Information for the public

Drug misuse

Drug misuse

NICE has also produced advice on taking methadone and buprenorphine as maintenance treatment for people who are opioid dependent, and naltrexone to help people stay off opioids after detoxification.[1]

Drug misuse is when a person has a problem with illegal drugs (such as heroin, cocaine or cannabis) or becomes dependent on them. Having a problem with a drug means that you are taking a lot of it and it has a negative impact on your everyday life. Being dependent on a drug (often called a drug 'addiction') means:

  • feeling a very strong desire to take it

  • finding it difficult to stop taking it or to take less

  • needing more of the drug over time to feel the same effect

  • having withdrawal symptoms if you take less of it

  • losing interest in other things

  • continuing to take the drug despite the harm it may be causing you and others.

Being dependent on a drug can lead to physical illness, mental health problems, relationship problems and financial difficulties.

This information is concerned with people who have a problem with or are dependent on opioids (for example heroin, opium and morphine), stimulants (for example cocaine, crack cocaine and amphetamines) or cannabis. It is not aimed at people who:

  • are having treatment mainly for mental health problems

  • are having treatment mainly for an alcohol problem

  • have a problem with prescription drugs (for example benzodiazepines)

  • have a problem with solvents (such as aerosols and glue) or other street drugs (such as LSD)

  • have been prescribed opioids for medical reasons, such as for coping with severe pain.