Drug Addiction & Abuse

This Page was last reviewed and changed on October 18th, 2021

Content Overview

Drug addiction is an illness; it is a complex brain disorder characterised by the compulsive consumption of a substance of abuse, most often illicit drugs, despite the awareness that doing so has detrimental consequences.

The consumption of addictive substances of abuse is both intrinsically rewarding (that is, the effects of that consumption are seen by the addict as being enjoyable and desirable – even if simultaneously the addict may dearly wish to stop consuming their substance of choice) and reinforcing (i.e. it makes the person consuming the drug wish to keep consuming it over and over again)

A person may be either physically addicted, psychologically addicted, or both, depending on which specific substance they consume (only some drugs are physically addictive), and the response of the addict’s body and mind to the presence of the drug (and its absence from the system upon cessation of use) will vary accordingly.

However, in the cases of both psychological and physical addiction, the addict will crave their substance of abuse, and procuring and consuming it will come to dominate their daily routine, their thought processes, and eventually their entire lives – often at terrible cost to their life prospects and circumstances, their relationships, their self-esteem, and their physical and mental health.

What Is Drug Addiction?

Addiction is defined by the US National Institutes for Health (NIH) as ‘a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences’.

The flipside of the coin is that not consuming the drug has negative consequences – in the short term – in terms of the way in which the brain’s reward system responds, and – in the case of physical addiction (or drug dependency) – in terms of how the addict’s body responds to the absence of the substance on which it has become dependent.

Both physical and psychological addiction can lead to withdrawal – the manifestation of often extremely unpleasant (and in some cases potentially fatal) symptoms while the addict’s system readjusts to the absence of the drug in question.

Challenges for society

Drug addiction takes a terrible toll on both addicts and those around them, and is a huge challenge for society at large: as well as countless deaths from drug overdoses each year, countries around the world struggle (and in many cases fail entirely) to cope with the impact of addiction on individuals’ physical and mental health.

The huge levels of crime associated with drug abuse and addiction (from individual cases of theft or prostitution right the way through to the multibillion-dollar drug-trafficking market), and the catastrophic levels of violence with which drug abuse goes hand-in-hand.

Some countries are effectively in the middle of civil wars as a result of the depth to which drug cartels have penetrated the social fabric, while even in less dramatic circumstances street-level violence is an inescapable corollary to the supply and consumption of illegal drugs.

The Difference between Abuse and Addiction

Drug abuse is not the same as drug addiction: it is possible to abuse drugs without being addicted to them. Drug abuse occurs when someone consumes a drug in quantities or via methods which can harm themselves or other people – but this does not necessarily imply the compulsive, repeated consumption of the drug which indicates addiction.

Drug abuse can occur as a one-off – someone may abuse a given drug and then never take it again – or can take place repeatedly – even frequently – without addiction developing; however, the more frequently a person indulges in drug abuse, the more likely it is that they will develop an addiction to that drug.

Both drug abuse and addiction can have hugely deleterious consequences for the person consuming the drug or drugs: just because someone isn’t addicted to a drug does not mean that they are safe from overdose (indeed each year a tragically high number of people die worldwide from taking drugs for the first time), nor from the legal consequences of drug possession.

Certainly, the greatly increased probability that they will become involved in an accident or participate in risky behaviour which may have catastrophic long-term consequences. Moreover, even if someone is not actually addicted to a drug, long-term drug abuse can have long-lasting or even permanent consequences for their physical and mental health.

Complications and consequences

Drug addiction tends to have a number of consequences which may not apply to drug abuse in all circumstances – for example, although drug abuse can be costly, drug addiction typically implies a very significant long-term financial commitment from which it is very hard to escape without help, whereas someone abusing drugs who is not, however, addicted to them may stop taking them at any point at will and avoid those potentially devastating costs.

Similarly, if someone abusing drugs begins to experience negative impacts upon their self-esteem and/or hopes for the future as a result, they can stop that abuse and immediately avoid those impacts; an addict, however, is imprisoned by their addiction and cannot escape those negative emotional consequences, which understandably can lead to serious mental health issues including depression.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse/Addiction:

What Causes Drug Addiction?

Although drug addiction has been a problem for many thousands of years – in the case of alcoholism, especially, it is likely to have been a phenomenon which emerged in prehistoric times – we are still not entirely certain about what exactly causes it, but both genetic and environmental factors can play a role.


Some people are genetically more predisposed than others to developing addictions, while a host of environmental risk factors – for example an exposure to substances of abuse in childhood, or experiencing trauma either in childhood or later in life – are recognised as greatly increasing the likelihood that a person will struggle with addiction at some point or other in their life.

However, while one person may be exposed to an array of these risk factors and develop a drug addiction, another may experience the same risk factors (perhaps as a member of the same family, even a sibling – and therefore also with a similar genetic makeup) and yet remain addiction-free their whole life.

Some studies of alcoholism specifically indicate that genetic factors account for around half of the risk factors for that condition, and some scientists have found similar rates of heritability for addiction to other substances.

A number of specific genes have been identified as being associated with a greater risk of addiction, but their precise role remains as yet unclear and most scientists believe that there exist many other genes which also play a role but which have yet to be identified and/or their relationship with addiction has not yet been proven.


Meanwhile, scientists and psychologists have identified certain environmental factors which are more prominent than others in terms of their impact on a person’s overall predisposition towards addiction.

Childhood abuse and/or dysfunctional family environment during childhood and adolescence, the prevalence of substance abuse amongst a young person’s peers, poverty, and witnessing or experiencing traumatic events all greatly increase the likelihood that someone will develop an addiction.

However, it is possible that a person can be exposed to all of those risk factors and more and yet never become addicted to any substance of abuse – and on the other hand, it is also possible that someone can have none of those risk factors associated with them and yet turn out to be an addict. Put simply, there is no one hard and fast “recipe” for addiction which scientists and the medical community have yet been able to identify with certainty.

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Of course, there is one factor above all which drives addiction: the repeated consumption of an addictive substance. It is possible, unfortunately, that even someone with no predisposition towards addiction can become an addict through repeated drug consumption.

Some medicines are habit-forming (indeed, some of the most dangerous substances in terms of the risks posed by their withdrawal symptoms are prescription drugs, namely benzodiazepines) and a lamentably high number of addicts today first became addicted through prolonged and repeated consumption of medication (for example, opioids to treat chronic pain).

Indeed, many people who would never dream of touching a substance of abuse,  let alone indulge in repeated drug abuse at a frequency likely to result in addiction, become “accidentally” addicted in this manner.

Sadly, many people addicted to strong and dangerous illegal drugs such as heroin first developed their addictions in hospital whilst being delivered pain-relieving medicine such as morphine, and found themselves unable to stop consuming such drugs once their treatment and/or time in hospital was concluded, thus being driven to procure illegal drugs on the street.

Who is most likely to become a drug addict?

It is impossible to say for sure who will and will not become an addict. Moreover, because of the aforementioned possibility of becoming addicted inadvertently and without initially engaging in recreational drug use and abuse, it is theoretically possible for absolutely anybody to become a drug addict.

However, there are certain types of people who are at a higher risk than others of developing drug addiction. One important factor is the age at which a person begins abusing drugs: put simply, the younger the person is when they first consume a substance of abuse, the greater the likelihood that they will develop an addiction at some point in their life.

This is not, it must be stressed, a hard and fast rule in that it is very possible for someone to consume drugs at a very young age and not become addicted at any point (so parents of children found consuming drugs need not sink into despair believing that their children are now doomed inescapably to addiction); nevertheless the correlation is a strong one.

Similarly strong is the correlation between survivors of abuse and drug addiction: one landmark study put the chance of someone developing addiction who has experienced at least five traumatic events at 4,600% greater than that of someone who has not experienced any trauma.

Furthermore, this goes some way to explain why people in certain professions who are more likely to be exposed to traumatic events – for example soldiers or emergency responders – are also more likely to develop addictions at some point.

There is also a very strong correlation between mental health issues and substance abuse and addiction: people suffering from serious mental disorders are much more likely than the average to go on to develop addictions, in part because they are quite likely to self-medicate with substances of abuse.

The link between depression and substance abuse (which tends to be a vicious circle, as substance abuse itself can cause and/or exacerbate depression) is well known; less well understood, but increasingly the subject of clinical research, is the connection between autism and similar conditions and addiction.

Understandably, anyone suffering from chronic pain has a greatly increased likelihood of developing addiction as a result of their consumption of pain-relieving medications, many of which as noted are extremely addictive. Interestingly, it is also the case that people with access to such medications who do not however necessarily require them themselves – for example, doctors and nurses – are also more likely than the average person to become addicted at some time in their lives.

The bottom line, effectively, is that anybody can become addicted who regularly takes an addictive substance, for whatever reason. While the types of person mentioned above are statistically more likely than the average to become addicted to a substance of abuse at some point.

That does not mean that someone who does not fall into any of the above categories is unlikely to suffer from addiction if they consume addictive substances with any regularity – and nor does it mean that someone who does fit into one of those categories will inevitably develop an addiction. Just as every person is unique, so is every case of addiction and the circumstances surrounding it.

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Commonly Used Types of Illicit Drugs and How They Work

The number and variety of different substances that human beings consume recreationally are staggering: the quest for intoxication has been a driver of scientific endeavour and innovation for countless generations, but in recent decades in particular this has exploded.

Thanks to a combination of various advances in our understanding of chemistry, the huge financial rewards on offer for those willing to risk often very severe criminal penalties, and the radical developments in global logistics effected by globalisation and the advent of the internet – a remarkable array of new and/or newly rediscovered substances have joined traditional favourites on the menu of substances of abuse.

Worldwide, the overwhelming majority of recreational drugs are illegal; in the UK, up until fairly recently a significant number of recently developed substances of abuse were not prohibited, but as of 2016 formerly “legal highs” (technically known as “new psychoactive substances” (NPS) have been banned and their possession and supply can have serious consequences, including prison.

Even prescription drugs which can be used recreationally are also illegal if supplied or possessed outside the confines of a correct prescription. Effectively, this means that of all the drugs commonly consumed recreationally in the UK, only alcohol and nicotine (ironically, two of the most harmful of all substances of abuse) are completely legal.


The most commonly consumed is cannabis (aka marijuana, pot, weed, puff, ganja and a number of other street names), a drug obtained or derived from the cannabis plant which is typically smoked But can be eaten, inhaled as a vapour or – thanks to its growing acceptability worldwide consumed as a medicine.

The consumption of cannabis has been part of human life in one way or another for thousands of years, and today many people view it as a harmless pastime, with a great many people in the UK calling for laws in this country to be changed to allow its decriminalisation or legalisation in line with a growing number of countries and states worldwide.

However, despite this public perception cannabis addiction is a growing problem in the UK and elsewhere, in the long-term abuse of cannabis poses serious risks to a user’s physical and (especially) mental health.


Cocaine is the second most popular illegal substance in the UK. A highly psychologically addictive stimulant of the central nervous system (CNS) derived from the coca plant.

Typically found in the form of a white powder which is usually snorted (though can be injected, ingested, or – in the form of the significantly-more-addictive crack cocaine, used by a much smaller proportion of the UK population – smoked) for its exhilarating and energising euphoric high.


Third on the list is ecstasy – the most common name for 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) – another stimulant which along with its similarly energising and euphoric high also creates a feeling of great empathy with and even love for one’s companions (hence another of its colloquial names, the “love drug”).

The name “ecstasy” is usually applied to the drug when in tablet form; MDMA is also available in brown-pink crystal form which is usually swallowed though can be snorted. Ecstasy is extremely common at raves and festivals, and in clubs, thanks to its energising effects which provoke users to dance, often for long periods.

Like cocaine, MDMA acts primarily by increasing the quantity of chemicals in the brain including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline; unlike cocaine, it also has mildly hallucinogenic effects. Because it is often supplied in tablet form, what is sold as ecstasy may not actually be MDMA but any of a number of other stimulants or hallucinogens, or indeed completely different substances some of which may be extremely harmful to the user.

As its name suggests, ecstasy is related to amphetamine (technically ecstasy is a member of the substituted amphetamine class of drugs), another popular stimulant with euphoric effects: in the UK and elsewhere, amphetamine is often called “speed” (as well as a many other street names).

It is most commonly available as a white powder which can be snorted or injected. The effects of amphetamine are rather like those of cocaine (another central nervous system stimulant) although it is usually much cheaper and its effects are less euphoric than energising.


Another closely related drug is methamphetamine (“meth” or “crystal meth”), a very potent and highly addictive CNS stimulant which is less commonly encountered in the UK than in many other parts of the world but which is beginning to become more and more widespread and to cause a significant degree of harm to both individuals and society. Meth is typically found in crystalline form and is usually smoked but can be injected.

Many new psychoactive substances (NPS) are also stimulants; these drugs can be very slightly altered in terms of chemical composition to produce technically different substances, with different effects – a very useful trick on the part of producers aiming to stay ahead of the law before the 2016 blanket ban on NPSs,  but one which means that giving a comprehensive list of all these drugs and their brand and street names is effectively impossible.

Generally speaking, any CNS stimulant will produce an invigorating and euphoric high, along with having libido enhancing effects (all the aforementioned drugs are frequently used as aphrodisiacs) and, unfortunately, a broad range of often unpleasant and occasionally very dangerous side effects, even before taking withdrawal symptoms into consideration.

Of course, not all illegal drugs are stimulants: the two other main classes of drug found on Britain’s streets are depressants and hallucinogens. “Depressants” is a term used to describe a broad range of drugs which work primarily by diminishing temporarily the activity of a specific part of the brain, to produce feelings of relaxation which may also be accompanied by euphoria and a variety of other sensations.


Can be broken down informally into a number of different groups, the two most relevant of which in terms of their availability as illegal substances in the UK are analgesics (painkillers) and tranquillisers.

The most prominent frequently encountered illegal depressants of abuse are opioids, which include probably the most notorious “hard” drug, heroin, as well as:

  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Other, prescription-only medications which are taken from illegal providers and/or dealers.


Opioids are some of the most addictive and destructive drugs on the market; they are often available in pill form, to be taken orally, but many – especially heroin – are most commonly found as powder which can be smoked, snorted  or injected to produce an extremely powerfully relaxing and euphoric sensation of warmth and well-being.

Opioids are strongly physically addictive and withdrawal therefrom is infamously one of the most arduous which can be experienced; many people each year also die from opioid overdose.


Are typically prescription drugs, which are illegal when supplied or possessed without a prescription. They include barbiturates and benzodiazepines, two classes of drugs with a huge number of members sold under many different brand names.

Tranquillisers most often come in pill form and are taken for their enjoyably relaxing sedative effects; most work by increasing the quantity of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, thus relaxing the CNS. They are typically moderately to highly addictive and benzodiazepines, in particular, are one of the few class of drugs withdrawal from which can prove fatal by itself.


Are drugs which alter the user’s perception of reality (usually either visually, auditory or both). Hallucinogens have been popular to a varying extent since the 1960s, though some naturally occurring hallucinogens such as “magic mushrooms” (psilocybin) and ayahuasca have been used by human beings for spiritual purposes or recreationally for thousands of years.

They include some of the very strongest drugs available in terms of the extent to which they can distort a person’s experience of the world around them.

They have been formative in the creation of some of the most innovative and influential art of the last hundred years.

The most commonly consumed dissociative in the UK is ketamine, often described as a “veterinary tranquilliser” despite its use in human medicine as a strong analgesic; ketamine is typically found in the form of a white powder which is usually snorted (though can be injected) and which has almost immediate and very strong effects.

Effects can include a temporary catatonic state, and which usually involve at least some degree of distortion of the user’s understanding of time as well as impacting motor control severely. Less common in the UK are PCP (“angel dust”) and DXM, the former of which is notorious for rendering its users almost oblivious to pain and frequently causes temporary psychosis.

Finally, deliriants create false perceptions of reality and induce a state of extreme confusion (delirium) which can be utterly terrifying and can lead to extremely bizarre and potentially dangerous behaviour. Deliriants are comparatively uncommon in the UK, primarily because these effects can be so profoundly unpleasant; the most commonly available are naturally occurring, including plants such as datura, deadly nightshade and jimson weed.

Users of deliriants may appear insane due to the way the drugs affect the brain: the symptoms of deliriant use are very similar to those of some serious mental health issues including psychosis and indeed they have been linked to the development of the latter.

As stated above, a comprehensive list of all the substances consumed and abused recreationally in the UK is effectively impossible to produce due to their sheer number and variety. It is a truism that if a substance can be used to produce intoxication in a person, at some point it probably is, and one not all substances of abuse are physically addictive, anything consumed regularly for the purposes of intoxication has the potential to be psychologically addictive.

This applies to all the aforementioned substances, and many others including the great majority of NPSs (most notoriously the smokable synthetic cannabinoids with brand names including Spice and Black Mamba which are currently wreaking havoc on the streets of many of Britain’s towns and cities).

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

Because the effects of intoxication vary so significantly from one drug to another – for example, the energising and euphoric high felt by an ecstasy user differs very greatly from the relaxing, narcotic high caused by heroin – it’s not feasible here to produce a comprehensive list of the effects of each individual drug.

Generally speaking, the greater the dose the more obvious the effect, and while small quantities of many drugs may be impossible to discern in the user – even if that person is very close to you – serious intoxication is normally obvious, whether it be in the form of the intense invigoration, rapid speech, jerky movements and dilated pupils of a stimulant abuser, or the sluggish movement and drowsiness of someone who has taken large quantities of an opioid.

However drug addiction does tend to have similar signs and symptoms associated with regardless of the specific drug in question. Alongside any visible effects as mentioned above, a drug addict is likely to have their life profoundly affected by their habit in ways which may be common across substances.

For example, they are likely to become increasingly solitary and introverted, spending more and more time at home and possibly alone as the consumption of the drug becomes their only concern, losing contact with friends and associates even of very long-standing.

They may well experience profound financial difficulties, both because of the cost of their drug habit and because of its likely impact upon their professional life: drug addicts often lose jobs because of their inability to keep time or to be relied upon to carry out tasks to any degree of success. As a result they may find themselves in significant debt, or even destitute; they may also result to crime –  including theft and prostitution – to fund their habit.

There are also likely to associate with a completely different group of people bound by their shared interest in drugs – some of whom may be dangerous ,  violent or profoundly unpleasant in other ways, as drug abuse attracts criminals of all sorts.

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They may also display markedly altered personalities as a result of the effect of the drugs they are consuming and of the impact of addiction upon their lifestyle:  previously gregarious and extroverted individuals may become reclusive, solitary and morose.

Their physical health may be affected as much as their mental health – they may suffer from malnutrition, gum disease, skin conditions  and a host of other complaints either directly caused by drugs or resulting from a disregard for decent nutrition and personal hygiene.

Because of the impact of addiction on their life prospects and self-esteem, drug addicts frequently fall into depression which occasionally proves terminal in terms of provoking suicidal ideation.

Any or even several of the above symptoms are not conclusive evidence of drug addiction; however put together they are certainly cause for concern as they are common to a great many drug addicts, regardless of the drug in question.

Recognising drug addiction in family members

Every case of addiction is different and not all addicts will display all or even any of the symptoms mentioned above. Again, in small quantities it is not always possible to tell if someone has consumed even the strongest illegal drugs, and even if you know someone extremely well – even if that person is a loved one you have known since birth – you may not recognise that they are under the influence of drugs (especially because regular drug users tend to become extremely adept at hiding their drug use).

If you do notice significant changes in behaviour in a loved one which persist over time, whether alongside any of the above symptoms or not, it is understandable that you should be concerned. It is also likely that someone using or addicted to drugs will become deceitful when questioned about it, due to the stigma associated with addiction as well as out of a desire not to cause concern. In the end only you will be able to tell if someone you love is behaving in a way which is strange to you and which causes you concern.

What Are the Effects of Drugs?

The sheer variety of illicit drugs available on the UK market means a comprehensive roundup of all their effects is practically impossible here. Moreover, just as every human being is unique, so too are every human being’s responses to substances of abuse.

Even if someone is completely unfamiliar with illegal drugs, they will probably be able to recognise that alcohol affects different people in different ways (a “happy drunk”, a “gloomy drunk”, a “horny drunk” etc) , and the variety of responses to illegal drugs is much greater. However, some of the most common typical symptoms of drug consumption may be given to provide even a basic idea of what to look out for.

Physical symptoms

loss of motor control

dilated pupils


exaggerated physical movement

flushed face

clenched or jittery jaw

rapidly darting eyes




runny or bleeding nose and more

Psychological symptoms

wildly fluctuating moods

greatly reduced inhibitions

increased sexualisation



cognitive impairment



greatly impaired decision-making

fluctuating sleep and eating patterns


Social and financial effects

isolation and reclusiveness

criminal activity

stigma which goes along with drug use and addiction

worsened relationships

loss of job

How Do I Help a Drug Addict?

It is first and foremost vital that in attempting to help a drug addict you do not place yourself or anyone else in danger: “look after number one” is rule number one. It’s also important to recognise that in the final eventuality, the only person who can truly help an addict to begin with is the addict themselves: if they are not ready to seek help for their addiction, it is futile to attempt to coerce them.

Be there to support them psychologically and emotionally as best you can without endangering yourself or anyone else; let them know that they are not alone and that there is help waiting for them when they are ready to take that step.

Encourage them to take that step as soon as possible by letting them know the consequences of their persistent drug abuse – but do not threaten them unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

For example, if you are a partner and need to give them an ultimatum, especially if children are involved, tell them that you will work with them to find help, and do research into the treatment programs available for them – indeed research generally into addiction and what it means to be an addict can only help with your understanding of their situation. You may also wish to discuss with an addiction specialist specific steps you may take proactively to help them, such as how to carry out an intervention.

Crucially, keep an eye out for signs that they may be suffering from depression and talk to them about their feelings, listening closely for any alarming signs that they may be contemplating self-harm or worse. Always remind them that they are truly loved and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of treatment and recovery, and the prospect of a life without drugs and renewal of hope.

Enabling their behaviour

While trying to help an addict, it is crucial that you don’t enable their drug-taking behaviour. Most obviously, if you know that money you give them is going to be spent on drugs, don’t give it them: if you genuinely believe that they are in danger of harming themselves or anyone else if they do not get drugs, you need to contact the authorities.

Do not allow yourself to be used in any way as an excuse – for example, if an addict asks if they can say they were with you when really they were procuring or consuming drugs, refuse. Do not allow yourself become morally compromised in any way: this is not your struggle. You may feel a strong desire to help, and you certainly can help by encouraging them to get the professional help they need – but you yourself should not be damaged or made to feel awkward, or uncomfortable, or distressed in any way.

What Does Drug Addiction Treatment Involve?

Because drug addiction has become so prevalent across the world, a great variety of different approaches to treatment has evolved. Some approaches are of dubious value and others are downright dangerous; it is always vital to consult a GP or an addiction specialist before embarking on any treatment.

Drug rehab

Rehab involves staying (usually for around a month, although treatment durations can range from a week to several months) at a dedicated facility for treatment, which invariably begins with a period of detoxification (“detox”) – the process by which an addict’s system is cleansed of substances of abuse, during which withdrawal symptoms are likely to manifest – supervised by trained medical professionals and potentially made easier with the help of medication.

After detox, the addict moves into a therapy phase – where a variety of therapy models are usually available – during which they work with therapists to uncover the root causes of their addiction, and address these causes whilst developing mechanisms to help them resist relapse once treatment is concluded.

Drug addiction therapy

Numerous different therapy models exist for the treatment of addiction; it may be that an addict will respond positively to one model and negatively to another.

Options may be needed before both therapist and client settle upon the combination of therapies which works best.

Some of the most common therapy models provided in rehab include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and motivational therapy (MT), although many facilities offer more niche therapies which may be of interest to particular users.

Both group and one-to-one therapy settings are typically provided, to give the addict a variety of perspectives on their addiction and, in the case of group therapy, to give them access to different experiences and advice from others who have gone through addiction and who understand its terrible nature.

Where Can I Find Treatment for Drug Addiction?

Addiction treatment facilities, including rehabs, can be found across the country. Not all facilities provide the same level of care, or the same therapy models; it’s vital to find a facility that best suits your particular needs, whatever they may be.

It’s recommended that you speak with an addiction specialist who can assess your situation and give you details of the most appropriate treatment and where you might find it.

Crucially, you should never embark on any course of treatment that is not approved by doctors: a huge array of treatment options, of dubious efficacy, are touted online and many of these can be useless or even extremely dangerous. Speaking with a qualified and experienced addiction specialist will give you the advice you need in order to get the help you need.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most addictive drug?

How addictive a drug is depends very much on the person taking it, who may be predisposed towards addiction of one form or another. However, some drugs including opioids such as heroin, and benzodiazepines, are not only psychologically addictive but creative physical dependency as well: that is, the addict’s body becomes reliant upon the presence of the drug in their system, as well as their mind craving the drug to feel “normal”. Most specialists and medical professionals would consider heroin to be the most addictive drug, but really any substance can be addictive if you are inclined in a particular way.

How can I help a drug addict?

There are many ways to help a drug addict but they invariably boil down to helping them to help themselves: only they can take the first crucial step of acknowledging their addiction and reaching out for help. Speak to a trained addiction specialist to discuss a specific situation and get advice on how to help a particular person; do not do anything that places you or anyone else in any danger.

Am I addicted to drugs?

It is a cliché, but usually if you have to ask if you are addicted to drugs, you usually are. The key sign is if you have tried to stop using drugs but have been unable to do so – or even if you haven’t tried to stop using, if you have been unable to get hold of your particular drug of choice for a day or two and have started to show various withdrawal symptoms then you are certainly dependent. The bottom line is that typically a person becomes addicted a while before they are aware of it: therefore, by the time you come to ask yourself that question, it is usually too late. Contact an addiction specialist to discuss your situation in full.

Where can I get help for drug addiction?

Treatment facilities for drug addiction can be found right across the UK; speak with your GP or with an addiction specialist to discuss options available near you.

Can hypnosis cure drug addiction?

Hypnosis is a little understood phenomenon that many people associate with miracle cure. It is certainly true that some people have found themselves benefiting from hypnosis; it is also unfortunately true that many people suffer detrimental psychological effects after going through hypnosis. Consult an addiction specialist before embarking on any kind of treatment; in the case of hypnosis you should also speak with your GP to discuss whether or not your personal situation would be helped by that type of approach, and if there is any danger in doing so.

How can I break my drug addiction?

The best course of treatment for drug addiction is residential rehabilitation (“rehab”) which combines medically assisted detox with a range of therapy models in an attractive, peaceful, and wholly confidential environment.

What causes relapse?

Relapse can be caused by a huge variety of “triggers” – events, people, images and a host of other drivers which prompt thoughts of drug abuse in the mind of the recovering addict and which, if the addict is not suitably prepared with psychological safety mechanisms developed in therapy, may lead to a resumption of the consumption of drugs. Each individual addict as his or her own triggers, so it is impossible to say conclusively what causes relapse; however, it is generally accepted that only therapy can give a recovering addict the defence mechanisms they need to resist the temptation to relapse.

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