Effective treatments are available and include both counselling and medication.


Changing the way you use alcohol or drugs can be really hard. The best place to start is to see your GP and ask for a referral to a counsellor trained in treating drug and alcohol issues.



There are a number of different counselling approaches that can be used to help you to change your drinking and/or drug taking. These include:

  • Motivational interviewing (MI). This therapy helps you understand the personal costs and benefits of your drug and alcohol use and make decisions about what role you want them to continue to play in your life. It will help you set goals and maintain your focus on reducing or ceasing your drug and alcohol use.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This helps you to understand the links between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. CBT teaches you skills that will help you manage your cravings and reduce or stop your use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Behavioural couples therapy or family therapy. Sometimes our relationships with those closest to us can make it difficult to change our habits. This therapy helps you and your family members understand how they can all play a role in helping you get control over your use of alcohol and drugs.
  • Contingency management. Your motivation to change your behaviour can often be helped by having a reward system in place to reward you when you reach your goals and to help you maintain the changes long-term. Contingency management helps you setup a reward system that works for you.
  • Relapse prevention. This approach provides skills and strategies to avoid falling back into old habits including knowing how to manage stressful situations and get back in control should you have a lapse.
  • Residential programs or therapeutic communities. These settings can be helpful for some people who have significant dependencies on one or more drugs and alcohol.


Counselling for problem drinking can take place individually, in groups, or for couples. Counselling for drug taking is less likely to take place in a group, and more likely to be one-on-one or as part of couples counselling.


Cutting out alcohol – speak with your GP

If you have been a heavy user of alcohol and drugs, your GP may prescribe you medication or refer you to a medical specialist to help you manage any symptoms that might occur when you are first reducing your intake. Some of these symptoms can be dangerous (for example there is a risk of seizures with alcohol withdrawal), so it is important that you seek medical advice before attempting to stop your drug and alcohol use on your own. Your GP can also assist with medications that lessen cravings, and these can help you prevent relapse. Once the symptoms of withdrawal have settled down, or if your doctor decides that it is safe for you to reduce or stop your drinking without medical support, then you will be referred to a drug and alcohol counsellor to help you manage your drug and alcohol problem effectively.


Helpful resources

  • The Right Mix website (or call 1800 1808 68) is a useful resource for military veterans. It includes materials such as local support contacts, and tips for changing drinking behaviour.
  • The Department of Health website provides more information on drinking guidelines and self-management strategies.
  • The Australian Drug Foundation website provides advice on treatment services and information about drug use.
  • Drug Info is a service of the Australian Drug Foundation (ADF) that provides handouts on the effects of illegal drug use and misuse of prescription medication.
  • The World Health Organisation has published a downloadable self-help booklet with strategies for cutting down or stopping drug use.
  • The National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre website provides information specific to cannabis use and treatment.
  • Family Drug Support (FDS) provides a 24-hour telephone counselling line to support families affected by alcohol and substance use. Contact FDS on 1300 368 186.
  • NDARC Comorbidity Booklets provide information on substance use and a range of comorbid conditions, such as trauma, anxiety, mood, and personality.