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Fact sheet

Treatment of substance misuse

How are people with substance misuse problems treated?

Depending upon the circumstances of individual cases, people may be referred to specialist local services by GPs, Social Services, or via the Criminal Justice system by organisations such as the Drug Intervention Programme.

Locally, people with substance misuse problems can receive support from statutory Drug Action Teams (DATs). DATs are virtual organisations, existing only as partnerships between local authorities and health trusts to jointly commission drug and alcohol treatment services. These teams are also sometimes called Drug and Alcohol Action Teams (DAATs), Alcohol and Drug Action Teams (ADATs) in Scotland, or Drug and Alcohol Coordination Teams (DACTs) in Northern Ireland. Typically, DATs or their local equivalent will support all substance misuse issues, including alcohol-related.1

So, if you are working with young carers for people with substance misuse issues, the care coordinator based within the DAT will be a good point of contact.

Treatments for substance misuse and addiction include:

  • Detox or detoxification to eliminate the harmful substances from the body
  • Substitute prescribing to ease a person off a drug - e.g. methadone to replace heroin
  • Harm reduction interventions designed to reduce the harm associated with substance misuse - e.g. needle exchanges, generic health check-ups
  • Psychological treatments including counselling, to address underlying reasons behind someone’s addiction or substance misuse problems
  • Residential rehabilitation programmes to offer a therapeutic environment away from a person’s normal circumstances to receive treatment and support2

There are also a number of local and national voluntary sector providers for people with substance misuse problems, their carers and children.

An example relevant to young carers would be the STARS National Initiative. This promotes Support, Therapeutic, Advocacy and Outreach Services (STARS) to children and young people aged 3 to 18 (not just young carers) who are affected by parental substance misuse. This encompasses national policy work from the Children’s Society and former Department for Education and Skills. Local STARS projects exist in Birmingham and Nottingham, with more to follow.

Visit the STARS National Initiative website for further information.

Similarly, the Core Trust offers the CoreKids services, encompassing parental support, family therapy and complimentary therapies to aid families and young carers in this situation.

Treatment of dual diagnosis – statutory responsibilities

Importantly, if a person has a dual diagnosis of substance misuse and mental health problems, the primary responsibility for their care and treatment lies with mental health services. This is outlined in the Dual Diagnosis Good Practice Guide produced by the Department of Health (2002):

Dual Diagnosis Good Practice Guide - DOH

Mental health teams therefore have the lead and responsibility for care for dual diagnosis patients and hence their carers as well (although the care coordinator may be based in another team). The guide also outlines that mental health teams and substance misuse services should work together in providing treatment for everyone with a dual diagnosis.

Directory of Substance Misuse Services:

The following directory of carers services across The Trust's network outlines where there are specialist services offered to substance misuse carers, including young carers:

Substance Misuse Carers Services Directory (35 KB)


1 Local Services and National Structures - Trust Guidance on Substance Misuse Carers

2 Dual Diagnosis Toolkit p.34, produced by Turning Point