Drug Misuse


The UK has a higher prevalence of drug misuse than any other country in Europe. This is important because the problem use of illicit or prescription-drugs carries many serious health risks, often because they are not controlled or supervised by medical professionals. Street drugs are often mixed with many other substances, which can be more harmful than the drugs themselves.
As well as having immediate health risks, some drugs can cause physical or psychological dependency, with the result that larger amounts are needed to get the same effect often leading to long-term damage to the body. Heavy or long-term use of some illegal drugs may cause the user to overdose, which may cause permanent damage to the body and can be fatal. (Source: Public Health Wales - Health Needs Assessment 2006: Substance Misuse)


Policy Context

'Working Together to Reduce Harm' is the Welsh Assembly Governments 10 year strategy which aims to set out a clear national agenda on how they and their partners can tackle and reduce the harms associated with substance misuse in Wales.
The Advisory panel on Substance Misuse advises the Welsh Assembly Government about issues relating to substance misuse.
The Substance Misuse Treatment Framework provides guidance on delivering high quality needs-based services for substance misusers. It is directed at responsible authorities and their partners in Community Safety Partnerships.


National Programmes

Community Safety Partnerships are groups of local organisations (including those in NHS Wales) working together to reduce crime and substance misuse.
Health Challenge Wales is a national campaign by the Welsh Assembly Government to encourage individuals and organisations to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The campaign includes advice on preventing ill health caused by drug abuse.
DAN 24/7 is a national confidential service providing advice to drugs and alcohol users and anyone wanting information on substance misuse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The helpline number is 0800 6 33 55 88. All calls from land lines are free, although some mobile phone networks may charge.

Local initiatives

Drug Aid - Helping individuals and communities tackle drug and alcohol problems in South Wales for over 30 years.
The Rhondda Cynon Taff Community Safety Partnership – have produced a Substance Misuse website to help individuals and organisations access a number of helpful national and local resources.

Service Planning

Public Health Wales has produced a Health Needs Assessment 2006: Substance Misuse to assist Health Boards in planning services in their localities.

Service Delivery

Services for people with Substance Misuse issues are usually based in the Community Drug and Alcohol Teams (CDAT) which provide a detoxification and harm reduction regime for people in their area.

Other services located at the CDAT may include needle exchange, a home detoxification programme and a base for supervised consumption of methadone in pharmacies across the area. The service is usually provided in collaboration with a number of local voluntary agencies.



The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse is a NHS England resource.
NICE has produced two guidelines on drug misuse – ‘Drug misuse: psychosocial interventions’ (NICE clinical guideline 51) and ‘Drug misuse: opioid detoxification’ (NICE clinical guideline 52). They cover:  the support and treatment people can expect to be offered.
NHS Evidence provides free access to clinical and non-clinical information - local, regional, national and international. Information includes evidence, guidance and Government policy. NHS staff who have an Athens account can also get free access to paid for journals.
The Map of Medicine presents the different steps of a patient journey, from symptoms to diagnosis and treatment, in easy to follow charts.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the central source of comprehensive information on drugs and drug addiction in Europe.


The Welsh Assembly Government’s Department for Social Justice and Local Government supports research on substance misuse related projects. The research page contains a number of useful links.


Data Sources