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Drug misuse

If you have an addiction, you're not alone. According to the charity Action on Addiction, 1 in 3 people are addicted to something. Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you.

People from all walks of life can experience problems with their drug use, regardless of age, race, background, or the reason they started using drugs in the first place. Some people experiment with recreational drugs out of curiosity, to have a good time, because friends are doing it, or to ease problems such as stress, anxiety, or depression. However, it’s not just illegal drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, that can lead to abuse and addiction. Prescription medications such as painkillers, sleeping pills, and tranquilisers can cause similar problems.

Drug abuse and addiction is less about the type or amount of the substance consumed or the frequency of your drug use, and more about the consequences of that drug use. If your drug use is causing problems in your life - at work, school, home, or in your relationships - you likely have a drug abuse or addiction problem.

Some of the signs and symptoms of drug abuse can include:

  • Neglecting responsibilities (e.g. work, school or childcare)
  • Using drugs in dangerous conditions (e.g. using dirty needles or driving under the influence)
  • Legal problems (e.g. arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence or stealing to feed a habit)
  • Relationship problems (e.g. fights with your partner, family or employer)
  • Physical warning signs such as bloodshot eyes, changes in pupil size, change to appetite or sleep pattern, sudden weight loss or gain, lack of personal grooming, unusual smells on body or clothing, tremors, slurred speech or impaired coordination.
  • Behavioural warning signs such as engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviours or a sudden change in friends, hangouts or hobbies, unexplained financial problems and borrowing or stealing or a drop in attendance at school or work.
  • Psychological warning signs such as sudden mood swings, increased temper, unexplained personality changes, periods or hyperactivity, lack of motivation or being ‘spaced out’ or appearing fearful, defensive, anxious or paranoid.

Some of the signs and symptoms of drug addiction can include:

  • Your tolerance to drugs is higher, so you need more to gain the same effect
  • You use drugs to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms
  • Loss of control over drug use, and using more than you planned  Your life revolves around drug use
  • You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy
  • You continue to use drugs even though you know it’s hurting you


If you need treatment for drug addiction, you're entitled to NHS care in the same way as anyone else who has a health problem. With the right help and support, it's possible for you to get drug free and stay that way.

Speaking to your GP is a good place to start – they can discuss your problems with you and get you into treatment, which may be via the practice or a local drug treatment service. However, if you’re not comfortable talking to your GP then you can approach a local service yourself - search for local services using the NHS website which searches services by postcode/town.

There are also charities and private drug treatment organisations that can help you – visit the Adfam website to see a list of useful organisations.

Treatment options can include: 

North Yorkshire Horizons is a drug and alcohol recovery service provided on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council. Their aim is to help as many people as possible to recover from and be free from drug and alcohol dependency. They want to reduce the harm that is caused to individuals, families and communities.

Those who access the service will get their own worker, who will support and guide them. Everyone’s road to recovery is different and North Yorkshire Horizons know that. Those who access the service can get:

  • One-to-one support
  • Support in groups 
  • A health and well-being check including health screenings
  • Blood testing and vaccinations.

They look at underlying problems, at what sets people off and they help people cope with their emotions as they recover from addiction. The service can also provide substitute medication where appropriate and detox support in the community.

Action on Addiction provide life-saving treatment for individuals and families affected by all kinds of addiction including alcohol, drugs (prescribed and nonprescribed), gambling, gaming, sex and love, and some food-related disorders.

Adfam is a national charity tackling the effects of alcohol, drug use or gambling on family members and friends, aiming to improve life for thousands of people.

M-Alliance is a user led organisation, which provides advocacy, training and helpline services to those currently in drug or alcohol treatment, those who have accessed treatment in the past and those who may access treatment in the future.

Narcotics Anonymous is a non-profit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. They are recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. This is a program of complete abstinence from all drugs. There is only ONE requirement for membership, the desire to stop using.

Release is the national centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law. The organisation, founded in 1967, is an independent and registered charity. Through their services the team provides free non-judgmental, specialist advice and information to the public and professionals on issues related to drug use and to drug laws.

Talk to Frank provides honest information about drugs, including how find local drug treatment services and a drugs helpline (0300 123 6600).

Turning Point is a leading social enterprise, providing health and social care services in over 300 locations across England. They work with people who need support with their drug and alcohol use, mental health, offending behaviour, unemployment issues and people with a learning disability. They aim to inspire and empower them to discover new possibilities in their lives.

We are With You provide free, confidential support to people experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health or for those who are concerned for someone else.