Advocacy Guide - Your toolkit for advocating in drug treatment

a digital rendering of the advocacy guide flipped open

Founded in 1967, the aim of Release was to provide bail services to people arrested for drugs offences and to refer them to solicitors. In support of this aim, a 24- hour telephone helpline was set up and run by volunteers. Today, although the aims of the organisation have changed, the helpline continues to run, operated by Release’s Drugs and Legal teams.

In the many years of the helpline’s operation, Release staff have become aware of a great number of ways in which people who use drugs experience mistreatment from diverse institutions; educational, health, criminal legal, housing, and family ones to name a few. Most frustrating of all of these are the ways which drug treatment services can specifically work against people who use drugs under the guise of providing care to them.

There are drugs services around the country which are fantastic, where treatment systems work with patients in a collaborative way, and people are enabled to live happier and healthier lives. However, tactics of control which are deployed by some treatment services can destabilise people’s livelihoods and relationships, and trigger deteriorations in both mental and physical health. Due to the latter, Release's helpline is busy year-round with calls from people who are looking for support, trying to resist tactics of control and gain access to appropriate, person-centred care.

In order to scale up the ability of people who use drugs and the people who support them, we at Release created the two-part Advocacy Guide, with the hope that it can be a helpful tool to people in treatment and can also be used by those working in services to promote positive cultural change. 

Below you can download Part One and Part Two of the guide - the former contains a background on what one can expect from drug treatment services and Release's fundamentals of advocacy. In Part Two, advocacy strategies for different common treatment issues are written out, and template letters for various scenarios are provided. Even if your specific treatment matter is not included, this resource might be helpful in giving concrete examples of what your own advocacy letters or planning might contain.

Want the guide in print?

Due to the length and make of the full Guide, we are not able to make the physical printed version free for organisations. We ask for £10 per copy, inclusive of shipping costs, and can reduce that cost for large orders. Please email if you would like to place an order. Note: we will send free copies to individuals, and to grassroots groups and collectives of local drug user activists. 

Want training?

If you work in a drugs service, or in a different type of service which often supports people who use drugs, and you'd like a training on advocacy, please get in contact with We can deliver trainings to groups of various sizes, online or in-person, and are happy to deliver trainings to mixed cohorts of service staff, volunteers, and service users.