What Help Is Available Within England for Heroin Addiction?

Question by Maverick: What help is available within England for Heroin Addiction?
A family member of mine has a Heroin addiction. I have no idea how I can go about helping them, but having already lost one member to the drug, I do not wish to see another lose their life to it, especially one I’m so close to.

I’ve done some searching, but haven’t really found much information. It seems the only real help available has to be paid for and the prices are extortionate at best.

I don’t have much money myself, and neither does the person I wish to help.

If anyone has any information on the laws governing addiction, IE, what can be done to someone unwilling to seek help themselves, I’d also greatly appreciate that. I’m wondering if there is some power such as that used under the Mental Health act that relates to .

Thank you in advance for your responses.

Best answer:

Answer by kikimcspoon
Hi, it’s a difficult situation altogether. My brother used heroin for many years and my mum works for an NHS drugs team, and we live in the UK.

What we found was- it was very hard to get help initially, and the only way to do it was via the local GP. In order to access any NHS services (such as drugs teams or mental health services) you’ll almost certainly have to be referred by a doctor. Some doctors are sympathetic to the situation, others aren’t. But once you have a referral you may find you have to go on a waiting list. Mental health departments are often unwilling to deal with addiction, unless there’s an additional mental illness as well. So you may only find help with a community drugs team, which may or may not have affiliations with the police. It varies all around the country. I know in my area, if you are in trouble with the police for drug possesion say, they are good at sorting out referrals to the drugs services, often more quickly than the doctors are!

I’m sure that wherever your relative lives, there will be an NHS service of some kind for drug users and it will be accessable somehow, but getting into the system can take time and may require repeated appointments and a lot of persistence. But it should at least be free. At the place where my mum works (and where my brother used to attend), there is a needle exchange, counselling, occupatioinal therapy, access to doctors, nurses and social workers and complete support for anyone who can make use of it.

They prescribe methadone (if that’s the right choice, there are many alternatives), and do supported detoxes. They do accupuncture and workshops and home visits, loads of things really.

But of course their success rate is limited. They aren’t there 24/7, there are staff shortages and budgets are always being cut. Some of the staff are brilliant, some less so.

At one point my brother did a detox at home with our GP’s support and help, (though this was after a long time trying to get help), he was given advice and a selection of (legal!) drugs to help him through the first few days. It was totally effective, as effective as a 5 day private clinic detox costing £2000 would have been. But I have learned that for most people trying to get off heroin the first few days are hard but not nearly as bad as you imagine, even for heavy users. The problems set in after the initial detox is over, the body may be free of the drug but the need for it is still there. I don’t know the best way of dealing with that. My brother had given up totally, got his life on track and was going to live abroad to change himself entirely for the better. Sadly he overdosed, out of the blue. I guess the lure of the drug was still there, and as he was drunk and having fun he thought why not.

Just keep trying and don’t give up. You must keep pushing your doctor for a referral to get some help. You will get there eventually.

You were wondering about the law re/ addiction. The mental health act is there to help people who don’t want treatment, but need it- but not usually if they’re using drugs. It’s not great, but there’s a big division between mental health and drug services. It’s awful, but if your relative doesn’t allow you or someone to try and help, and refuses to seek any help or stop using, there’s not many options open other than unconditional love and support (which is often the very hardest thing of all), and just sheer bloody mindedness in trying to get them to seek help… Keep an open mind too, so many people think that a methodone programme is the only option, which just isn’t true. There are other drug treatments, many of which are safer and easier to live with.

Some people find that if they get involved in the criminal justice system (I know this sounds negative, but it happens a lot with heroin), they find supportive ways of detoxing and changing their behaviour in prison or in the community with a referral to a community drugs team.

I can’t stress enough that things are different in every county and health authority. What we found, you might not. But start with your GP and if s/he doesn’t want to know, keep going back and get second opinions or see another doctor.

Also go to www.addaction.org.uk. They have lots of information and they people on the phones can help a lot.
I am sure something in your area will exist, and I wish you loads of luck in finding it.

Best of luck to you and your family, you have my sympathy and support, it can be so difficult. Best wishes.

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