Did you know that Drug Use Disorders can be treated?

Drug use disorders are complex, multifactorial health disorders that often take the course of chronic and relapsing diseases. The onset of drug use and the development of drug use disorders is associated with a complex pattern of vulnerabilities and biopsychosocial risk factors.


Drug use disorders are serious health conditions that present a significant burden for affected individuals, their families and communities. Untreated drug use disorders are associated with substantial costs to society including lost productivity, increased health care expenditures, costs related to criminal justice and social welfare, and other social consequences. The good news is that scientists have worked hard to understand drug use disorders and they have developed several science-based treatment options that can help people reduce and stop drug use, recover and continue with their normal life.


Drug use disorders can be effectively treated using a wide range of evidence-based pharmacological and psychosocial interventions available for a different types of substance use disorders. When treatment of drug use disorders is evidence-based, meaning that it has been confirmed in studies before that the intervention is safe and improves health outcomes. Further, it means that it is most likely effective and when adhered to, can lead to successful recovery from drug use disorders. For some drug use disorders, also effective medications exist, for example, methadone for the treatment of opioid dependence. Evidence-based psychosocial interventions (cognitive-behavioural therapy, contingency management, motivational interviewing, family therapy) are available for the treatment of all drug use disorders. Like the treatment of any other disorder, also for the treatment of drug use disorders, the informed consent of the patient/client is needed.


An important consideration in the treatment and care for people with drug use disorders is to understand the aim of treatment which is to improve the health and quality of life of people with drug use disorders. Indirectly also the community will benefit from access to effective treatment. The ultimate goal of treatment is to help individuals achieve recovery to the extent possible. More specifically, the treatment goals include first to help the affected individual stop or reduce drug use. Second, to improve the health, well-being and social functioning of the affected individual. Thirdly, to prevent future harm by decreasing the risk of complications and relapse.


The treatment intensity may vary over time and treatment can be delivered in various settings, depending on the severity of the disease and if the patient/client also suffers from other mental health (e.g. anxiety, depression) or somatic (e.g. HIV, Hep C, TB) disorders and what social support is available. For treatment to work, the patient has to stay long enough in treatment and hence community support is important in helping people with substance use disorder to seek and adhere to treatment. Relapse is not a failure of treatment, it is a characteristic feature of the disease and people that start using again, need an open door and help to start treatment again.



All members of the community can play a role to help children, family members, friends and neighbours who are experiencing substance use disorders. We should avoid stigmatization and understand that we need to be part of the solution by helping the affected individuals seek treatment, adhere to treatment and find productive activities that would help them stay away from peer influence and a possible return to drug use.


If you are concerned about your own substance use or that of a family member or a friend, you can visit to see treatment centres and contacts that you can reach for additional help, guidance as well as medical and social support.





1. International standards for the treatment of drug use disorders: revised edition incorporating results of field-testing. Geneva: World Health Organization and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; 2020.