We all know a smoker who can’t go an hour without a cigarette or that colleague who is a nightmare at work before they have had their morning coffee. However, some addictions are more serious than others and can cause devastating psychological reliance. Alcohol, drug and behavioural addictions are extremely dangerous and can go unnoticed in the people around us. When you are caught up in the cycle of addiction, it can seem like an inescapable situation. However, addiction can be overcome with the right education and support.
What is addiction?
Addiction is when you feel compelled to continue taking a substance or engaging in behaviours even though it is causing you harm.
Addiction develops when you start using substances or engage in behaviours that provide a pleasurable chemical reward with chemicals like dopamine, serotonin or adrenaline being released. Over time, your brain becomes accustomed to these rewards and starts to crave the substances or behaviour that produce them.
Tolerance then develops where you need increasing amounts of the substance or behaviour to achieve the same level of pleasure. Eventually, you become so used to them that you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop and need them just to feel like you can function normally. This is physical dependence and when present alongside psychological and emotional dependence, you have an addiction.
Who is most at risk of addiction?
There are several factors that can increase the risk of addiction, including:
- Genetics: Research has shown that there is a strong genetic component to addiction. If you have a family history of addiction, you are more likely to develop an addiction yourself.
- Mental health issues: Underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder can also increase the risk of addiction.
- Stress: Chronic stress can lead to addiction as you may turn to drugs, alcohol or addictive behaviours to cope with the stress.
- Childhood trauma: Childhood trauma such as abuse or neglect can also increase the risk of addiction later in life as you use substances or addictive behaviours to escape the painful memories or feelings.
- Early exposure to substance abuse or addictive behaviours: Likewise, being exposed to addictive substances and behaviours when you are young can also increase your risk of developing an addiction yourself.
Common types of addiction in the UK
The most common types of addiction in the UK are:
Also known as alcoholism and alcohol use disorder, alcohol addiction is a chronic illness characterised by a strong desire to drink alcohol, despite its negative effects on your health, relationships and daily life. It is often accompanied by physical dependency, cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Also referred to as substance abuse disorder, drug addiction is a condition in which you have a compulsive need to use drugs, despite the negative consequences. Common drug addictions include cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and cannabis.
Prescription Drug Addiction
This is a growing problem in the UK and worldwide and refers to the compulsive use of prescription medications, despite the associated issues. This type of addiction can develop from taking prescription drugs for legitimate medical reasons or from abusing them recreationally for their initially pleasant effects.
Behavioural addiction is excessive engagement in a specific behaviour such as gambling, shopping, or internet use. This type of addiction is similar to substance addiction, in that it can also cause physical and psychological dependence and result in significant harm in every area of your life.
What are the negative consequences of addiction?
Depending on the alcohol or drugs involved in your substance abuse disorder, addiction can lead to many physical health problems including:
- Hygiene issues
- Extreme weight fluctuation
- Liver damage
- Heart disease
- Respiratory issues
Both substance and behavioural addictions can also lead to mental health problems such as:
- Low self-esteem
- Suicidal thoughts
Additionally, addiction can have a devastating impact on relationships and finances and lead to job loss, poor school performance, homelessness and extreme isolation.
Do I have an addiction?
If you suspect that you may have an addiction, it is important to seek addiction help as soon as possible. This isn’t always easy as your addiction will do its best to convince you that you are fine and don’t need any help. To help you see through these lies, here are some questions to ask yourself which likely indicate common signs of addiction:
- Do I have a strong, uncontrollable desire to use substances or engage in a particular behaviour?
- Do I spend a significant amount of time thinking about or acting on those desires?
- Have I experienced withdrawal symptoms when I’ve tried to quit?
- Am I neglecting important responsibilities and relationships as a result of my substance use or behaviour?
- Do I continue to use the substance or engage in the behaviour despite the harmful consequences it is causing me?
- Do I lie to my loved ones about the situation?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should seek addiction help straight away to begin the process of recovery.
What does professional addiction help involve?
Addiction is a complex condition that requires professional treatment and support to overcome. Here’s a brief overview of the steps involved in the treatment of addiction:
- Detox: This is the process of removing toxic substances from the body. It is usually the first step in the treatment of addiction and should be done in an inpatient medical setting like Banbury Lodge for safety and comfort.
- Rehab treatment: This step involves therapy, support groups and other evidence-based treatments to help you understand and overcome the root causes of your addiction. Rehab can be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting but inpatient treatment at a residential clinic like Banbury Lodge provides a more immersive recovery environment with no triggers or distractions.
- Aftercare: Aftercare is the ongoing support and treatment provided after you have completed rehab. At Banbury Lodge, this involves a year of free weekly group therapy sessions to help you make the transition and prevent addiction relapse.
It’s important to understand that addiction is a chronic condition, and recovery is a lifelong journey. However, with the right help and support, you can overcome your addiction and lead a healthy and fulfilling life.
How to help a loved one with an addiction
If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, it can be a difficult and challenging time for both of you. Here are some tips for how you can help them:
- Educate yourself about addiction: The first step in helping a loved one with addiction is to educate yourself about the nature of addiction and the best ways to help. This can include reading books, attending support groups, or seeking professional advice.
- Be supportive: It is important to offer a listening ear and non-judgmental support to your loved one. Let them know that you care and are there to help, but avoid enabling their addiction by giving them money or covering up their problem.
- Encourage treatment: Encourage your loved one to seek professional addiction help like that offered at Banbury Lodge and be prepared to support them throughout the process.
- Take care of yourself: Caring for a loved one with addiction can be emotionally draining, so it is important to take care of yourself as well. This can include seeking support from friends and family, practising self-care, or seeking professional help for yourself if needed.
- Don’t enable their addiction: Enabling behaviour, such as covering up for your loved one or giving them money, can actually make the addiction worse. Instead, encourage them to take responsibility for their own actions and seek help.
Common misconceptions about addiction
Addiction is a widely misunderstood condition and there are many misconceptions about it. Here are some of the most common myths that surround addiction and the truth behind them:
Addiction is a choice…
Truth: Addiction is not a choice, it is a chronic medical condition that affects the brain and changes the way a person thinks and behaves. Just like any other medical condition, addiction requires professional treatment and support.
Only weak-willed people become addicted…
Truth: Addiction can happen to anyone, regardless of their strength of character. It is a complex condition that is influenced by a range of factors, including genetics, environment and mental health.
You can quit an addiction on your own…
Truth: Overcoming a substance abuse disorder or an addiction to a certain behaviour is difficult, and it is rarely successful without professional addiction help. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and cravings can be overwhelming but professional treatment and support can help your addiction and maintain sobriety.
It is important to educate ourselves and others about addiction to dispel misconceptions about addiction and the stigma they often cause. This will mean that more people seek the addiction help they need and are able to turn their lives around.
What to do next
If you are looking for professional addiction help then get in touch with Banbury Lodge today. We can provide the support and guidance you need to overcome your substance abuse disorder or behavioural addiction and make changes that will totally transform your life.
Frequently asked questions