Information for the public



Refraining from taking any drug that can be misused.

Behavioural family/couples therapy

A psychological treatment in which a person and their family and/or partner meet with a therapist who helps them to work through a problem; the family/partner supports the person with the drug problem while they reduce their drug use or stay abstinent. The therapist may help the person and the family/partner to communicate more effectively.


A type of drug (including diazepam, lorazepam and temazepam) that is often prescribed for treating anxiety, sleep problems, agitation, seizures and muscle spasms.


A substitute for heroin and other opioids that can be used to treat people who are dependent on these drugs.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

A psychological treatment in which people work with a therapist to look at how their problems, thoughts, feelings and behaviour fit together. CBT can help people to challenge negative thoughts and change behaviours that cause problems.


A treatment programme that helps drug withdrawal. In the NHS the treatment involves medication.

Harm reduction

An approach to a drug problem that emphasises the ways people can prevent or reduce the risks associated with taking illegal drugs.


A non-opioid drug sometimes used for shorter detoxification programmes or to treat physical withdrawal symptoms during opioid detoxification, such as vomiting and diarrhoea.

Maintenance treatment

The prescription of an opioid substitute (methadone or buprenorphine) in order to reduce or stop use of an illegal opioid (such as heroin). Sometimes a drug called naltrexone is used for maintenance treatment.


A substitute for heroin and other opioids that can be used to treat people who are dependent on these drugs.


A drug used to help a person remain abstinent after detoxification. It is sometimes used to speed up detoxification at the start of treatment, although this is not recommended by the NICE guideline because it can lead to very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.


A type of drug that includes heroin, opium, morphine and codeine (also known as opiates).


Taking too much of one or more drugs, or a dose that you are not used to, which can lead to unconsciousness and/or death.

Psychosocial interventions

A broad approach to help a person who misuses drugs to stop using them or remain abstinent. It involves using psychological treatments and other techniques (such as self-help, therapies involving families and carers, incentive programmes and education about drug problems). 

Residential rehabilitation centre

A treatment centre that provides accommodation and treatment for drug problems and dependence.


The use of medication to help a person feel relaxed and sleepy.


A type of drug that includes cocaine, crack cocaine and amphetamines.

Withdrawal symptoms

Symptoms experienced when stopping some drugs. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal may include sickness and vomiting, stomach ache, diarrhoea, shivering, sweating and agitation.