But even as addicts struggle to overcome their habits, they have to battle against the way others perceive them.
Now experts have embarked on a drive to banish the stigma around drug or alcohol dependency so society can better focus on treating the problem.
The Scottish Drugs Recovery Consortium has launched a report called Getting Serious About Stigma: The Problem With Stigmatising Drug Users In Scotland.
Author Nicola Singleton found drug users were spat on in the street, overlooked for jobs and sometimes denied painkillers in hospital by staff who think they are just after a hit, even if they have serious injuries.
Her report urges society to drop the stigma it holds towards drug abuse and suggested some addicts are so scared of being labelled they avoid seeking treatment for their problems, a process known as going into recovery.
Without help, addicts are at serious risk. Last year, about a third of all drug-related deaths were people who had never received treatment.
Ms Singleton said: “Stigma is the enemy of hope and aspiration and proves to be a barrier to people going into recovery.
“People really can change. If we are serious about recovery, we need to be serious about tackling addressing stigma.”
Former drug users revealed shocking stories of their relationship with social services, who promised them access to their children if they stayed clean for six months.
“But when the six months passed, they were told they need to stay sober for another six months, and so on,” said Ms Singleton. “Some just thought, ‘Why bother?’”
She conducted a survey and found 29% of people in Scotland believed parents should not let their child play in the park with another child if their parents were drug addicts.
More than half of those questioned thought people with a history of drug dependence were a burden on society, while 32% said spending more money on helping addicts recover was a waste of public cash.
What these reveal is a deep-seated mistrust of anyone who has slipped into addiction, even if they have managed to pull themselves back from the brink.
Dougie Paterson, of the Scottish Drugs Recovery Consortium, says once addicts kick their habit they often dedicate themselves to helping others.
He said: “Some see as it buying back their citizenship. They want to give back to society what they feel they have taken out of it.
“People think they know what a drug user is - and have images of crime or celebrity downfall -- but the reality is very different.
“Cutting out stigma will encourage more people to be open about their drug problems and, more importantly, get the help support they need to recover.”
Mr Paterson suggested that simply getting to know people who beaten addictions could be a way of beating this stigma because people who have friends or family members who have gone into recovery often have a more positive view of the process.
The Scottish Government has increased the money it spends on tackling drug addiction, upping it by 20% to £28.6million since 2006.
Communities Minister Fergus Ewing said: “There is a cross-party coalition who all agree this is a problem that needs to be addressed.
“There will not be a reduction in the amount of money spent.”
CASE STUDY: Phil Rainford
Phil Rainford used to work as a hairdresser, but has been forced to leave his work due to health problems brought on by drugs.
After suffering a number of strokes, the 56-year-old’s hands are now far too shaky to cut hair safely.
During his decades of drug abuse, he tried everything, including cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, ketamine and alcohol.
He became an intravenous heroin user, but it was cocaine that was his downfall.
He says: “The thing with taking heroin is you can only take so much before you fall asleep or die. With cocaine, you can just keep going and going.
“My children used to have a rota to come and check on me at home, which I thought was nice.
“But when I went into recovery, they stopped. That’s when they told me they were checking to see I hadn’t died. That’s when I realised the stress and worry I was causing them.”
Phil managed to kick the booze and drugs. He is now so stable he is able to go to the pub to watch the football, although he leaves when his friends start to get tipsy and slip into drunken babble.
“I just get bored,” he admits.
Life is tough for a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, who must not only fight the addiction, but also society’s perception.
He added: “There is a glass ceiling during recovery, which means you are not invited to friends’ weddings or you don’t get a promotion.
“You could have been working at a job for 40 years, but, suddenly, if you’re an addict, people think, ‘Don’t trust him’.”