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Boy looking depressed

Staying off drugs

Quitting drugs or alcohol is only the first step. Staying off and keeping clean is often the more difficult part.

If you've decided you want to kick your drugs habit, you may have to get treatment to help you deal with your addiction.  However, stopping using drugs is only the start. As Andy McNichol, from drugs information charity DrugScope, says: "Staying off drugs can be really difficult, particularly for substances where you can develop a physical addiction, like alcohol, heroin and benzodiazepines."

Know who your friends are

"You have to change when you come off," says Colin Stewart, drugs advisor for Release. "You need to lose friends you use with, get rid of dealers or mates who can get drugs, and delete their telephone numbers."

A key thing is to allow people to support you through the process. Whether it's a drugs worker, doctor, teacher, friend or family member, having people you can talk to who understand the situation can be invaluable.

"Those close to you can help make things easier, often just by listening," says Andy. "You should try to stay away from social situations where you might be tempted to take drugs by planning other ways to spend your time. Your mates who don't use drugs can help with this."

It's a suggestion echoed by Colin, who reckons it is best to go out with family and mates who don't use and go to places where using is not easy or accepted. "Also, try to limit alcohol intake as this lowers your resistance and can trigger old patterns," he says, "and avoid places you used drugs in and areas you scored."

Drug services and doctors are under no illusions regarding how difficult it is to stay off drugs

Stay active and positive

Going back to using drugs­­, known as relapsing, can often be triggered when you feel depressed, lonely or bored. So an important element of staying off drugs is keeping in a positive frame of mind and occupying your time. Regular exercise and keeping fit can improve your mental health as well as keep you in shape. Taking up a new hobby, getting creative or volunteering can help you keep busy and avoid situations where you are likely to relapse.  

Whoops! I've had a relapse

If you do have a relapse it's important to remember that support and treatment is still available. The best advice is to get back in touch with your local agencies or doctor (GP) as soon as possible.

"Drug services and doctors are under no illusions regarding how difficult it is to stay off drugs," says Andy. "They will look to provide you with the help you need to overcome your drugs problem regardless of how many times you have been to see them. Each time they will look at your situation, discuss your experiences of any treatment you've been through and look at the best way forward."

The likelihood of relapsing depends on what you've been addicted to, how long for, and what help you receive. With heroin and coke, for example, even a small relapse can trigger a return to the addiction.

That's why it's important to deal with core issues that have taken you towards addiction. "Drugs are often the symptom of a deeper problem," says Colin. Giving up for good can mean sorting out a whole range of things in your life - but, again, you don't have to face these challenges alone. Speak to your GP or local agencies about what help is on offer.

Updated: 26/04/2011

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