Am I Addicted To Drugs?

Am I Addicted To Drugs?


 The Definition of Drug Addiction


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug abuse is defined as a chronic disease related to the brain that causes those suffering from addiction to relapse into drug seeking and consuming, regardless of the harmful consequences.


Because the use of drugs over time changes the structure of the brain it makes it harder for an addict to use the part of the brain that would normally make the safe decision to refrain from the harmful substance.


Drugs and The Brain


There are different types of drugs that have different effects. The longer-term effects of drug use can quickly become addictive and negatively affects physical health and mental health. However, if you are only experiencing physical reactions to toxins in your body, you are more able to make the logical choices that can help you recover. For example If you have a physical intolerance to something such as a nut allergy, it does not have long-term effects on your ability to make important decisions in relation to protecting yourself  from the toxicity the nuts would have on you, you can comfortably refrain from consuming them, unlike drugs  that are addictive, which affect your ability to rationalise and make those safe decisions.


For most people, addiction does not happen suddenly. Drug use starts often with a choice to try the substance out, often as an experiment with friends as part of that process of socialising when younger. However, the impact of drug use can be profound, with initial euphoria that then gives way to other pleasurable experiences, depending on the type of drug taken.


Often, very rapidly the impact of drug use effects the brain functioning and one of the most significant signs of drug abuse, according to NIDA, is the noticeable inability to have self-control over the use of the drug.


Along with this lack of control comes additional behavioural and personality changes such as a decrease in the ability to focus and rationalise. Irritability, intense mood swings and depression also start to occur over time.


If these issues have not been a noticeable problem for you in the past, before the start of drug use, but are now, this could be a sign of how the drug use is now affecting your brain and an indication of addiction.


Physical Side Effects


Lack of control over whether or not to take a harmful drug is a major indication of addiction as well as mood changes.


The impact that drug use has on your body is also very telling in relation to whether you have developed a drug dependency.


There are many different categories of drugs available.


Below are some of the physical side effects of common addictive drugs such as heroin, crack, cocaine and marijuana. These drugs are not available over the counter as they are not legal, however, Some other addictive drugs, also discussed below, are very easily obtained over the counter (OTC) in chemists.



Heroin  (Opioids)


Heroin is a drug which contains opioids. The brain has receptors that can allow opioids to bind to them. When this happens it floods the body with an unnaturally excessive amount of dopamine which reduces the feeling of pain and creates a high, even euphoria. Over time opioids affect the proper functioning of the brain.


Part of the brain that is affected is the ability to regulate emotions and behaviour, this is diminished over time, along with long-term memory and decision making.



Initially euphoria then longer-term agitation, anxiety, depression, hostility.



(short term) Nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, itching, slowed breathing and heart rate.

(Long term) abscesses, infections, liver and kidney disease, fatality.


Note: There are also many OTC in the UK that can become addictive. Many OTC drugs contain the addictive drug codeine. Codeine is another opiate, and in large quantities will have the same side effects.  Although it’s not easy to go into a chemist and then buy enough OTC drugs, such as Solpadeine, Nurofen Plus or Co-codamol, there are ways that individuals can obtain OTC drugs that can create very addictive effects.


Crack Cocaine.


Crack Cocaine is a stimulant to the nervous system and like opioids can cause an excessive amount of dopamine to enter the brain which gives the feeling of euphoria.


Dopamine is naturally released as part of the bodies reward system so when it is induced artificially it then alters the natural safe chemical balance of dopamine very quickly and addiction starts to occur. As time progresses this chemical imbalance in the brain can cause very serious depression.


Behaviourally: Initially euphoria, increased focus, increased energy, escaping reality then longer-term aggression, mood swings, psychosis, paranoia, obsessive thoughts.


Physical: Dilated pupils, muscle twitching,  Insomnia, loss of weight, and some potentially fatal conditions such as raised blood pressure and increased heart rate.






Marijuana contains a chemical known as cannabinoids which also binds to parts of the brain and releases dopamine, the bodies chemical that relieves pain.


Like opioids, cannabinoids have side effects but generally, unlike opioids, they are not fatal, this is because cannabinoids mostly bind to different parts of the brain that don’t affect life-threatening functioning. However, marijuana does affect the brain and mental health in the long term. The longer-term effects can cause loss of memory, affect emotions and create feelings of paranoia.


Behaviourally: Initially euphoria and relaxation then longer-term paranoia, cognitive impairment,


Physically: impaired motor skills, increased heart rate, memory loss, dry mouth, bloodshot eyes.



 Further Help


At first glance, this definition may portray a grim picture for those who wish to kick the habit. So where can you get help if you feel you are addicted to drugs?  The good news is there is very supportive help out there and for those who feel they are addicted, the realisation that they may be addicted to drugs can be the first step to kicking the habit.

Although this guide has hopefully scratched the surface of important information that can inform you more about your own symptoms, which you feel may relate to addiction. If you feel any concern that you are addicted, or someone you know is, then it’s important to get further professional support.

Contact Help 4 Addiction today to find out what help is available for you.


Nick Conn / 13th March 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.