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Advice & messages health professionals policymakers, advice consumers family friends

Advice & messages for consumers, family & friends

NOTE: Quotes are presented word for word apart from minor editing for readability and clarity. Identifying details have been removed. Square brackets show text that has been added, e.g. ‘I want to maintain [my current level of drug use]’. Ellipses within square brackets […] show where text has been removed, e.g. ‘Counselling was good but […] I would have liked more information about other treatment options’.

The people whose stories are presented on this website are keen to share what they’ve learnt through their experiences of regular alcohol and other drug consumption. Some offer general advice, including suggestions about treatment, changing consumption practices and minimising the risks they see as related to consumption. Those with experiences of treatment reflect on what they wish they’d known before starting. Others have messages for health professionals and policymakers (see also Advice & messages for health professionals & policymakers). They make suggestions for improving treatment and harm reduction services such as ensuring wider access to services, improving drug education and addressing the stigma surrounding drug use.

Seeking support & information

A common piece of advice our participants give to people concerned about their own or someone else’s drug use is to seek support and information from family members, friends or health professionals. As Callum (M, 36, studying, cannabis) notes, ‘Support and the right information is critical’.

Melanie (F, 26, primary carer for her children, ice) encourages people experiencing issues with alcohol and other drugs to seek help and not give up if they initially struggle to access support. (Played by an actor)

If people are suffering with addiction, [they shouldn’t] be scared to ask for help because there is help out there. You need to find it and it will be worth it. It’ll be hard but it’ll be worth it […] I think [people] need to know that it’s not a walk in the park, you know. You’ve got to fight for it, and tou’ve got to really want it […And yeah] I guess persistence pays off [so] don’t give up. Like, [if you] just ring one place and they’re full, well, you’ve just got to keep trying.

Ethan (M, 39, works in hospitality, ice) says having the support of his sister helped him to stop taking ice. (Played by an actor)

For me, what really helped me this time to stop using [ice] was one of my sisters who said to me that whatever choices I make, she was still there for me. [She said I should] call her and just keep in contact, so just knowing that somebody was [there for me], like she wasn’t there to support me financially, she wasn’t there to enable me or anything like that, but in the end, she was the only person I could call. So it was just having somebody […] there, [knowing] that no matter what was happening, they were still going to be there.

Advice about treatment

Drawing on their own experiences of treatment, some people offer advice for those considering or undergoing treatment (see also Residential treatmentFormal & informal detoxSelf-help programsPharmacotherapy/medication treatmentTalking therapies).

Dawn (F, 38, works in manufacturing, alcohol) advises those starting treatment to be kind to themselves and seek support when they need it.

[If you were starting treatment], I’d say to you, ‘Don’t be too hard on yourself’ and ‘everyone’s been where you are’. Well, not exactly your experience but [I’d say] ‘just be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up too much’. I mean, I should be telling this to myself but yeah, that’s what I tell most people that come in. [I tell them]‘You’ve got a lot of support. Yeah, just really be good to yourself and give yourself that time to take everything in’.

Zoe (F, 30, studying, ice) says that persistence, encouragement from others and setting goals can aid recovery. (Played by an actor)

I guess it’s important for every individual to realise that they are individual. Their [experience of] addiction is going to be […different] to the next person’s. Their choice and path, and road to recovery, if that’s what they want to do, is going to be individual, and it’s going to be different. You can’t just put six people in a room and treat them all the same. They’re all going to have different outcomes, even if they do have the same treatment. [I’d also say to people], ‘try, try, try again […] If at first you don’t succeed, just keep trying’. [It’s important to give] encouragement [to] people. That’s probably what got me through a lot of this […] was the encouragement and having a focus. Although it was horrible and it tore my heart out and nearly killed me [having my children removed from my care], I had a focus. I had a focus to get clean to get them back, and so I guess if you want to start the path to recovery, then pick a goal, no matter how big or small. Pick a goal and if you achieve that, pick a new one. Stay on course, and keep making your goals bigger and better.

Dean (M, 32, works in hospitality, ice) says the healthcare professionals who have treated him have been caring and helpful. (Played by an actor)

[My advice to people starting treatment is that] you’ve got to do it for the right reasons. You’ve got to do it because you want to. Don’t do it for anybody else. It’s a long process. It’s not just as simple as [making a] phone call [and saying], ‘Hey I want some help, I want to get into [rehab]’. It’s not that easy. It’s quite a long, drawn out process. It’s not what you think it’s going to be. I was expecting it to be on a farm. I even went out, and bought flannelette shirts and Ugg boots [laughs]. I was expecting, you know, not so much padded walls, but to be under constant supervision and to be constantly watched, and [to be saying] ‘yes sir, yes sir’. It wasn’t anything like that. It was people who wanted to help, who were there because they cared and nothing more […] Every time I’ve been into treatment, it has been a very positive experience.

Managing consumption & dealing with stigma

Although some give suggestions for how to stop consuming alcohol or other drugs, others say their consumption is an important part of life and instead suggest ways to manage it. They recommend moderation, monitoring consumption levels and consulting trusted sources of information to minimise possible risks and harm (see also Changing patterns of consumption).

Dee Jay (M, 24, studying, party drugs and cannabis) recommends accessing drugs from a trusted person and striking a balance between drug use and other activities.

I think personally […] people should take drugs. But at the same time, I don’t think drugs are for everyone. I have seen a few people who have been affected negatively by drugs, not let’s say by addiction, but more so just they had a very bad trip or a very bad experience. But in saying that […] I think it’s always good to try new things, and definitely, if you are going to do it, do some research and try it from a trusted person. Don’t just get it from some random guy on the street. Do it more so because you really want to do it or experience it, not so much [because of] the peer pressure [from] your friends or anything. Other than that […] I guess [I’d suggest] doing it in a very balanced manner. I know it’s very hard to commit to that because once you find something new, you just want to keep constantly doing it, but I think life is all about balancing. It’s all about a balance, you know, too much of one thing is bad. Too much of not having one thing is also bad so that’s pretty much it.

To manage his drug use Callum (M, 36, studying, cannabis) gathers information from online resources, and ‘critically reflects’ on his choice of drugs.

The research and the [websites] that I do go to [for information on drugs…] come from long-term experiences [of drug use]. As I said, a lot of [the people posting the information are] chemists. A lot of them have used [the drug] themselves so it’s coming from […] word of mouth, and a lot of these people are very switched on. They’re very smart.


I think [good healthcare involves] support, support and information. It’s all about being aware. You make your own choices in life and you’ve got to maintain [your health]. It’s all about sustainability at the end of the day. And that’s [for me] personally. I like using psychedelics. I love the effects and what I get from them, but at the same time, I’m heavily against amphetamines and stuff like that because they’re not sustainable. They wear the body down and cause too many issues like that so it’s about awareness, awareness about yourself and what you need to get through the day, and yeah, reflection, critical reflection is such a big thing for human beings. I don’t think a lot of us are aware of it. People are like, ‘Oh, why does this keep happening to me?’, and it’s just like, ‘Well, maybe you’re not doing something right. Maybe you need to start changing the way you’re operating’. So yeah, I just think support at the end of the day, support and the right information is critical. It’s key.

Reducing stigma surrounding drug use and ending discrimination against those who take drugs is important to many. They characterise drug use as a normal part of their everyday lives and describe how it fits in with their work and other activities (see also Consumption in everyday lifeDealing with stigma & discrimination; Work, study & making ends meet).

Zadie (F, 33, works in the health sector, heroin) has experienced stigma and discrimination related to her drug use, and now challenges those who express negative attitudes towards people who take drugs. (Played by an actor)

On [the] one hand, I do experience that stigma, but I’m thick-skinned so it’s water off a duck’s back to me. But then, on the other hand, people [who] know me know that I’m extremely together: I’m articulate, I’m really motivated, I’m organised, I achieve what I want to achieve. They know that I’m like that so […] a lot of those people think that [my] drug use is in the past and I’ve come good now […] And it’s like, ‘God, little do you know, I’m actually doing what I always did’.

You know, it’s possible that you can be completely together and happy, and a great parent, and have a good life, and a job, and all of those things, and inject heroin […] And recently, I’ve decided to just take the crusade of [ending] stigma and discrimination into my own personal life. I just start challenging people and going ‘No’, especially my friends that do coke and somehow think that it’s cool to do coke, but you’re a scum to do heroin. I’ve hated that attitude my whole life. Drugs are drugs, each to their own.

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