Triage is how services assess how urgent your need for treatment is. People who have certain health conditions, pregnant women and some other groups will be prioritised over others. This is because their drug use is automatically considered more risky.


Assessment is how services will find out about you and work with you to reach an understanding of the extent of your drug problem. An assessment should take place over one, two or even three meetings.

Care Planning

With Care Planning you prepare your care plan alongside a worker from the Community Drugs Service. Your care plan belongs to you. You need to agree what is in it and you should be able to review it when you want. It should include your treatment goals and the steps you want to take in your recovery journey. Changes to your treatment regime should be decided by you with your treatment worker and recorded in your treatment plan.

Getting help

Man interested in heroin recovery help

Treatment for opioid dependence is available for free with the NHS throughout the UK. However, how long you have to wait does depend on where you live.

Treatment is often available within 24 hours but in a few places you may have to wait longer.

Generally, the gateway to drug treatment in your area will be your community drugs service. They can advise you on Staying healthy and will work with you to assess the extent of your problem, look at treatment options, prepare a care plan – which will identify what will happen when in your treatment journey – and what goals and outcomes you want to achieve.

It should take no more than about 4 weeks from contacting the team to being accepted into a treatment programme and you should be offered your first appointment within a fortnight. Delays longer than this are possible, but if you are waiting for more than 4 weeks, contact a support organisation for advice and support.

Community Drug Services will often go through a three-stage process at the beginning of treatment: Triage, Assessment and Care Planning.

Will it affect my benefits and work?
If you are unemployed and heroin dependent, you are entitled to welfare benefits. However, recent governments have been keen to get drug-dependent people into treatment and employment. Working can be difficult when your drug use is out of control, but treatment will help you get yourself back to a state where working becomes a possibility. You can talk to your drugs worker – or staff at your local job centre – about schemes and programmes that can help you access training or get a job. Working again can really help you keep your recovery going.

Will it affect my childcare?
Just because you use drugs doesn’t mean that you cannot look after your children, but children of drug users may require extra support. Many people fear greater scrutiny and losing their children if they go into treatment – you shouldn’t be frightened of losing your children, if you have kids it is all the more important that you access help to support your ability to be a good parent.

On the right of this page you will find a navigation box with details of some of the most commonly accessed treatments in the UK.