February 8, 2024

Addiction and how we can help

What is addiction?

Addiction can be defined as not having control over a taking/using a certain substance or engaging in a certain behaviour. Examples of common addictions include drugs, alcohol, gambling, nicotine, the internet, pornography, work, among others.

The sources of addiction can be varied, with trauma commonly being an underlying cause. Some research studies suggest a genetic component, whilst acknowledging that environmental triggers can have an impact too. Whilst the road to recovery from addiction can be long and challenging, there are no addictions that are untreatable.

Actions that can help

  1. Don’t assume you can beat this on your own. Addiction and substance misuse can alter how your brain functions, making it incredibly difficult to overcome through sheer ‘willpower’.
  2. Talk to someone. This doesn’t have to be a medical or mental health professional to start with, just explaining what you’re going through to someone you trust is an important first step.
  3. If you’re having trouble finding the right sort of help, call the Frank drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600. They can talk you through all your options.
  4. Remember that recovery is a process. Whilst some may feel fully recovered after treatment, some will feel that they are always in recovery. Setbacks are normal, keep at it.
  5. Finding a ‘buddy’ can help- this can be someone who is ahead of you in their journey of coping with addictions or at the same level as you. Having some support can help you feel less isolated.


Symptoms of addiction and substance misuse can come in three forms: psychological, behavioural and physical. Symptoms will vary from person to person and also depend on what the individual is addicted to. If you are experiencing some of the symptoms below, you may require intervention.


  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Increased temper
  • Paranoia
  • Defensiveness
  • Lack of memory
  • Agitation
  • Reduced concentration
  • Indecisiveness
  • Diminished self-esteem and self-worth
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or stress


  • Secretive or dishonest behaviour
  • Poor performance and/or attendance at work or school
  • Withdrawing from responsibility and socialising, losing interest in activities, hobbies or events that were once important to you
  • Inability to stop using a substance or engage in certain behaviours


  • Lack of concern over physical appearance/personal hygiene
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, including insomnia
  • Shakes when not using substance/engaging in behaviour
  • Illness


A key principle of treating addiction and substance misuse is that there is no one treatment that works for all - everyone is different. A variety of different options are available to help change your behaviour, maintain the change and get back on track to becoming your best Self.

Talking therapies:Talking therapies have proven effective in the treatment of addiction and substance misuse. Therapy might occur on a one-to-one, group, or family basis depending on the needs of the individual. It may also be included in a rehabilitation program which involves short-term residential treatment, or therapy may be conductive in a longer term community approach.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often used to help you identify and change routinely held ways of thinking and behaving. Therapists may also employ motivational interviewing, in which they seek to understand your specific reasons for wanting to change and support you in reaching those goals. Other more compassion-focused therapies and mindfulness techniques can also be used.

Medication:For certain addictions, medication may be required to limit the impact of withdrawal. Other medications can help prevent cravings from reappearing and reduce the risk of relapse. It should be noted however, medication is not viewed as a standalone treatment and should accompany other management methods.

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