Advice now

I’m using drugs. What’s the problem?

Think about your answers to the following questions as honestly as you can:

Is your drug use affecting your health?
Is your drug use affecting any relationships in your life?
Is your drug use leading to problems with the police?
Is your drug use affecting you or someone close to you financially?

If your answer is yes to any of these questions then we can help you. We provide immediate advice, information and support for any one experiencing problems with drugs or drug-related issues. We are open seven days a week and provide a confidential drop-in service where you can talk to a trained member of staff regarding any issues that concern you. If you do not feel ready or able to come and see us then you can call our helpline, e-mail us or read on for further advice.

I want to stop using drugs. Where do I start?

It is important to think about reducing or stopping your drug use in three stages:

  • Planning to come off
  • Coming off
  • Staying off

Planning to come off

The more you can plan for coping without the drugs you have been using, the more successful you may be when it comes to staying away from drug use in the long term. At the planning stage it is important to consider the type of drugs you have been using and whether or not it safe to just stop using them. Some drugs, such as benzodiazepines and alcohol, may require a medical intervention and it could actually be dangerous to stop using them suddenly. If you have any doubt, it is important that you seek specialist advice.

Another factor to consider is whether or not you have had any previous experiences of stopping or cutting down your drug use. If so, this could be helpful in determining what has worked for you in the past and what hasn’t. This could include what makes you feel most comfortable (particularly if you are thinking of a detox), whether or not you would prefer company and whether or not you would prefer the support of family and friends.

It may be helpful to set a date to stop (or start to cut down) and stick to it. Sometimes having several small steps to work towards is more realistic than a few big steps. Everyone is different so think about what might work best for you. Some people plan to leave their home environment to cut down or stop using drugs. While this can be a useful thing for some, it is important to consider whether you are going to come back at some point and what situation you may be returning to. Getting rid of any potential triggers for use (e.g. drug paraphernalia, pipes, straws, foil etc.) can also be helpful.

Other factors to consider at the planning stage are:

  • How much are you currently taking and when are you taking the drug? This can be important as it may be easier to begin by cutting out use in the middle of the day rather than first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
  • How are you taking the drug? If you are injecting drugs then moving away from injecting to using another method can be a positive first step sometimes.
  • Are you using more than one drug, including alcohol, within the same day? If so, think about what would be best to reduce or to stop using first.
  • Are you using alone or in a social situation? This is important when considering how easy it may or may not be to complete a detox.

Coming off

It is important to look after your physical and mental well-being during the coming off stage.

Eat what you can when you can. Sometimes large meals are more difficult to contemplate, or even digest, so try to have regular snacks, including fruit and vegetables. Soup can also be a practical and healthy option. It is important to keep well hydrated and to drink plenty of fluids. You should try to avoid alcohol if possible. It can sometimes feel like alcohol helps you to sleep. However, as well as dehydrating your body, alcohol can also put extra pressure on your major organs and ultimately prolong your detox.

It is helpful to get some advice on the ‘expected’ symptoms of coming off whatever drug(s) you may have been using.Not everyone will experience the same symptoms or to similar degrees but it can be reassuring, even if it is still very uncomfortable, to know that any symptoms you experience are not unusual and that they will eventually pass. There are also a variety of natural and over-the-counter medicines that other people have found helpful in dealing with any withdrawal symptoms they experience.

It is important to look after your mental well-being during the coming off stage. Common issues people face during this stage are possible sleep problems, an increase in anxiety and the return of strong emotions. If you can deal with any other issues such as housing, debt, personal and relationship problems or health issues before you start this stage it can help you deal with new emotions and potentially reduce some of the anxiety, benefiting your sleeping patterns in turn.

For some people, the thought of coming off a drug completely may be too much and they may prefer to consider a substitute prescription: for opiate users, for example, this may be methadone, suboxone or subutex. Medical supervision is required for these medications but, for some people, they may provide a route away from uncontrolled drug use with its associated risks.

Staying off

When it comes to staying off drugs, working out strategies for dealing with certain situations and the support you may need for this can often be the key to success. It can be a good idea to plan what you would say if you met someone you knew from using in the past. This can be as simple as having a ‘reason’ not to stick around and chat to them.

It is important to remember that craving drugs can be a normal part of the staying off stage, particularly immediately after you have completed the coming off stage. We all get cravings for different things from time to time. The important thing to remember is that although the craving to use drugs again can be strong, it will pass if you deal with it effectively.

Another good tip is to identify what makes you feel like you want to use drugs. These are known as triggers. If you can identify these triggers it can make it easier to avoid them or deal with them more effectively. Some triggers could include seeing needles and syringes or other drug paraphernalia. Another could be stress at having to deal with official letters, family issues or a relationship. Ask yourself how you can avoid these triggers. If you can't avoid them then try to work out how you can deal with them more positively.

Some people find support groups, activity groups or one-to-one support useful during this stage.

I’m worried about someone else’s drug use. What can I do?

Having a family member who has a problem with drugs can have a huge emotional impact on the whole family. It can be very difficult to cope in these situations. Often the person using drugs has to want to stop and may not accept what appears to be 'common sense' advice from a concerned family member or friend.

Some people find it helpful to talk about these issues to someone outside the family. You can do this by contacting us via our helpline, e-mailing us or dropping in to see us. It can also be helpful to join a family support group, much like the one we have at Alcohol & Drugs Action. This can give you the opportunity to meet others who are going through or have been through similar experiences and you can discuss your concerns and share ideas with them.

It can also be useful to ask yourself what you can and cannot do for the person that you are worried about. Some people want to provide support but feel uneasy about giving money that might be used to buy drugs.  Perhaps it may be easier for you to offer food or credit for gas/electric instead.

Sometimes the language used when talking about drugs can be frightening and confusing. Workers at DA are more than willing to answer any questions or queries you may have regarding this via the helpline, e-mail or in person.

The ADA Family & Friends Support Group has compiled the following list to help those who are trying to cope with someone else’s drug use. They deliberately used the terms ‘try to' and 'try not to’ - they recognise that these things can be easier said than done. It is important that you are not too hard on yourself if you are in this situation.

Try to:

  • Keep calm
  • Find out facts about drugs
  • Listen to the drug user and try not to judge them
  • Use telephone helplines
  • Speak to the drug user about drugs
  • Talk about health
  • Be supportive to the drug user
  • Encourage and support the drug user to have a daily routine
  • Set realistic ground rules e.g. limits on use of your phone, who visits your home and any drug use in your home
  • Try to keep the family unit together
  • Try to get on with your own life
  • Look after yourself
  • Ask for help
  • Choose a friend or two (usually no more) for regular support
  • Get regular support from an Alcohol & Drugs Action worker or a Family & Friends Support Group
  • Be positive

Try not to:

  • Panic
  • Over-react
  • Shout
  • Fight
  • Criticize or be suspicious
  • Use terms like ‘junkie’ or ‘druggie’
  • Always label the person as a drug user
  • Mention drugs all the time
  • Break the ground rules
  • Do everything for the person using drugs
  • Let it take over your life
  • Blame yourself or feel guilty
  • Be ashamed and keep it a secret

 

I’m drinking. What’s the problem?

Think about your answers to the following questions as honestly as you can:

Is your drinking affecting your health?
Is your drinking affecting any relationships in your life?
Is your drinking leading to problems with the police?
Is your drinking affecting you or someone close to you financially?

If your answer is yes to any of the above then we can help you. We provide immediate advice, information and support for any one experiencing problems with alcohol or alcohol-related issues. We are open seven days a week and provide a confidential drop-in service where you can talk to a trained member of staff regarding any issues that concern you. If you do not feel ready or able to come and see us then you can call our helpline, e-mail us or read on for further advice.

I want to stop drinking. Where do I start?

It is important to think about reducing or stopping drinking in three stages:

  • Planning to reduce
  • Reducing/stopping your drinking
  • Maintaining abstinence/controlled drinking

For some people, stopping or reducing drinking can be a straight-forward decision based on wanting to become healthier. For others, particularly if there is a dependence, more planning and/or support may be required.

Planning to reduce

The more you can plan for coping without the alcohol you have been using, the more successful you may ultimately be when it comes to maintaining abstinence or achieving controlled drinking in the long term.

At the planning stage it is important to consider whether or not it safe to just stop drinking. If you are drinking alcohol on a regular basis it is important to be aware of the amount and how this may affect your plans to reduce/stop. Drinking on a regular basis may mean that you have developed a physical and/or psychological dependence. Any alcohol dependence needs to be carefully managed and may require medical support or an inpatient detox. It is important that you don’t suddenly stop drinking as this can lead to extremely unpleasant symptoms and there is a risk of alcohol withdrawal seizures where you may sustain other injuries if you fall and lose consciousness. If you have any doubt, it is important that you seek specialist advice

If your alcohol use is not problematic, but is a regular feature of your life, it may be possible to gradually reduce your alcohol use over a period of time as part of your wider aim to give up drinking or achieve controlled drinking. It is recommended that anyone who has experienced problematic drinking should achieve a prolonged period of abstinence (usually at least six months or more) before any attempt at controlled drinking. For some people it may be better to completely abstain from alcohol over a much longer period and perhaps never to return alcohol at all.

Another factor to consider is whether or not you have had any previous experiences of stopping or cutting down your drinking.  If so, this could be helpful in determining what has worked for you in the past and what hasn’t. This could include what makes you feel the most comfortable (particularly if you are thinking of a detox), whether or not you would prefer company and whether or not you would prefer the support of family and friends.

It may be helpful to set a date to stop (or start to cut down) and stick to it. Sometimes having several small steps to work towards is more realistic than a few big steps. Everyone is different so think about what might work best for you.  Some people plan to go away to cut down or stop drinking.  While this can be a useful thing for some, it is important to consider whether you are going to come back at some point and what situation you may be returning to. 

Thinking about triggers and identifying these can make it easier either to avoid them or deal with them more effectively. For example, if your local shop sells alcohol and you regularly buy from there perhaps it may be better to shop somewhere that is less familiar and that perhaps doesn’t sell alcohol (although this can sometimes be more difficult). This may help break the routine of buying alcohol. Similarly, if you have any walking routes that pass by pubs or bars you drink in, think about taking alternative routes to avoid them until you feel strong enough and confident enough to deal with that.

Other factors to consider at the planning stage are:

  • How much you are currently drinking? When you consider units of alcohol, remember that ‘house measures’ are invariably larger than those in pubs or bars.
  • When are you drinking? This can be important as it may be easier to reduce drinking in the middle of the day first rather than first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
  • Are you taking anything other than alcohol? If so, think about what would be best to reduce or stop using first.
  • Are you drinking alone or in a social situation? This is important when considering how easy it may or may not be to complete a detox.

Reducing your drinking/stopping

It is important to look after your physical and mental well-being when you are trying to reduce or stop your drinking.

Eat what you can when you can. Sometimes large meals are more difficult to contemplate, or even digest, so try and have regular snacks, including fruit and vegetables. Soup can also be a practical and healthy option. It is important to keep well hydrated and to drink plenty of fluids. If you are having trouble sleeping and are thinking of taking anything to help with this then it may be worthwhile consulting a GP to make sure that whatever you are planning to take does not put any additional strain on your body.

Try to reduce what you are drinking. If you are using anything else, begin to reduce this too. Sometimes alternating between an alcoholic drink and a non-alcoholic drink or diluting any spirits more than you did previously can help with this.

It is important to look after your mental well-being when trying to reduce or stop your drinking. Common issues people face during this stage are possible sleep problems, an increase in anxiety, the return of strong emotions and generally thinking about things all the time. If you can deal with any other issues such as housing, debt, personal problems or health issues before you start this stage it can help you deal with new emotions and potentially reduce some of the anxiety, benefiting your sleeping patterns in turn.

For some people, the thought of stopping drinking completely may be too much and could even be very risky, which may bring them to consider a reduction in drinking first.

Maintaining abstinence/controlled drinking

When it comes to maintaining abstinence or controlled drinking, working out strategies for dealing with certain situations and the support you may need for this can often be the key to success. It can be a good idea to plan what you would say if you met someone you used to drink with in the past. This can be as simple as having a ‘reason’ not to stick around and chat to them.

It is important to remember that craving alcohol is normal; particularly immediately after you have cut down or stopped drinking.  We all get cravings for different things from time to time. The important thing to remember is that although the craving to drink again can be strong, it will pass if you deal with it effectively.

Another good tip is to identify what makes you feel like you want to drink.  These are known as triggers. If you can identify these triggers it can make it easier either to avoid them or deal with them more effectively. Some triggers could include seeing people and places that remind you of drinking. Another could be stress at having to deal with official letters, family issues or a relationship. Ask yourself how you can avoid these triggers. If you can't avoid them then try to work out how you can deal with them more positively.

Some people find support groups, activity groups or one-to-one support useful during this stage.

I’m worried about someone else’s drinking. What can I do?

Having a family member who has a problem with alcohol can have a huge emotional impact on the whole family. It can be very difficult to cope in these situations. Often the person using alcohol has to want to stop and may not accept what appears to be 'common sense' advice from a concerned family member or friend.

Some people find it helpful to talk about these issues to someone outside the family. You can do this by contacting us via our helpline, e-mailing us or dropping in to see us. It can also be helpful to join a family support group, much like the one we have at ADA. This can give you the opportunity to meet others who are going through or have been through similar experiences and you can discuss your concerns and share ideas with them.

It can also be useful to ask yourself what you can and cannot do for the person that you are worried about. Some people want to provide support but feel uneasy about giving money that might be used to buy alcohol.  Perhaps it may be easier for you to offer food or credit for gas/electric instead.

Sometimes the language used when talking about alcohol can be frightening and confusing. Workers at DA are more than willing to answer any questions or queries you may have regarding this via the helpline, e-mail or in person.

The ADA Family & Friends Support Group has compiled the following list to help those who are trying to cope with someone else’s alcohol use. They deliberately used the terms ‘try to' and 'try not to’ - they recognise that these things can be easier said than done. It is important that you are not too hard on yourself if you are in this situation.

Try to:

  • keep calm
  • find out facts about the effects of alcohol (long and short term)
  • listen to the drinker and try not to judge them
  • use telephone helplines
  • speak to the drinker about what the issues are
  • talk about health
  • be supportive
  • encourage and support the drinker to have a daily routine
  • set realistic ground rules e.g. limits on the use of your phone, who visits your home and any drinking in your home
  • try to keep the family unit together
  • try to get on with your life
  • look after yourself
  • ask for help
  • choose a friend or two (usually no more) for regular support
  • get regular support from an Alcohol & Drugs Action worker or Family & Friends Support Group
  • be positive

 Try not to:

  • panic
  • over-react
  • shout
  • fight
  • criticize or be suspicious
  • use terms like ‘alkie’
  • always label the person as a drinker
  • mention alcohol all the time
  • break the ground rules
  • do everything for the person drinking
  • let it take over your life
  • blame yourself or feel guilty
  • be ashamed and keep it a secret

 

Families and young people

I’m worried about someone else’s drug or alcohol use. What can I do?

Having a family member who has a problem with drugs or alcohol can have a huge emotional impact on the whole family. It can be very difficult to cope in these situations. Often the person using drugs or alcohol has to want to stop and may not accept what appears to be 'common sense' advice from a concerned family member or friend.

Some people find it helpful to talk about these issues to someone outside the family. You can do this by contacting us via our helpline, e-mailing us or dropping in to see us.  It can also be helpful to join a family support group, much like the one we have at DA. This can give you the opportunity to meet others who are going through or have been through similar experiences and you can discuss your concerns and share ideas with them.

It can also be useful to ask yourself what you can and cannot do for the person that you are worried about. Some people want to provide support but feel uneasy about giving money that might be used to buy drugs or alcohol. Perhaps it may be easier for you to offer food or credit for gas/electric instead.

Sometimes the language used when talking about drugs or alcohol can be frightening and confusing. Workers at DA are more than willing to answer any questions or queries you may have regarding this via the helpline, e-mail or in person.

The ADA Family & Friends Support Group has compiled the following list to help those who are trying to cope with someone else’s drug or alcohol use. They deliberately used the terms ‘try to' and 'try not to’ - they recognise that these things can be easier said than done. It is important that you are not too hard on yourself if you are in this situation.

Try to:

  • Keep calm
  • Find out facts about drugs or alcohol
  • Listen to the person and try not to judge them
  • Use telephone helplines
  • Speak to the person about drugs or alcohol
  • Talk about health
  • Be supportive to the person
  • Encourage and support the person to have a daily routine
  • Set realistic ground rules e.g. limits on use of your phone, who visits your home and any drug or alcohol use in your home
  • Try to keep the family unit together
  • Try to get on with your own life
  • Look after yourself
  • Ask for help
  • Choose a friend or two (usually no more) for regular support
  • Get regular support from a DA worker or a Family & Friends Support Group
  • Be positive

Try not to:

  • Panic
  • Over-react
  • Shout
  • Fight
  • Criticize or be suspicious
  • Use terms like ‘junkie’, ‘druggie’ or 'alkie'
  • Always label the person as a drug user or drinker
  • Mention drugs or alcohol all the time
  • Break the ground rules
  • Do everything for the person using drugs or alcohol
  • Let it take over your life
  • Blame yourself or feel guilty
  • Be ashamed and keep it a secret