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Drug Addiction

Learn about drug addiction, as well as different types of drug addiction. We also explain the treatment process for each addiction, and how to overcome withdrawal symptoms and enter life in recovery.

    Drug Addiction

    There is no shame in admitting that you have an addiction. In fact, coming to terms with your addiction and realising that you need help is the first and most important step on the road to recovery.

    No matter what form of addiction you are struggling with, our team at OK Rehab has the necessary resources and experience to help you recover and begin to thrive again. We can support you and guide you in the right direction.

    Remember, it’s never too late to reach out for help – see below for some of the most common treatment options that we offer through our centres.

    Alcohol addiction

    It’s often said that if alcohol were invented today, it would immediately be made illegal. As the most commonly used drug in the UK consumed by over half of adults aged 16 years and over, alcohol is highly addictive with the potential to destroy relationships, careers and self-esteem. [1]

    Alcohol addiction affects more than just the individual – the impact of drink-driving accidents, property damage and alcohol-related violence is felt in every corner of the world, and it is estimated that alcohol abuse costs the NHS around £3.5 billion each year.

    Long-term effects of alcohol addiction include liver damage, increased chances of heart disease and alcoholic hepatitis.

    Many people struggling with an alcohol addiction may be hesitant to seek help due to a sense of shame and fear, while others may refuse to admit that they have a problem.

    The recovery process can be unpleasant and difficult to deal with, but the guidance of an experienced medical team and the help of prescribed medications has allowed many people to recover and live fulfilling lives free from the weight of alcohol addiction.

    Benzodiazepine addiction

    Although benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to treat a range of disorders such as anxiety and panic attacks, this opioid-based medication does not come without risks.

    Benzodiazepines are highly addictive, with one study concluding that around 1.5 million people in the UK are dealing with some form of dependency or addiction to benzodiazepines. [2] Due to their effectiveness at relieving symptoms of insomnia and anxiety, many people continue to take this medication even after their prescription has ended.

    Even when taken as directed, benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax can cause a number of side effects including blurred vision and drowsiness. If this medication is abused, long-term effects include hallucinations, dementia and seizures. When combined with other substances such as alcohol the sedative effect of benzodiazepines can relax the body too much, leading to coma or even death.

    It is not recommended to abruptly stop taking any form of benzodiazepines. Instead, the dosage must be slowly decreased over a period of time, allowing the body to rebalance and preventing many of the more severe withdrawal symptoms. This should be done under the guidance of a trained medical professional, ideally as part of a residential treatment programme.

    Cannabis addiction

    While cannabis is a popular recreational drug throughout the world, it is increasingly being prescribed as a form of medical treatment. This societal acceptance has lead many people to claim that cannabis is non-addictive and a safe alternative to tobacco.

    However it is still illegal to possess or distribute cannabis in the UK without a medical requirement, and prescriptions are issued on a strictly case-by-case basis.

    Despite popular belief, it is possible to develop a dependence on cannabis with almost 55,000 people in England seeking support for cannabis dependence in 2017-18. [3]

    Long-term use of cannabis may increase the chances of developing schizophrenia and other psychotic symptoms as well as mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, particularly when dependency begins at a young age. Many people do not realise that they have a problem until they try to reduce or stop their usage and find they are unable to do so.

    The most effective form of treatment for cannabis addiction involves a period of detoxification followed by individual and group therapy, allowing the individual to discover healthier coping mechanisms and challenge any negative thought patterns or behaviours within a supportive environment.

    Cocaine addiction

    Cocaine is an intense stimulant that can quickly lead to both physical and psychological dependence. Despite its addictive nature, cocaine is the second most commonly used illegal drug in the UK with 8.7% of adults aged between 16-59 reported to have taken it. [4]

    The burst of euphoria shortly after ingestion is one of cocaine’s most addictive qualities. As this substance changes the chemical balance in the brain, a person who uses cocaine regularly may eventually have trouble experiencing feelings of pleasure when the drug is no longer in their system.

    Long-term cocaine use can lead to a number of troubling side effects, all of which can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s quality of life. These include liver and kidney damage, an increased risk of stroke and permanent disfigurement of the cartilage in the nose.

    Cocaine withdrawal can be a prolonged and unpleasant process, made more uncomfortable by the lack of medication available to mitigate the withdrawal symptoms. It is recommended that this process takes place under the care of medical professionals within a specialised rehabilitation treatment centre – this allows for any complications to be treated immediately and guarantees access to a range of aftercare treatments including various forms of therapy.

    Heroin addiction

    A highly addictive opioid-based substance derived from morphine, heroin is the most deadly illegal drug in the UK with 46% of drug misuse deaths related to this substance. [5]

    Many people report feelings of pleasure, euphoria and drowsiness when ingesting heroin. For this reason, it is often used as a form of self-medication or as a way to escape from the unpleasant realities of their daily lives.

    The process of heroin withdrawal is one of the most intense forms of detoxification and should only be attempted under medical supervision. As the body can quickly lose its tolerance to heroin once the withdrawal process begins, a relapse could lead to a fatal overdose if the individual attempts to ingest their usual dosage.

    As part of recovery from a heroin addict, individuals will usually be offered the choice of maintenance therapy or detoxification. Maintenance therapy will allow them to switch to a less-dangerous heroin substitute and receive a regular prescription for this substance, while detoxification involves the same process with the end goal of decreasing the dosage of the heroin substitute until the individual is free from both.

    Gambling addiction

    It’s possible to enjoy the thrill of gambling without developing an addiction. However, studies reveal that the UK is home to around 1.4 million problem gamblers with almost half of these people not receiving the help and support that they need. [6]

    Many people struggling with a gambling addiction feel an immense weight of shame and guilt due to the financial troubles they can begin to find themselves in. In the worst cases, they may start to see suicide as their only way out.

    Often the most difficult part of treatment is not the act of stopping gambling itself, but rather the accessibility of online websites and apps that make it easy to succumb to cravings.

    While recovering from gambling addiction is not inherently dangerous, it is vital that the individual has access to treatments such as one-on-one and group counselling in order to explore the root cause of the addiction and keep cravings at bay.

    Cognitive behavioural therapy is a great option for anyone looking to recover from a gambling addiction, as it teaches strategies to deal with stress and other unpleasant emotions without falling victim to cravings.

    Sex and love addiction

    One of the lesser-discussed forms of addiction, sex and love addiction is no less damaging than more heavily studied disorders such as alcoholism. It can destroy relationships, increase stress levels and lead to financial instability.

    Sex addiction is not always physical, with excessive pornography viewing and online affairs included in this compulsive sexual behaviour. In order to satisfy their increasing urges, sex addicts may begin to engage in unsafe activities such as unprotected sex or viewing more extreme images and videos. This can lead to an increased risk of contracting an STI or being caught with illegal pornography.

    In short, an individual with a sex addiction may be preoccupied with achieving sexual gratification despite the negative consequences surrounding their behaviour. [7]

    Love addiction is slightly different, with the individual generally focused on one person. They may project their sexual urges and fantasies onto this person and become addicted to the initial rush of pleasurable emotions that come with a new romance.

    There are various treatments available to people who are struggling with sex and love addiction, with the most effective being cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy.

    The focus of these treatments is behaviour change, with participants encouraged to challenge their destructive thoughts and behaviours while replacing them with healthier and more fulfilling choices.

    References

    [1] https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-alcohol/2020

    [2] https://bjgp.org/content/67/662/e609

    [3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3069146/

    [4] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/832533/drug-misuse-2019-hosb2119.pdf

    [5] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-immediate-short-term-effects-heroin-use

    [6] https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/survey-data/Gambling-behaviour-in-Great-Britain-2016.pdf

    [7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2945841/

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