Drugs and Alcohol

Treatments for substance and alcohol abuse

Getting the right treatment and support for alcohol and/or drug use/addiction is really important for young people, and is probably easier to access than many think. Treatment is always totally confidential and going to your GP is usually the best way to get the right help. Many GP's have expertise in treating addictions and some have specialist addiction nurses who work alongside them. You can also call Talk to Frank online for advice and information. Another good place to start may be talking to a youth worker (see Resources section).
 
There are many different kinds of treatments available - counselling, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – ‘talking therapies’ – are often used to help people talk through what has happened and how it can be fixed. Sometimes two or more kinds of treatments will be used together to help the person break their drug habit. It takes some people longer to recover than others, and some do relapse which means having to start treatment again.     
Using cannabis and other drugs for a long time had left some people with serious mental health problems including depression, paranoia or drug-induced psychosis.
An antipsychotic medication can be prescribed to help calm the mind and reduce abnormal thoughts. Ariprazole is one of these but there are several and they are of similar effectiveness. They can prevent people being overwhelmed by anxiety and insecurity. Harry described the medication he took as ‘like a sedative’ as it calmed him down. Some said their medication made them feel ‘numb’.  
Anti-psychotic medication can have a strong effect as it starts to work to slow down someone’s mind, and a few participants found it difficult to cope with. Cannabis and other drugs should never be taken when you have been prescribed anti-psychotic or anti-depressants. Craig did not tell his doctor the whole truth about the drugs he used and thinks that may have put him at risk.   
Most people needed a combination of treatments, including counselling/psychotherapy to keep their recovery on track. Many had been offered counselling as part of their treatment, and many said it had helped. There were a few people though who did not like counselling and a few had taken a personal dislike to their therapist.
Treatment for heroin addiction
Getting off heroin takes time and commitment. Treatment usually involves being put on a treatment programme of methadone or buprenorphine (Opiate substitute medication). The person takes a certain amount of prescribed medication supervised by their community pharmacist. The period of supervision will vary but once the person stabilises and has established a relationship of trust with their doctor and pharmacist some fo the doses may then be unsupersvised. If all goes well the dose is slowly reduced and eventually stopped. Jim, a former heroin addict we talked to has so far taken methadone for 18 months since deciding to stop. Jim decided to stop taking heroin after being arrested; he joined a treatment programme and says it has helped get his life back together. He has managed to reduce the methadone dosage and feels that a positive frame of mind has helped him dealt with the heroin cravings.
Life skills
Some participants 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 will power and confidence returned. Chloe for instance needed personal development coaching as well as drug education.
Those who had seen psychologists 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.   
For more information and advice contact Frank and also see our Resources section. Addiction.org.uk, Release, DrugScope, Turning Point, NHS National Treatment Agency, NICE Guidelines about methadone. Another good place to start may be talking to a youth worker.
The Frank campaign was launched in 2003 jointly by the Department of Health and the Home Office, and provides young people and their families with information and advice about drugs, including health effects. (For more information see Homeoffice.)

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