NICE recommends an integrated approach for the care of people with drug use disorders


NICE have published a new quality standard aimed at supporting the recovery for adults with drug use disorders, including opioids, cannabis, stimulants and other drugs.

This set of documents on drug use disorders now sits beside the existing NICE quality standards on dementia, depression in adults, alcohol dependence and service user experiences of adult mental health.

The new standard is aimed at health and social care professionals, commissioners and service providers, but there is also a patient version of the guidance for the general public.

It covers the treatment of adults who misuse opioids, cannabis, stimulants or other drugs in all settings in which care is received, in particular inpatient and specialist residential and community-based treatment settings. This includes related organisations such as prison services and the interface with other services, for example those provided by the voluntary sector.

The 10 quality statements in the standard are:

  1. People who inject drugs have access to needle and syringe programmes in accordance with NICE guidance
  2. People in drug treatment are offered a comprehensive assessment
  3. Families and carers of people with drug use disorders are offered an assessment of their needs
  4. People accessing drug treatment services are offered testing and referral for treatment for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV and vaccination for hepatitis B
  5. People in drug treatment are given information and advice about the following treatment options: harm-reduction, maintenance, detoxification and abstinence
  6. People in drug treatment are offered appropriate psychosocial interventions by their key-worker
  7. People in drug treatment are offered support to access services that promote recovery and reintegration including housing, education, employment, personal finance, healthcare and mutual aid
  8. People in drug treatment are offered appropriate formal psychosocial interventions and/or psychological treatments
  9. People who have achieved abstinence are offered continued treatment or support for at least 6 months
  10. People in drug treatment are given information and advice on the NICE eligibility criteria for residential rehabilitative treatment

Gill Leng, Director of Health and Social Care at NICE said:

This new quality standard aims to drive improvements in key areas of the drug use treatment pathway, by providing a set of measurable markers to help demonstrate how services are performing.


Quality standard for drug use disorders. QS23, NICE, 19 Nov 2012.

QS23 Drug use disorders: information for patients (PDF). NICE, 19 Nov 2012.

QS23 Drug use disorders: NICE support for commissioners and others (PDF). NICE, 19 Nov 2012.

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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