Things To Know


Completely stopping the use of alcohol or other drug.

This is defined as a chronic, relapsing condition which compels a person to satisfy their need for a particular stimulus, and to keep satisfying it, despite negative, life damaging consequences, for the individual. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. Addiction is the most severe form of a full spectrum of substance use disorders, and is a medical illness caused by repeated misuse of a substance or substances.

A statutory, voluntary or private sector organisation providing services or some other intervention to address alcohol or other drug problems.

A beverage containing the psychoactive chemical ethanol, produced by fermentation of sugar. Alcohol has the potential to intoxicate the person consuming it dependant on the amount consumed and the physical and mental condition and wellbeing of the drinker.

A short, evidence-based, opportunistic structured conversation about alcohol with a client that seeks in a non-confrontational way to motivate and support them to think about or plan a change in their drinking behaviour to reduce consumption and risk or harm.

Various types of brain damage caused by heavy drinking and lack of proper nutrition (includes Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and alcoholic dementia).

This is a severe and fatal form of alcoholic liver disease, characterised by necrosis and permanent distortion of the liver due to fibrous tissue formation. The only treatment for cirrhosis is a liver transplant. Individuals will show symptoms and signs of liver failure such as swollen ankles, water retention in the abdomen, jaundice, bruising, gastrointestinal haemorrhage, and confusion or stupor due to swelling in the brain. About 30% of patients are “well compensated” at the time of diagnosis and report nonspecific complaints such as abdominal pain, bowel disturbance, weight loss, and muscle wasting and weakness. Liver cancer is a late complication of cirrhosis in approximately 15% of cases.

The alcohol-sensitizing drug, prescribed to assist in maintaining abstinence from alcohol. It inhibits aldehyde dehydrogenase activity and, in the presence of alcohol, it causes a facial flushing reaction, accompanied by nausea, dizziness, and palpitations. These effects are sometimes termed “the Antabuse reaction”.


A pattern of consumption twice the sensible drinking limits on a person’s heaviest drinking day (8 or more units for men and 6 or more units for women in one session).

A microscopic infectious agent transmitted through the exchange of blood or other bodily fluids. Includes Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), etc.


Someone who voluntarily helps another person who cannot manage without their support due to illness, fragility, disability or use of alcohol or other drugs.

The systematic process of specifying, choosing and monitoring services on the basis of identified need to deliver particular outcomes under contract or service level agreement.

A group of people with a common interest or identity, such as geographic, ethnic, cultural, religious, sexual orientation or health status.

Communities helping to direct the decisions about services affecting their lives by sharing their views, experiences and ideas.

A partnership of public and voluntary organisations working together with the community to deliver better services.

A generic term used to denote the several psychoactive preparations of the marijuana (hemp) plant, Cannabis sativa. They include marijuana leaf (in street jargon: grass, pot, dope, weed, or reefers), bhang, ganja, or hashish (derived from the resin of the flowering heads of the plant), and hashish oil.

This refers to anyone who is at risk of alcohol related harm, but who is not ready to change. They are often in denial about the severity of their condition, and are therefore resistant to treatment. Denial is a typical feature of dependent drinkers, and can make treatment more difficult.

The initial decision to take drugs is generally voluntary. However, with continued use, a person’s ability to exert self-control can become seriously impaired. Brain imaging studies from people addicted to drugs show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical for judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behaviour control. Scientists believe that these changes alter the way the brain works and may help explain the craving which people experience, and the compulsive and destructive behaviours of a person who becomes addicted.


A state of needing or depending on something or someone for support or to function or survive. As applied to alcohol and other drugs, the term implies a need for repeated doses of the drug to feel good or to avoid feeling bad. The chronic nature of addiction means that relapsing is not only possible but also likely. Relapse rates are similar to those for other chronic medical illnesses such as hypertension and asthma, which also have both physiological and behavioural components.

The process by which an individual is withdrawn from the effects of a psychoactive substance.
This is a clinical procedure and is carried out in a safe and effective manner, such that withdrawal symptoms are minimised. The place where this takes place may be variously termed a detoxification centre, detox centre or in hospital. Typically, the individual is clinically intoxicated or already in withdrawal at the outset of detoxification. Detoxification may or may not involve the administration of medication. When it does, the medication given is usually a drug that shows cross-tolerance and cross-dependence to the substance(s) taken by the patient. The dose is calculated to relieve the withdrawal syndrome without inducing intoxication, and is gradually tapered off as the patient recovers. Detoxification as a clinical procedure implies that the individual is supervised until recovery from intoxication or from the physical withdrawal syndrome is complete. The term “self-detoxification” is sometimes used to denote unassisted recovery from a bout of intoxication or withdrawal symptoms. Once physical detox has been completed, sufferers will usually need to engage in a treatment programme to address the brain changes and psychological affects caused by addiction.

Diversionary activities can be defined as activities and interventions that divert people towards social, organised or constructive activities and may be a route towards a more positive lifestyle.

A substance that has psychoactive properties. Drugs include legal substances such as over-the counter and prescription medicines, alcohol, tobacco, and ‘legal highs’. Other drugs such as opiates, psychostimulants, depressants, hallucinogens and steroids may be illegal to use and possess unless lawfully prescribed.

Nearly all addictive drugs directly or indirectly target the brain’s reward system by flooding it with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. When activated at normal levels, this system rewards our natural behaviors. Overstimulating the system with drugs, however, produces effects which strongly reinforce the behavior of drug use, teaching the person to repeat it.


Help offered as soon as possible when someone first shows signs of having difficulties to prevent the problem escalating and becoming more difficult to deal with later on.

Children excluded from schools due to unacceptable, abusive or violent behaviour.

Any person or social group whose actions or policies intentionally or unintentionally facilitate the continuing misuse of alcohol or other substance.


A continuum of permanent birth defects caused by maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Women should not drink alcohol if pregnant or planning to become pregnant to eliminate the risk of FASD.


The philosophy of reducing harm caused by alcohol and other drugs without necessarily seeking abstinence. Approaches can include using needle exchanges, substituting prescribed methadone for street heroin, changing routes of use from injecting to smoking, or cutting down on the quantity of alcohol or other drugs consumed.

A pattern of alcohol consumption probably causing mental, physical or social damage (typically over 50 units per week for men and over 35 for women).

A pattern of alcohol consumption beyond sensible drinking limits that may lead to harm in the future (typically between 22-50 units per week for men and between 15-35 units for women).

Non-random variations in health or access to services between people due to their socio-economic status or other factors.


A class of psychoactive substances previously legal and now controlled under New Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.


Using universal or services routinely available to the general public to deliver support rather than through narrowly available specialist services. Also known as generic services’.

A self-help group in which participants support each other in recovering or maintaining recovery from alcohol or other drug problems, or from the effects of another’s problems, without professional therapy or guidance.

A synthetic opiate drug used in maintenance therapy for those dependent on opioids. It has a long half-life, and can be given orally once daily with supervision. See also: maintenance therapy; opioid.


The term for substances controlled under the New Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. Previously referred to as Legal Highs.

An opioid receptor blocker that antagonizes the actions of opioid drugs. It reverses the features of opiate intoxication and is prescribed for the treatment of overdose with this group of drugs. See also: antagonist.


The identifiable impact on, or consequences for, individuals and the community due to the planned actions, interventions or services.

Excess availability or density of retail alcohol outlets associated with increased alcohol consumption and related health and social harms.


An agency working in cooperation with others as a member of the Alcohol and Drug Partnership to implement this strategy.

A collection of partner agencies with mutual understanding, parity of esteem and shared objectives founded to co-plan and share responsibility for service design to optimise outcomes for service users.

People provide emotional and practical help to each other who have a common experience or background.

An approach that puts the individual at the centre of assessment and care by directing the process of the basis of their views and wishes.

The use of more than one drug (alcohol included) often with the intention of enhancing or countering the effects of another drug.

A drug that is legally available only with written instructions from a doctor or dentist to a pharmacist.

Information, advice or early detection and intervention to stop a problem or reduce its severity.

The ongoing use of a substance despite persistent negative social, health or criminal justice consequences caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance. Often, but not necessarily, associated with addiction. A less judgemental synonym of ‘substance misuse’.

Affecting mood, emotion, or state of consciousness and function of the brain.


A deeply personal, unique and voluntary journey of change to regain control and move towards a life free from addiction to become an active and contributing member of society.

The sum of internal and external resources to which an individual has access that can help promote and sustain recovery from addiction. Internal resources include: self esteem, confidence, resilience and hope. External resources include: access to suitable housing, employment, family, relationships and social support.

Networks of people and activities such as peer-support and mutral aid that offer support for recovery from alcohol and other drug problems.

A network of formal and informal services working together to help individuals sustain long term recovery.

This is the process by which an individual with a substance use disorder achieves an optimal state of health, psychological functioning, and social well-being. Rehabilitation follows the initial phase of treatment (which may involve detoxification and medical and psychiatric treatment). It encompasses a variety of approaches including group therapy, specific behaviour therapies to prevent relapse, involvement with a mutual-help group, residence in a therapeutic community or half-way house, vocational training, and work experience. There is an expectation of social reintegration into the wider community.

An individual or community’s capacity to cope with or overcome adversity or threatening circumstances that might otherwise harm their will-being. Protective factors such as coping strategies and recovery capital strengthen resilience.

This phrase is often used to suggest that those who are addicted are not likely to seek help until they reach their lowest ebb. Scientific research now tells us that, unless tackled early on, addiction can become a progressive, terminal condition. Therefore, it is important to intervene as soon as possible in this process, and NOT to wait until the condition is entrenched and difficult to reverse.

This is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop. Treatment of any chronic disease involves changing deeply imbedded behaviours, and so relapses are to be expected. Lapses back to drug use indicate that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted, or that alternate treatment is needed. No single treatment is right for everyone, and treatment providers must choose an optimal treatment plan in consultation with the individual patient and should consider the patient’s unique history and circumstances


Use of alcohol or other drugs to help cope with enduring difficulties such as poor mental wellbeing or mental health problems.

A pattern of responsible drinking within sensible drinking limits that does not cause problems to the drinker or those around them.

Whilst no amount of alcohol is fully safe, sensible less likely to cause harm for men and women is 14 units per week spread across 3 or more days and including at least 2 alcohol free days.

Any statutory, voluntary or community based agency that provided a mechanism of support, care or motivation to address alcohol or other drug use.

A person who uses any service.

The pattern of behaviour in a particular group, community or culture, accepted as normal and to which an individual is expected to conform.

The negative effects of a discriminatory label placed on individuals or groups often to the disadvantage of those individuals or groups.

Consideration of the widest possible set of factors (the “big picture”) and broadly defined long term goals to address a particular problem.

A collective term for materials with a psychoactive effect such as alcohol, other drugs and solvents.


Tier 1: Information, brief interventions and referral to other services provided by mainstream community services.
Tier 2: Open access alcohol and other drug services (offering extended interventions, advice, harm reduction and referral to specialist services).
Tier 3: Referral only specialist community based structured alcohol or other drug services.
Tier 4: Highly specialist and residential services.

This is the need to take higher doses of a drug to get the same effect. It often accompanies dependence, and it can be difficult to distinguish the two


The standard UK measurement of alcohol content where one unit equals 10ml (~8g) of ethanol. A half pint of 3.5% ABV beer, one 25ml measure of 40% ABV spirit or a small glass (125ml) of 8% ABV wine equals one unit.


Being more at risk of harm than others.


A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

An approach to reduce alcohol consumption and risk of alcohol related disease across a population. If average population consumption is reduced then average consumption falls for everyone and the number of those drinking at harmful levels will fall as a consequence. If everyone’s alcohol harm risk falls, the heaviest drinkers benefit most

A variety of symptoms that occur after chronic use of alcohol or some other drugs is reduced or stopped.

A persistent desire, or unsuccessful effort, to cut down or control use of the substance.
A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance or recover from its effects. Craving or urge to use the substance. Recurrent use of the substance results in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home. Use of the substance continues despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of its use. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use of the substance. Use of the substance is recurrent in situations in which it is physically hazardous. Use of the substance is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance. A need for increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect