Addiction as a Symptom

Addictions to pain medications, prescription drugs and even opiates are on the rise. Recent estimates are that 1 in 3 adults will try recreational drugs at some point in their lifetimes. This growth in substance abuse has been accompanied by a shift in research. Nowadays, the educated psychologist will tell you that some addictions are a symptom of deeper problems.

3ps-consultation Addiction as a Symptom

We wanted to explore this theory a little more. We all have to take responsibility for our actions – but what if your addiction is filling some deeper need in your life? What if it is so hard to break because it is simply a symptom of something else? Without chalking up our own problems to our parents; let’s take a closer look at addiction as a symptom.

Psychological Addiction or Physical Addiction?


There are two main types of dependence: the Psychological and the physical. They are clearly defined as separate entities.

Physical Addiction

Physical addictions happen when a person abuses a certain drug or substance for so long that the chemical make-up of their body physically changes. This means that sudden withdrawal (as in the case of heroin addiction) can actually be harmful to them. When you stop taking the substance which has altered your cells suddenly you will trigger a variety of symptoms that may be overwhelming for your system. [i]

When dealing with heroin addiction, or perhaps codeine addiction or other prescription drug problems, it is often standard treatment to wean a person off gradually. This is the role of methadone in some cases, in others it require careful moderation in a rehab facility.

Psychological Addiction

Psychological addiction is a good example of how your brain has more control over your actions that you are aware of. Someone who is psychologically addicted to something has not undergone any bodily changes on a cellular level. They are not addicted in any other way except in their minds.

In this instance, addiction treatment needs to combat the psychological aspects of addiction and not focus on the physical. It is even advised that those with physical addictions may be able to benefit from understanding where there addiction came from, and how they can resolve some of the issues it brings.

Which brings us to our next point: It is arguable that some – not all – addictions have their roots in psychological problems.

Could Addiction be a Symptom?

peace Addiction as a Symptom

Regardless of whether you have a physical or a psychological addiction; could it be possible that it is a symptom of something else?  While this might seem like wild speculation, it has long been the talk of the psychological world. Addiction, in some instances, can feasibly be traced back to past trauma and events.

This study (International Journal of Medicine) into Opiate addiction provided a good starting point for research. In this document, three separate opiate addicts were found to have three distinctly correlating psychological features, or ‘markers’. They noted – all the way back in 1978 – that Low Self Esteem, distorted Future Time Perspective, and issues with the Locus of Control, were found in all three patients. It proved a spring board for some fascinating science in the years that followed.

Addiction as a Symptom: The Science


Whether you are coming off alcohol or recovering from a food addiction – the psychology is similar in every case of substance abuse. From those early studies in the 60’s and 70’s came the notion of addiction as a greater symptom. A volume from Psychiatry (Waigaratne, 2006, 455-60[ii]) outlines that addiction research has been vastly improved by the addition of a psychological outlook.

When we come right down to it; addiction is caused by a serious of chemical reactions in the brain and body. Note the earlier link we pointed out between the Heroin addicts who all had distorted future perspectives of their lives. This is repeated in the case of alcohol dependence. It has also been speculated that major incidents in our young lives could already alter our future perspectives and therefore mark us as ‘addictive personalities’ from a young age.

The conclusion can only be that addiction is a complex disorder whose secrets lie deep within the individual’s mind. Medical News Today[iii] even go so far as to pose that addiction is a mental health problem in its own right… and we don’t think that is too far from the reality of the situation. The initial onset of substance abuse is usually a voluntary action – but our desire to continue taking our substance of choice is the part that is mired in deep-rooted psychological fog.

The Link between Trauma and Addiction

Back in 2010, a forward thinking scientific study[iv] into depression and anxiety sought to identify the correlation between childhood traumatic experiences, PTSD and substance use disorders (SUDs). Oddly, plenty of research exists into PTSD in the military, but not so much into your average civilian. The study offered complete confirmation of the previous findings on military personnel: if you expose a person to childhood trauma or if a person has PTSD; there is a much higher chance that they will develop an SUD.

This depressing fact means that more needs to be done to prevent the onset of addiction in adults, from a younger age. It also means that yes; addiction can be a symptom of a deeper problem… according to science.

The Role of Psychology in Rehab

Mental health should already be a top priority for anyone trying to come off drugs. With things as terrible as they are with men’s mental health at the moment, we need to shift our focus to making sure everyone gets the attention they need. When you choose to sign into rehab to get help with addiction you are already making the correct steps.

In line with this, rehab centres around the UK now offer various types of treatment, some of which are aimed at rebuilding the Psychological trauma or damage that has caused your addiction. Some rehab centres offer CBT sessions for addiction, therapists, counsellors or specialists. Some offer music, art and craft therapies as addiction treatment. Some offer holistic rehab and some offer spiritual guidance… but all have one unified goal in mind. They want to get you better, and they want you to stay better.

recovery-consultation Addiction as a Symptom

If you can change the psychology behind your addiction, you can change the way you see your future. If you can do that? Freedom is only a brisk walk across a frozen pond… but it’s achievable. When you are in the throes of addiction, every single thing that makes wellness achievable is a tool you can use to fight back.







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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.