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  • Help and support

Substance abuse

Learning about drug rehabilitation
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Helping someone struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol can be overwhelmingly complex, as this is often combined with other issues which need to be addressed to make meaningful progress. Drug use has a damaging effect on an individual’s life and their interactions within a community. It can be an issue for people of all ages and backgrounds, for example, our research has found that an often overlooked group that struggle with substance misuse is older generations. Similarly, there is extensive work proving the link between drug misuse and offending.

That’s why we believe it is important to help services to work together to provide this support.

Better Off supported projects to do just that and brought together different services to help individuals on their rehabilitation journey. Lessons from Better Off have been incorporated into the Scottish Government’s drug strategy, including:

  • The importance of focusing on individuals’ needs and aspirations
  • The value of taking a more holistic look at individuals’ circumstances in developing recovery plans
  • The benefits of integrating treatment with other services
  • Focusing on supporting individuals to become active and contributing members of society, rather than simply viewing them as people with problems.

What works

According to our learning, drug rehabilitation projects might find it helpful to:

  • Focus on the ‘softer’ aspects of people’s needs, such as their confidence and self-esteem, as this helps to make a positive difference
  • Build in social or peer bonding to help participants develop social links and skills
  • Include elements focused on building a healthy lifestyle, including healthy eating
  • Engage people in something practical and creative to build their confidence, for example, producing something tangible, such as artwork, gives participants something to be proud of
  • Offer volunteering opportunities which allow people to ‘give something back’
  • Make projects more sustainable by integrating them into local drug rehabilitation and employment infrastructure. Factors that affect integration include sharing common aims, having a collaborative attitude, employing dedicated staff and developing a similar understanding of individuals’ needs.

This page combines our learning from across a variety of programme evaluations. For copies of the individual programme reports, visit the Multiple and Complex Needs publications page.