Drug Treatment and Coronavirus/COVID19

As you are all aware, this virus is rapidly spreading and affecting people with underlying health conditions – that is practically everyone who attends a drug treatment clinic. Many people who use drug treatment services have COPD, and that means this virus can hit you harder.

It is also affecting older people, and we have heard so much about “older people who use drugs” and their health vulnerabilities, so this is likely to be a lot of people who are in drug or alcohol treatment. 

Your treatment provider(s) should be making plans to reduce risks of the virus spreading, and should be limiting how much you have to attend the service in person.

We have also put together some resources for people, including cards that highlight going out for medications and/or harm reduction equipment is an 'essential journey'. 


Already on a script: You need to find out from your drug treatment clinic/provider what their plans are for appointments and prescribing over the next few weeks. For example, if you are getting a script every week, it might be possible to move to every fortnight.

They should be giving you clear information (hopefully in writing) during this time, even if it is changing fairly often.

Appointments: These might now be arranged as either a phone call, or a Skype call if that is available. Generally, face-to-face appointments should be kept to as few as possible.

Groups: These are probably being put on hold to reduce risks to vulnerable people. Most of the services that we have spoken to have said they have already cancelled group sessions, but please let us know if this is not happening in your area.

Visits to the pharmacy: In the next few weeks pharmacies will probably become even busier, and going to the chemist could increase your risk if you are vulnerable. Ask your service how they are going to manage this. For example, if you are on daily supervised it might be possible to move to a less frequent pick-up plan, and they may let you have someone else collect your script (please see below for more details). Again, clear information (hopefully in writing) would be the best, but it might change often.

If you are feeling unwell: Let your worker know as soon as possible - get a friend or family member to call if you need to. Some services might begin to accept e-mail contact, but don’t completely rely on this if you haven’t before. Otherwise, you could call your pharmacist, as they might be able to contact the service for you. But, remember that they will be busier than normal. You will need to choose someone else to collect your script - they will need a signed dated letter from you and some form of ID to do this. Please let us know if you have any problems with this, as the pharmacy don’t have to agree to this.

On a reduction plan: Speak to your worker - it might be best to stop the reduction for a short time, as visits to the service might be reduced. Your worker and/or prescriber might also be off sick or working from home at some point.

Not on a script:  We would encourage you to make telephone contact with your local drug treatment clinic and ask for an assessment appointment, again we are hoping that the clinics will have a planned response by now.

If you are using opiates, it might be best for you to get on Methadone or Buprenorphine (subutex, suboxone etc.) during this time. We do not know as yet what agencies are able to provide for assessments and getting people onto a script. We would hope that plans might include increasing access to both these medications.


If you are having problems getting treatment, or making suitable plans with your provider, please call the helpline on 0207 324 2989 or email ask@release.org.uk for more advice. We will be continuing to provide services to the community during this time.


If you are using drugs and not on a script, or using drugs as well as your script, then please read this advice from INPUD (The International Network of People Who Use Drugs).