How do I know if I need treatment?

If your alcohol or other drug use is affecting your health, family, relationships, work, school, financial or other life situation, you should seek help.

Support services are available for you, and also for your family and friends if they feel it would help them.

How can I get help?

  • A good place to start is with your local doctor who is likely to know your medical history. Your doctor can give you information, a referral to a treatment service and ongoing treatment after specialist alcohol and drug treatment is completed.
  • Another option is self-referral. Many treatment services allow this, and you can contact them directly. To find and discuss treatment services go to our GET SUPPORT page. Note that privately funded treatment services often require a referral from a doctor or psychologist, so it is a good idea to check first.

After you have made contact with a treatment service, an assessment will be arranged. This may be done over the phone, or face-to-face at first, and then your options for treatment can be discussed.

There may be a waiting list for some services, but if the appropriate treatment is not available at a particular agency, referral will be made to access those services elsewhere.

Peer Support

Peer Support can be provided in a range of settings. Online in chat groups or forums or in real life with friends or other drug users or people who have lived experience of using. These are everyday experiences where people can gain knowledge, insight and support form eachother.

The most common form of peer support within a recovery framework, is a peer supprot group. Peer support groups are facilitated by people who have a lived experience of drug or alcohol use. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Crystal Meth Anonymous are examples of peer support groups, however these are mainly abstinance based ones. There are also a range of other drug and alcohol peer support groups that operate differently to the abstinence model and work from a space that aims to support people with their recovery goals, whatever they are, whether it is to reduce, change, control or stop alcohol or drug use.

Hear from a range of alcohol and drug workers, drug users, community health workers and peer educators on Peer Support.


Alcohol and drug counselling is similar to standard therapeutic counselling, except the counselor will have expertise in the area of substance dependence and alcohol and other drug use. An alcohol and drug counselor will understand how drugs work, how they impact your mind and body and be able to work with you to get to the underlying reasons for your alcohol and drug use. A drug and alcohol counselor will be able to work with your goals and guide you through a process to reach them, whether it is to reduce, change, control or stop your drug use.

Hear from a range of alcohol and drug workers, drug users, community health workers and peer educators on Alcohol and Drug Counselling.

Therapeutic Groups

A therapeutic group is where people who have similar alcohol or drug issues come together to get treatment and support from professional facilitators. A therapeutic group will normally have a structured program that is evidence based and uses a range of techniques, methods and approaches to assisting group participants to understand themselves better with regard to their alcohol and drug use. 

Hear from a range of alcohol and drug workers, drug users, community health workers and peer educators on Therapeutic Groups.


Rehabilitation programs take a long term approach to treatment to help you achieve your recovery goals.

Residential programs can last from a few weeks to a number of years. No withdrawal medication is provided in the centres, so it is very important that you have already successfully completed your withdrawal treatment.

Residential withdrawal is also available from some treatment services. Find out more here.


Withdrawal or detoxification (also called detox) is the process of cutting back, or cutting out, the use of alcohol or other drugs. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, and differ depending on the duration of use, type of drug, age, the person’s physical and psychological characteristics and the method of withdrawal. A person could develop physical or psychological dependence on a drug, or both.

Physical dependence

Physical dependence occurs when someone has taken a drug for a period of time and comes to rely on it, because if it’s not taken withdrawal symptoms will appear. 

Psychological dependence

Psychological dependence occurs when a person believes they need the drug to function. This could be in certain situations, such as at a party, or it could be all the time.

Find out more about withdrawal here.


Substitution pharmacotherapy is the use of medication to replace a harmful drug. This is given as a legal, measured, prescribed dose of a drug, and helps take away cravings so that you can work on other issues that will help you to recover.

Pharmacotherapy is only available for withdrawal from some drugs. For example, buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone are used in the treatment of opioid dependence.

Your doctor or treatment service can give you more information about what is available to help you.