How To Ask For Help With Addiction

Although you may not realise it or want to accept it, addiction is all around us in society. It is often hidden but we will all know someone who is an addict, whether they are addicted to substances, such as drugs and alcohol, or behaviours, like gambling and self-harm.

Addiction can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. If we look beyond the stereotypes, we can recognise the many people who appear to be functioning in their day to day work and home life but are deeply affected by their addiction and are possibly on the road to further challenges and harm.

Addiction does not discriminate by age, race, gender or another demographic, it can affect anyone. There are, however, certain risk factors that can mean some people are more susceptible to a problem with addiction than others. Psychological issues relating to stress and depression, a person’s genetic disposition, as well as exposure to physical/sexual/emotional abuse or drug addiction at a young age all have the capacity to increase someone’s chances of becoming an addict.

There are some very worrying statistics on alcohol related problems in the UK

  • In 2015, there were a recorded 8,754 alcohol-related deaths in the UK.
  • The majority of alcohol-related deaths in the UK were men.
  • The average age for both men and women to die from alcohol-related conditions was between 55 and 64 years old, although all age groups were represented.
  • Scotland remains the UK member with the highest rate of alcohol deaths.
  • Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49-year-olds in the UK.
  • Alcohol harms are estimated to cost the NHS around £3.5 billion each year.

Addiction is seen as a disease of the brain (disease being defined as a disorder of structure or function in a human, especially one that produces symptoms or affects a specific location)

“Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterised by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works.” (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

If a person is ill, whether with addiction or otherwise it follows that they need and should receive treatment to get better in the most effective way for the individual at hand. And that far from being a moral failing, the person who is unwell should not be blamed for being ill but understood, supported and treated.

As addiction is believed to affect the brain it therefore affects behaviour and so is a multi-faceted illness. A person who is addicted to a substance or behaviour will have certain neurochemical processes disrupted alongside their brains reward system.

Some go further in explaining that addiction is as a result of underlying problems that a person has not yet dealt with and are avoiding so the addiction forms as a manifestation of these feelings. In this case the ‘thing’ the individual is addicted to is much less relevant, the why and how they are addicted is taken to the forefront and treatment is focused on the whole person, helping them to overcome their long-entrenched and addictive impulses.

Whilst the dominant model is that addiction is a disease some have alternative views, believing that the biological basis of addiction is counter-productive because it encourages individuals to not have responsibility and ownership of their problem. Some believe that just as a person chooses to drink alcohol or take drugs, they can also choose not to.

No one knows for sure at this current moment in time whether addiction is a disease or not, but many who believe it is have successfully helped those suffering from addiction. As a theory it provides a useful model to engage and treat addicts in recovery and even it’s detractors admit that it provides a useful approach to understanding difficult issues.

It can be hard trying to decipher whether you or someone you know has an addiction or not, like many other drugs, alcohol can be both physically and psychologically addictive. There are however some signs to look out for that may suggest you are a person you know is becoming dependent on alcohol:

  • Worrying about where the next drink is coming from and planning social, family and work events around alcohol
  • Finding there is a compulsive need to drink and it is hard to stop once you start
  • Waking up and drinking – or feeling the need to have a drink in the morning
  • Feelings of anxiety, alcohol-related depression and suicidal feelings – these can develop because regular, heavy drinking interferes with neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health
  • Suffering from physical withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, shaking and nausea, which stop once alcohol is consumed.

Having many or just one of the above signs may highlight that you have an issue with alcohol. The biggest hurdle however is yet to come, admitting that there is an issue and asking for help. Recovery from alcoholism is a personal journey and no two individual’s experiences will be exactly the same.

There are many ways to first discuss the issue, you can talk to a loved one whom you trust and know will have your best interests at heart. You could talk to a stranger if you find it easier than speaking to someone who knows you (there are many online and over-the phone support groups who are available to provide support and advice), perhaps you could talk to a professional like your GP or maybe you could seek out a sponsor, someone you know has been in the same situation as you are in but now has regained control of their life.

Whoever you speak to there may be different suggestions offered as to the best way to seek out further support and take action to treat your addiction, there’s a range of options but some include:

  • Online therapy and groups
  • Residential treatment centres
  • Alcoholics Anonymous groups
  • Outpatient residential treatment
  • 12 step programmes

No matter what method you choose it is okay to seek more help, if an online support group is not working, perhaps seek out a residential centre like Broadway Lodge, there is no ‘wrong way’ to recover.

If you are struggling with addiction what is most important is that you recognise you need help and make moves to get the right the right kind of help for your individual needs. Everyone is different, and everyone matters, including you.

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