. Programmes often include group work, counselling, education and life skills, and creative activities and training.

alcohol treatment


Medically known as "assisted withdrawal" detox involves a stay as an inpatient. Most people using detox services are given medication to help clear their bodies of drugs. The inpatient treatment may also include stabilisation on substitute medication, emergency medical care for drug users in crisis, and possibly treatment for stimulant users.

Clients usually enter inpatient treatment through referral from community drug services. It is important that adequate support is made available to people leaving inpatient treatment as this can reduce the risk of relapse.

Residential Rehabilitation (Rehab)

Residential rehabilitation or rehab involves clients staying in a residential unit for weeks maybe months and a complete separation from their current social situation. Residential units normally offer a mixture of group work, counselling and practical and vocational activities. There are several types of residential rehabilitation providers:

  • Traditional rehab units,

  • Crisis intervention units - these usually offer a shorter stay

  • Residential treatment programmes for particular client groups

  • Supported accommodation, where some clients go to after rehab

As with inpatient treatment, clients will generally to refer by community drug services. People coming into rehab services will usually have often gone through detoxification before entering.


Aftercare is the support offered when clients leave structured treatment. The aim is to maintain the positive changes that clients have made in their treatment, and support them to return to normal life. Examples include support for housing, education, employment, general health care and relapse prevention.

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