Substance Misuse – A Quick Guide for Carers

1.5 million People are affected by a relative’s drug use (UK Drug Policy Commission), this figure does not include those affected by alcohol misuse whose figures are much harder to quantify. Yet these carers do not have the same rights and protections as other carers; despite this there is a vast array of information and support available.

This top tips guide aims to bring together some of the resources and provide brief guidance on how to help yourself if you are affected by another’s substance misuse.

Dual Diagnosis

It is estimated that one third of all mental health service users have a substance misuse issue. This two-fold condition is sometimes called “dual-diagnosis” although there is no single definition of dual diagnosis.

The two links below are great resources on this area:


Questions Questions Questions

Whether you have been caring for someone for a long time or the substance misuse issue is relatively new more than likely you will have a lot of questions:

Top Tips – A Quick Guide to Getting Support and Helping Yourself

  1. Learn coping skills and how to set boundaries. These are crucial for substance misuse carers.

Coping Skills

Setting & Keeping Boundaries

  1. Contact your local carers’ service. They will be able to offer a range of services (many local carers' services have specialised substance misuse carer support services) as well as help you access additional support in your local area.
  1. Ensure you have a carer’s assessment – you are entitled to one if the person you care for is eligible for community care services. If you are unsure about this contact your local carers centre who will be able to help. Unfortunately you will not be entitled to Carers Allowance unless the person you support has additional needs which entitle them to Disability Living Allowance/Attendance Allowance.
  1. Don’t be silent. Substance misuse is much stigmatised and by association so are those who care for users. By not talking about your feelings and experiences in relation to caring for a user you may be adversely affecting your own emotional and mental well-being. You may find the following links useful either to seek out appropriate support groups or professional counselling.

Local Carers Centres

Adfam – an organisation specifically for families and carers of those who misuse substances. It includes links to local services.

BACP – has a directory of qualified counsellors by area and specialism.

Counselling Directory – has directory of professional counsellors.

  1. Educate yourself – learn and understand more about why people substance misuse, the types of drugs and their impact on the human body.

Talk to Frank – lots of useful information and advice.

NHS Alcohol Support - useful information and advice on alcohol misuse.


YCNet - Young carers support website