Health: Overcoming Addiction
Posted on 27/06/2017 by
If you have an addiction, you're not alone. According to the charity Action on Addiction, one in three of us are addicted to something.
Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you.
Addiction is most commonly associated with gambling, drugs, alcohol and nicotine, but it's possible to be addicted to just about anything, including:
- work – workaholics are obsessed with their work to the extent that they suffer physical exhaustion. If your relationship, family and social life are suffering and you never take holidays, you may be a work addict.
- internet – as computer and mobile phone use has increased, so too have computer and internet addictions. People may spend hours each day and night surfing the internet or gaming while neglecting other aspects of their lives.
- solvents – volatile substance abuse is when you inhale substances such as glue, aerosols, petrol or lighter fuel to give you a feeling of intoxication.
- shopping – shopping becomes an addiction when you buy things you don't need or want to achieve a buzz. This is quickly followed by feelings of guilt, shame or despair.
What causes addictions?
There are lots of reasons why addictions begin. In the case of drugs, alcohol and nicotine, these substances affect the way you feel, both physically and mentally. These feelings can be enjoyable and create a powerful urge to use the substances again.
Gambling may result in a similar mental "high" after a win, followed by a strong urge to try again and recreate that feeling. This can develop into a habit that becomes very hard to stop.
Being addicted to something means that not having it causes withdrawal symptoms, or a "come down". Because this can be unpleasant, it's easier to carry on having or doing what you crave, and so the cycle continues.
Often, an addiction gets out of control because you need more and more to satisfy a craving and achieve the "high".
How addictions can affect you
The strain of managing an addiction can seriously damage your work life and relationships. In the case of substance abuse (for example, drugs and alcohol), an addiction can have serious psychological and physical effects.
Some studies suggest addiction is genetic, but environmental factors, such as being around other people with addictions, are also thought to increase the risk.
An addiction can be a way of blocking out difficult issues. Unemployment and poverty can trigger addiction, along with stress and emotional or professional pressure.
Getting help for addictions
Addiction is a treatable condition. Whatever the addiction, there are lots of ways you can seek help. You could see your GP for advice or contact an organisation that specialises in helping people with addictions.
Our online directories can also help you find addiction treatment services in your area:
To speak to someone anonymously about any kind of addiction, you can also call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.
Drug addiction: getting help
If you need treatment for drug addiction, you're entitled to NHS care in the same way as anyone else who has a health problem.
With the right help and support, it's possible for you to get drug free and stay that way.
Where to get help for drugs
Your GP is a good place to start. They can discuss your problems with you and get you into treatment.
They may offer you treatment at the practice or refer you to your local drug service.
If you're not comfortable talking to your GP, you can approach your local drug treatment service yourself.
Visit the Frank website to find local drug treatment services.
If you're having trouble finding the right sort of help, call the Frank drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600. They can talk you through all your options.
Charity and private drugs treatment
As well as the NHS, there are charities and private drug and alcohol treatment organisations that can help you.
Visit the Adfam website to see a list of useful organisations.
Private drug treatment can be very expensive but sometimes people get referrals through their local NHS.
Your first appointment
At your first appointment for drug treatment, staff will ask you about your drug use. They will also ask about your work, family and housing situation.
You may be asked to provide a sample of urine or saliva.
Staff will talk you through all of your treatment options and agree a treatment plan with you. They can tell you about local support groups for drug users and their families or carers.
You'll also be given a keyworker who will support you throughout your treatment.
What drug treatment involves
This depends on your personal circumstances and also what you're addicted to. Your keyworker will work with you to plan the right treatment for you.
Your treatment may include:
- Talking therapies – talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), help you to see how your thoughts and feelings affect your behaviour.
- Treatment with medicines – if you are dependent on heroin or another opioid drug, you may be offered a substitute drug, such as methadone. This means you can get on with your treatment without having to worry about withdrawing or buying street drugs.
- Detoxification (detox) – this is for people who want to stop taking opioid drugs like heroin completely. It helps you to cope with the withdrawal symptoms.
- Self-help – some people find support groups like Narcotics Anonymous helpful. Your keyworker can tell you where your nearest group is.
- Reducing harm – your drugs workers will help you reduce the risks associated with your drug-taking. You may be offered testing and treatment for hepatitis or HIV, for example.
Where will you have your treatment?
You may have your treatment while living at home or as a hospital inpatient.
If your drug-related problems are severe or complicated you may be referred to a residential rehab.
For more information about residential rehab, or to find a rehab near you, visit rehabonline.