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Changing Habits

Changing Habits

Do you have any habits?  Things that you do without thinking about them?  Everyone does.

 

We develop habits to reduce our “cognitive load” – the need to pay attention to something that we’d be better off not thinking about.  Like shutting the front door when we come into a house or turning off a tap after washing our hands.

 

Imagine a situation where you had to actively remember to pay attention to all the things you normally did automatically?   You wouldn’t have time to think about anything else.

 

Our brains develop a way of triggering automatic responses to our environment.

This “stimulus-response” process is how we get to do things without thinking about them.

 

Now think about a habit that you want to change.  It doesn’t make sense to do it anymore, it is exposing you to risk or it is causing you harm.  If the response to the stimulus doesn’t change, you end up with the same outcome to a goal you no longer have.

 

Research suggests that people with substance use disorders have greater difficulty overcoming habitual responses to stimuli.  This means that a series of relapses can occur because achieving new goals and making them habits is particularly hard.  Simply put, it is harder for someone with a history of addiction to make changes compared to people with no history of addiction.

 

Interestingly, there is no difference in learning new behaviours for people with addiction when you compare them with others.  The problem seems to be as we adopt new behaviours it remains that much harder to shake off well-learned associations – the saying that ‘old habits die hard’ seems to be the case.

 

But new habits can be learned easily and in a straightforward way.  In fact, there is evidence to suggest that people with addiction histories learn new things faster than anyone else.  With the right training and practice, people with addiction can and will develop new habits.

 

There is no need to think that having a long-term addiction is an inevitable choice that we can’t change.  We could describe addiction as a goal-directed behaviour (something we have thought about and want to do) that becomes a habit-based process (something we aren’t thinking about but do anyway).

 

Habit develops as a consequence of reinforcement.  This takes place by repetition of the same behaviour until it becomes automatic.

 

As far back as 1947 Kurt Lewin looked idea of how we respond to change and the role of groups in supporting the process.  His approach was simple: a three-step change model which has formed the basis of much change theory ever since:

 

1 Unfreezing

2 Changing

3 Freezing

 

Unfreeze

We know that we are often unwilling to change and might be resistant to making changes and facing the unknown.

 

Think about a change you are experiencing at the moment.  Ask yourself:

 

“What am I doing that stops me from making the changes I need to make and why?”

 

Change

To be effective in instigating change, there should be a clear set of facts to share. These facts should be short and to the point.

 

‘What is the change I want to make?

What does that look like?

What do I want to think, feel and do differently?”

 

Importantly, these change facts need to be communicated in a particular way: face to face.

 

Freeze

What is going on when we are influenced to make a lasting behavioural change?  In 2010, leading psychologist Paul Dolan joined a multidisciplinary team with the UK government to come up with low-cost, low-pain way of ‘nudging’ people into new ways of acting.

 

For Dolan, our behaviour is a lot more ‘automatic’ than we might think.  We can, therefore, achieve change more easily by “going with the grain” of how people normally think and act.

 

First, we can try to change minds. If we change the way someone can think about things, then the likelihood of changing their behaviour increases.

 

Second, we can try to change behaviour.  This is done by changing someone’s “contextual cues” – the choices that we make by habit.   If we can influence the way someone makes a choice then we can change their behaviour.

 

Learning then doing

You can make changes by influencing what you think about and how you think about it.  This is simply about learning something new that you want to remember, get better at and stick with.

 

Change begins with ‘unlearning’ habits and then adopting new ones.  In this way, it’s no different to learning any new skill or changing the way you apply an existing skill.  Like learning to speak a foreign language and then needing to drive on the other side of the road when you visit on holiday.

 

Change is far is easier if you do it with others too – in a support group, with a psychologist, counsellor or therapist.  They will have a shared interest in helping you and can give you new knowledge or skills.  You also have a place to practice new ways of doing things and be supported if you find it hard.

 

You will soon find that you begin to think and act differently. You might be surprised when others notice the changes before you do.  You will have picked up new habits without thinking too much about it.  That is the easiest yet most profound way in which positive change takes place.

 

Andy Cole

Nicholas Conn / 9th May 2018/ Posted in: Latest News

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Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Diazapam (vailium)


Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Nalmefene
  • Acamprosate (campral)

Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

*based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

Local treatment

Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

Treatment Away

Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.