Advice for the families of drug users

Many families in the UK are living with a loved one who is using or trying to come off drugs. It's a difficult situation for everyone involved, but help and support is available.

Whether you're the parent, friend or partner of a person using or coming off drugs, there are some common issues you're likely to face.

It can be hard to accept that the person was or is taking drugs to begin with. When the reality sinks in, it can be difficult to know what to do first.

Where to get help for drug misuse 

FRANK is a good place to start. They have a 24-hour helpline (0300 123 66 00) and website that provide in-depth information about drugs, plus advice about drugs-related services in your local area. You can also use the service search to find your nearest drug addiction support centre.

Your GP can talk to you about the kinds of treatment options and services available. They should be able to give you information about the effects of the drugs the person you're caring for has been taking, including the signs of withdrawal. They will also be able to give details of local support groups.

Recognising your role as a carer

You may not see yourself as a carer or someone with needs of their own. But caring for someone using or coming off drugs can be demanding. If you have someone in your household who is unable to stop using drugs, it can be very stressful, upsetting and frustrating.

Even if your loved one accepts that they have a problem and decides to stop taking drugs, you may need to help them get through the withdrawal and recovery period. There may be some difficult, emotional times during this process.

Sometimes the best option for carers is to let their loved one face the consequences of continuing their drug use. This can be tough as it's natural to want to rescue loved ones from the harmful effects of their addiction, such as poverty or ill health.

But there are lots of support organisations that can help you care for someone using or coming off drugs. Carers often find that talking to someone who knows what they're going through is really helpful. This could be through workshops, one-to-one sessions with a specially trained counsellor, or simply talking to other carers.

Support organisations for drugs

A national organisation working with and for families affected by drugs and alcohol. It can advise you about financial worries, understanding how to help during different stages of recovery, and coping with difficult behaviour.

Families Anonymous
Runs local support groups for the family and friends of people with a current, suspected or former drug problem.
Helpline number: 0845 1200 660

A government-run organisation providing straight-talking information about drugs, and advice for drug users, parents and carers. Find support near you
Helpline number: 0300 123 66 00

The national centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law, providing free and confidential specialist advice.
Helpline number: 0845 4500 215

More information for carers of drug users

Financial advice

As a carer, you may be entitled to financial help and other support. Ask your local authority for a carer's assessment. This determines what help you could receive from social services.

For more information on assessments and how to apply for one, see Assessing your care and support needs. To find out about the benefits you and the person you're looking after may be entitled to, see Your guide to care and support.

Working and caring

If you work, find out about your rights in the workplace. You can also get help if you're out of work or a student. For more information, see Employment rights for carers.

Taking a break

People in a caring role often find it difficult to take a break. Your local authority or a local support group may be able to provide respite care. Depending on your circumstances, this may be offered free of charge.

For more information, see Carers' breaks and respite care. It's important to eat well and get plenty of exercise. If you feel exhausted or have symptoms of depression, see your GP.

Young carers of drug users

If you have a caring role for a parent using drugs, you may need additional support. For information about who can help you, your rights, and other young carers' experiences, go to Being a young carer.

Call the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053 for free, confidential advice on any aspect of caring.

Page last reviewed: 26/03/2015

Next review due: 30/04/2017


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 147 ratings

All ratings

114  ratings
7  ratings
5  ratings
0  ratings
21  ratings

Add your rating

Services near you

Find addresses, phone numbers and websites for services near you

Heroin: getting help

Where to get help and the treatment options available if you've got a problem with heroin

Help with drugs

If you have a drug problem, there's a lot of help and support available. Here's where to find it

Overcoming addiction

Find out more about addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex and gambling. With information on treatment and support