What are the NHS Options?

Not everyone is able to afford private rehab treatment. For those who can there are a number of options available on the NHS that are accessible through your local GP. Sadly the options available are limited, this is due to lack of government funding and also lack of understanding around which addiction treatments work best.

What Treatment is Available for Addiction on the NHS?


By visiting your GP, you can ask to be referred for counselling sessions for your addiction. However the counsellor won’t necessarily specialize in treating addictions, and is more likely to have experience in general counselling. If your GP feels that you are suitable for counselling, you will usually be referred for 8 sessions with an NHS Counsellor. As this service is free, it will be in demand, so there is likely to be a waiting list of 8 weeks or more before you are able to engage in the service.

Local Drug and Alcohol Services

Your GP is able to refer you into your local drug and alcohol services, or alternatively you can refer yourself, protecting your confidentiality. Most local Drug and Alcohol services will provide various low intensity therapeutic interventions such as holistic therapies and keyworking. There will also be a facility for prescribing for those who wish to swap illegal drugs for a substitute prescriptions. Reduction plans and care plans can be agreed with your key worker. Your local drug and Alcohol service may also provide you with access to a drop in centre or a referral in to another a service that specializes in just treating alcohol addiction, if that facility is available in your area. There can be a waiting list before you are able to engage, this is dependent on the demand in the area, and the services that are available.

Local Mental Health Team

It may be decided by your GP or your drug and alcohol key worker that a referral to the local mental health team would provide you with addition support that you require. If referred, you will be able to access specialists such as a Psychiatrist or Psychotherapist. You may also be able to access day care to engage in activities and provide structure. However it should be noted that the mental health team’s services are not specific to drugs and alcohol treatment, but are aimed at treating a wide range of various mental health conditions

Can I get Rehab on the NHS?

Gaining access to a rehab on the NHS is not a straight forward process, and is only granted to the most sever and critical cases of drug and/or alcohol addiction. Funding for this is particularly difficult to obtain, as it means applying to the government to grant a large sum of money for one individuals treatment. With budgets tighter than ever, only the most chronic and deserving cases will be encouraged to apply. The application for funding is a very lengthily process; you would be required to engage in less intensive treatment methods first to see if they work. If these methods fail to address you drug and alcohol problem, and your drug and alcohol key worker feels it is appropriate, only then will an application for funding be considered. If the funding is approved and you maintain attending all of your appointments in the meantime, then you will be placed on a waiting list for rehab. The waiting list, depending on the demand and funding in your local area is usually anything from 6 months to a year.` Your selection of rehabs that you are able to choose from will be limited to budget rehabs, ones that are lower cost and able to accommodate larger numbers of patients at any one time.

Is there an Alternative to NHS Treatment that is Free?

Yes, aside from the NHS services there are a number of charities and self-help groups available that you may be able to access for support. Generally these groups are not run by professionals, but are run by volunteers, or those who are also seeking support to help overcome their problems. Examples of such services are Alcoholics Anonymous, Families Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous. Although these self-help groups are world-wide, they have meetings and support available in most local areas. More localized support may be available in the form of charity support groups and services. Your local GP should have information on these services. Information on your local services can also be obtained by calling the NHS Direct or by contacting the Talk to Frank website.

Our Questions and Answers section will also provide you with simple, general information about addiction and addiction treatment.

For information on free NHS and support service in your local area,

Call the NHS Direct on: 111
Alcoholics Anonymous 0845 769 7555
Families Anonymous 020 7498 4680
Gamblers Anonymous www.gamblersanonymous.co.uk
Al-Anon and Alateen 020 7403 0888
Talk to Frank 0800 77 6600  www.talktofrank.com