While drug misuse can be seen as an illness requiring treatment, it is just as valid to regard it as a behaviour chosen by individuals, treatment for which will succeed only with the subject's motivation and cooperation. The Mental Health Act 1983 specifically excludes compulsory detention or treatment for drug addiction per se, although the Act does apply to mental disorders caused by substance misuse. It was recently suggested that a new Mental Health Act in England and Wales would permit compulsory treatment of addictions per se, but this has caused great controversy, and the proposals are not yet clear at the time of writing.

Because of the large amount of drug-related crime, Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTOs) have been introduced as community sentences. A DTTO is essentially a probation order with a condition of treatment. The person has to agree, and they receive help to move away from drugs and crime. It is obviously a sensible idea, but its effectiveness is unclear.

The long-term aim of treatment may be either complete abstinence from drugs or controlled drug use. Patients might be treated in dedicated inpatient settings, attend special outpatient clinics for controlled drug supplies, or consult community drug misuse teams staffed by specialized nurses and social workers with input from a consultant psychiatrist.

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