If you think you or a loved one may be addicted to drugs, whether it be legal drugs (e.g prescription medications) or illegal substances such as heroin or cocaine, seeking help is the best thing you can do.

We understand how difficult it can be to take the first steps to recovery, but we will guide you through the whole process and find the right rehab facility for you and your circumstances. We know that everybody is different, and what works for you may not work for somebody else.

At Help4Addiction, we can find you the best drug addiction treatment centre to help you get your life back on track and overcome your drug addiction.

Read on to learn more about drug addiction, including information about substance use disorder (SUD), the effects of drug addiction, and the drug treatment process.

What is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is characterised by continually taking drugs despite the negative consequences on various aspects of your life such as mental and physical health, work, and relationships.

It is considered a chronic and relapsing brain disorder. This is because drug addiction affects the brain circuits that impact self-control, stress, and reward. Even after you stop taking drugs, these changes can take a while to reverse.

Another reason why drug addiction is considered a disease is that it can have an effect on the functioning of various bodily organs.

In many cases, the damage is preventable and treatable. However, not getting help for drug addiction can cause the effects to last – and can result in death.

If you can’t stop taking drugs – or can’t go a day without using drugs, then you have a drug problem.

At Help4Addiction, we can compare the best rehab clinics in your area to find the right rehab clinic for you. Read on to learn the effects of drug addiction and more about substance use disorder.

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Drug Abuse vs Drug Addiction

Drug abuse and drug addiction are not the same concepts, although they are often used interchangeably. It is possible to abuse drugs without being addicted to drugs, but the vast majority of people with a drug addiction will abuse drugs regularly.

Although substance abuse is not the same thing as addiction, it is still something that should be looked at. Substance abuse is when you overuse a substance or use it in a way other than recommended.

For example, you can abuse prescription medication if you take tablets when you don’t need them, take more than prescribed, or mix them with alcohol or other drugs.

Likewise, you can abuse alcohol if you take more than the recommended amount of units per week set by the government.

Drug addiction, on the other hand, is recognised as a brain disorder. It is a physical and a mental illness that is characterised by continually using drugs despite the negative consequences on your physical and mental health, your professional life, your relationships, and your finances – and characterised by relapsing. This is when you attempt to stop taking the drug but end up taking it again.

Drug abuse can lead to substance addiction – for example, abusing prescription medicine can lead to you developing dependence and ultimately a prescription drug addiction. This is caused by chemical changes in the brain that compel you to continue using the substance.

Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder, often shortened to SUD, is a mental disorder that can impact your brain and ultimately your behaviour.

Substance use disorder is characterised by the inability to control your substance use, whether it be alcohol, medication, legal drugs or illegal drugs.

Symptoms of substance use disorder can vary in severity, ranging from mild to severe. Addiction is the most severe form of SUD – but some other forms can include drug abuse/ substance abuse.

Researchers have concluded that roughly half of the people who experience SUD during their lifetime will also have another mental disorder such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, or a type of personality disorder.

Risk Factors for Drug Addiction

In most cases, there isn’t just one reason for drug addiction – there is a combination of different reasons, whether they be personal, environmental, or genetic.

Your genetics can increase the chances of you developing a drug addiction, as can your parent’s or caregivers’ behaviours with drugs whilst you were growing up. Addiction can be hereditary – the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that almost half of the risk of alcohol, drug or nicotine addiction can be down to genetics.

This means that if your parents have experienced drug addiction, there’s a higher chance of you having drug addiction problems too. This is because the chemical reactions that occur in the brain can vary from person to person – which is down to genetics.

However, it isn’t just genetics that can increase the likelihood of you developing an addiction – your environment can play a big factor.

Some environmental risk factors for addiction include peer pressure, having substances to hand, parental difficulties and family issues, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, as well as the company you keep.

For example, if your friends all take drugs and have drug problems, then you may be more likely to develop a drug addiction than somebody who doesn’t know anybody who takes drugs.

If you believe one of the reasons that you got addicted to drugs was because of your surroundings, your social circles, or other environmental factors, you may benefit more from residential rehab. This is because you may experience drug cravings in your existing environment and struggle to detox effectively.

Another risk factor is having a dual diagnosis – which means having another medical health condition such as depression as well as an addictive disorder. Mental health issues, particularly underlying mental health issues, can increase the chances of you developing a drug addiction.

However, this relationship can work both ways – and having a drug addiction can worsen your existing mental health conditions.

This can create a cycle, worsening both your addiction and your mental health. Some people will take drugs to ease their mental health symptoms, which only worsens the vicious cycle. This is one of the reasons that therapy is an integral part of drug rehabilitation.

Having another medical condition can also be a risk factor – especially if you are prescribed painkillers or opiates to treat the pain or the condition. This can lead to you developing a prescription drug addiction.

A risk factor that often gets overlooked is the age at which you begin drinking alcohol or taking drugs.

According to a survey conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, if a person begins taking drugs at an early age, their brain development can be affected making them more likely to develop mental health disorders in later life.

Effects of Drug Abuse and Addiction

Drug misuse can lead to you developing a dependence on the drug, and ultimately becoming addicted. Addiction can have an effect on all aspects of your life – including your relationships, your physical and mental health, your work/ career, and your finances.

Drug abuse or drug addiction can cause serious physical health issues. Some ways in which drug addiction can impact your physical health include:

Your general well-being can also be affected by drug abuse. You may stop taking part in activities you previously found fun, and your hobbies may be affected. If you have a drug addiction, you’ll likely neglect these areas of your life as drugs will be the priority.

Drug addiction rarely just affects the person with the addiction – it can affect families, children, and relationships.

Substance use disorders can impact the whole family – for example, SUD can affect the family finances, routines, communication, rituals, and disrupted attachment. A parent with substance use disorder may bring feelings of chaos to the home, as well as fear, loss, and conflict.

Abusing drugs while pregnant can pose a risk for the fetus, leaving the baby being born with poor nutrition or addicted to the drugs. It can cause a baby to be born with birth defects or learning issues, and can even cause miscarriage.


When abusing drugs, whether it be legal or illegal drugs, there is a risk of overdose – which can be fatal. An overdose is when you take too much of a substance, and can occur when you take more than the recommended amount. An overdose occurs if you take enough of the drug for it to have a negative impact on your body’s functions.

Drug overdoses can lead to long-term health complications, and sometimes even death. However, the severity of a drug overdose typically depends on the type of drug, your height and weight, the amount of the drug you’ve taken, and your history with the drug (your tolerance).

The symptoms of a drug overdose can vary, but some signs to watch out for, regardless of the drug in question, include:

A drug overdose is a medical emergency – and getting help quickly can be the difference between life and death.

How Do Drugs Affect The Brain?

Most drugs change the way you feel both physically and mentally. This is because most drugs affect the reward circuit of the brain, leaving you feeling euphoric, relaxed, or energised. Some drugs such as cannabis will flood your brain with dopamine, which is a chemical messenger.

Your brain’s rewards system is designed to motivate you to repeat certain actions that are good for you and that you need – for example, eating, exercise or even sex. When your brain surges in dopamine, it reinforces these positive behaviours. However, this can also reinforce negative or unhealthy behaviours such as taking drugs.

Your brain adapts to drug use by affecting how your reward system reacts to drugs. This means that with time, you’ll feel less ‘high’ or limited effects of drugs despite taking the same dose. This is called drug dependence and is essentially your brain building up a tolerance to the drug.

Drugs can affect various areas of your brain in the long term, including learning, memory, stress, judgement, decision-making, and behaviour in general. Despite the negative long-term effects and short-term effects, a person addicted to drugs will still continue drug use.

Drugs can affect your mental health and your physical health in both the short term and the long term. It can exacerbate existing mental disorders, and damage your mental health. If you misuse drugs, you’re putting your physical health and your mind at risk.

Can You Be Addicted to Prescription Drugs?

Some people believe that some drugs are safe if they are prescribed – however, this isn’t always the case. Some prescription drugs can be just as strong and addictive as illegal substances such as heroin or cocaine.

Prescription medication such as steroids, codeine, and other opiates can be prescribed for a variety of reasons, whether it be for pain, diarrhoea, or hormonal reasons. When you have been prescribed medication, it’s important that you follow the doctor’s instructions – and don’t take a higher dose than prescribed.

There are three main categories of prescription medications that are often misused – opioids (for pain relief), stimulants (for ADHD), and depressants (for anxiety or difficulty sleeping).

Prescription medication such as sleeping pills can be abused in a variety of ways – and you may not even realise you’re doing it. Prescription drug abuse isn’t just taking your prescription drugs to get ‘high’ – it can be a variety of things.

If you take someone else’s prescription, or you take your own prescription medication in a way other than the doctor prescribed, then you are abusing prescribed drugs.

This can include taking painkillers when you’re not in pain or taking more sleeping tablets than the recommended amount. Likewise, mixing prescription drugs with alcohol or other drugs is also prescription drug abuse – and can be particularly dangerous.

Many people that are addicted to prescription painkillers may not be aware that they are addicted until they stop taking them – and experience uncomfortable or painful withdrawal symptoms.

What Drugs Can You Be Addicted To?

It is possible to be addicted to both legal drugs and illegal drugs/ illicit drugs. For example, you can be addicted to nicotine which is available to purchase in any supermarket or newsagent – or you can be addicted to cocaine which is only available through illegal means such as drug dealers.

Some drugs are more addictive than others or have more of an effect on your brain’s functioning. A panel of addiction experts rated the most addictive drug as heroin, followed by cocaine, nicotine, barbiturates, and alcohol.

Some of the most common addictive drugs include:

Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

If you develop a dependence on a drug, then you will experience signs of withdrawal when you stop taking the drug, you limit your intake, or you lower your typical dose. This can be uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous, which is why most rehab facilities offer a controlled or medically assisted detox.

The withdrawal process can vary depending on the drug. For example, when going through cannabis withdrawal you may experience anxiety, trouble concentrating, change in eating habits, and general irritability – whereas you may experience more severe symptoms such as tremors, high temperature, slowed breathing, nausea, and vomiting when withdrawing from opioids.

If you are regularly taking prescription medication, make sure that you speak to your doctor before suddenly stopping.

Signs and symptoms of drug withdrawal are put into three categories – behavioural symptoms, physical symptoms, and psychological symptoms. Some behavioural symptoms may include restlessness, trouble sleeping, or violence.

Some common physical symptoms of drug withdrawal include runny nose/ fever-like symptoms, muscle pain, and shakiness. Withdrawal from drugs can also affect your mental health – it can leave you feeling anxious or depressed, or cause mood swings.

Can You Get Drug Addiction Treatment for Free?

In short, yes – you can receive drug addiction treatment for free in the UK through the NHS, as well as through a number of charities. Most people looking for NHS substance abuse treatment will book an appointment with their GP – who will then assess their situation and refer them.

At your first NHS appointment for drug treatment, you should expect to be asked questions about your drug use – as well as your personal circumstances (e.g family, housing, and work). You may also be asked to provide a urine sample or a saliva sample.

You’ll then discuss your treatment options with a member of staff to come up with the right treatment plan for you. During this appointment, you’ll be given information about local support groups – and you’ll be assigned a key worker who will be your go-to for support throughout your course of rehabilitation treatment.

However, many people prefer private rehabilitation services, whether it be on an outpatient basis or an inpatient basis (residential rehab).

Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab

There are three main forms of drug rehabilitation treatment – inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, and quasi-residential rehab. In some cases, outpatient rehabilitation will suffice – however, many cases call for residential rehab on an inpatient basis.

If you opt for inpatient rehab, you will temporarily live in a rehab facility until your course of rehab comes to an end. This means that the accommodation and meals will be provided for you, leaving you to focus solely on detox, therapy, and recovery.

If you have a severe drug addiction or you’re addicted to a particularly dangerous substance such as heroin that can cause life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal, then completing rehab and detoxing on an inpatient basis will always be the best way forward.

Residential rehab will typically give you access to medical professionals, which can make the detox process safer. A medical professional may administer legal drugs to ease the withdrawal process and make it easier for you and your body.

Residential rehab can last anything from a week to over 28 days. You can find treatment options involving 7-day plans, 14-day plans, 28-day plans, and even longer for more severe addictions.

Inpatient rehab is the best choice if you have a severe drug addiction or if you have an extensive or particularly long history with drugs.

One of the reasons that inpatient rehab/ residential rehab is recommended is because it changes your environment during your detox and recovery. This means that you will be temporarily out of the environment where you previously got addicted to drugs.

However, inpatient rehab isn’t always the best option. If you have a mild addiction, you may not want your whole life to be disrupted to undergo rehab.

In this case, you may opt for outpatient rehab – which means you’ll travel to rehab centres to receive treatment rather than live in a facility as a resident.

If you have a cannabis addiction, chances are, you’ll be offered treatment on an outpatient basis. Cannabis withdrawal isn’t typically as severe as, for example, opiate withdrawal – so medical assistance is almost never needed.

Outpatient rehab involves attending pre-booked sessions and appointments – travelling to these sessions from your home. Although you won’t be a drug rehab resident, you will still receive the support and tools to break the addiction, as well as professional advice.

Regardless of whether you choose to undergo drug rehab on an outpatient basis or an inpatient basis, the end goal remains the same – to successfully detox from drugs, to become more stable and confident, and to prevent relapse.

The Drug Rehab Process

Between April 2020 and March 2021, 275,896 adults contacted drug and alcohol treatment services – which is over 5,000 more people than the previous year.

This year, we want the figure to rise even more – reaching out to drug and alcohol services is the first step to freeing your body and your mind of the addiction.

Drug rehab programs can vary in length – some treatment centres offer 7-day drug rehab plans, whereas others will offer 14-day or 28-day plans. You can find rehab programs even longer than 28 days, although these tend to be for more severe drug addictions.


The first stage of the drug rehab process involves detoxing from the drug you’re addicted to – so the toxins and chemical substances leave your body.

However, during drug detoxification, you may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. If the drug you’re addicted to will likely cause dangerous symptoms, you’ll usually be offered an inpatient drug detox with medical assistance. Detoxing with medical supervision can lower the risk and ensure that you’re in safe hands.

Detox can sometimes be dangerous – although the benefits of completing a drug detox outweigh the negative withdrawal symptoms. If you are addicted to opioids such as heroin, you may be offered prescription drugs such as methadone to help manage the withdrawal process and relieve withdrawal symptoms.

The drug detox process is aimed at managing withdrawal and intoxication – essentially clearing the toxins that you’re addicted to. This stage of the drug rehabilitation process focuses on minimising the physical damage that the drug can cause, rather than the social, psychological, or behavioural issues that substance abuse can present.

Typically, the detox process lasts between 7 and 15 days – however, it can vary in length depending on a variety of factors. Your height, weight, the drug you’re addicted to, and the amount of time you’ve been addicted to the drug can all determine how long the detox process will take for you.

The first 48 hours of the detox are often the most difficult – however, the withdrawal symptoms tend to ease up after a couple of days.

You may still experience drug cravings for a while after drug cessation. Heroin detox, for example, can last for weeks – but the most intense withdrawal symptoms will only last for around three days. In some cases, you may be given medication to counteract the negative symptoms and make the withdrawal process easier on your body.


Once you have successfully detoxed from the drug, you may move on to the next stage of drug rehabilitation – therapy. However, it’s important that you only move on to this step once you have withdrawal under control.

This stage of the drug rehab process typically involves a combination of different therapies to strengthen your mental health. Therapies can also help you gain a better understanding of yourself and your addiction, including your triggers and the root cause or causes of your addiction.

Talking therapies are common in drug rehab – particularly CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). CBT looks at the way our behaviours can influence our thoughts and actions – and vice versa. It is a type of talking and behavioural therapy based on the idea that our thoughts, behaviours and actions are linked.

During CBT for drug addiction, your therapist will help you to identify ways that your beliefs and thoughts affect your addictive behaviour.

Instead of simply observing, your CBT therapist will help you gain an understanding of how your thoughts and feelings impact your behaviours – particularly when it comes to taking drugs.

It’s not uncommon for those with drug addiction to be aware of their behaviours and even regret them – but it can be difficult to cease these behaviours if you don’t have an understanding of your behaviours and thoughts.

One of the main goals of therapy is to build up your strength and confidence – and prevent relapse. You may also be offered one-on-one counselling with a qualified counsellor to discuss your thoughts and feelings.

This can also help you to understand the root cause of your addiction, as well as your triggers. This is an integral part of relapse prevention.

Another form of therapy common in drug rehabilitation is group therapy. This can be effective as it involves being around those in a similar situation or with similar addictions.

Many private rehabilitation programs offer different forms of therapy such as holistic therapy – for example, sports therapy or art therapy.

This not only promotes well-being but can do wonders in improving your mental health. Some rehabilitation centres also offer meditation sessions that promote mindfulness. This can be an effective coping strategy and can enhance your overall sense of well-being.


Upon completing your course of drug rehab treatment, your journey isn’t over – you may wish to continue receiving treatment on an outpatient basis. This is known as secondary treatment, aftercare, or extended care – and is the third stage of your rehab treatment.

Typically, secondary treatment involves attending further treatment sessions and therapies. You may benefit more from extra counselling or group therapy – or support groups in a group setting.

Support groups can be effective in preventing relapse as you are given the chance to share your thoughts and feelings with other individuals in a similar situation. During these sessions, you’ll receive guidance and support.

Aftercare or secondary treatment is considered the period of recovery. This can be difficult – but rehab treatment is not only designed to detox your body from drugs but to equip you with valuable coping skills.

To be eligible for secondary treatment, you’ll need to have completed the detox and preferably attended a rehab clinic and completed therapy or counselling sessions.

To give yourself the best possible chance at addiction recovery, we always recommend that you complete the three key stages of addiction treatment – detoxification, therapy, and secondary treatment.

As well as for alcohol addiction and drug addiction, you can also receive treatment and secondary treatment for nicotine and tobacco, binge eating, sex, and gambling – as well as for your mental health.

How Help4Addiction Can Help You

At Help4Addiciton, we have relationships with quality rehab facilities and drug treatment centres all over England and Wales and can help you find the right treatment provider for you.

Our contacts combined with our extensive knowledge of drug addiction and alcohol addiction may be just what you need to beat your addiction – whether it be cocaine addiction, heroin addiction, ketamine addiction, cannabis addiction/ marijuana addiction, or alcohol addiction.

If you or a loved one has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, then contact us today. We understand that it can be frightening taking the first steps to recovery – we’ve been there.

We know that a friendly and non-judgemental voice can make a difference, which is why our dedicated team will guide you without judgement. We’re here for you 24/7 to help you on the road to recovery.

We can get you in touch with the best drug detox and drug rehab services in the UK, so you can expect bespoke treatment plans, expert therapy with qualified psychiatrists and counsellors, psychiatric assistance to improve your mental health, addiction education and awareness courses, and effective aftercare to give you the relapse support you need.

At Help4Addiction, we want you to stay on the right path and avoid relapsing – which is why we provide you with this service.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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