Addiction is an umbrella term and covers a range of substances like alcohol, opioid, cannabis, nicotine, party drugs and prescription drugs like sleeping tablets. In addition, there are other forms which include behavioural addiction like internet addiction, compulsive use of social media, food addiction, gambling, sexual addiction and body image disturbance. Addiction or dependence disorder is not just a result of a ‘week personality’, but it has been formally recognised as a brain disorder. It has long been established that genetic factors along with environmental and psycho-social factors are significant contributors to a person being vulnerable to addiction. 

There is a thin line between using a substance regularly and being dependent on it. It is important to recognise the subtle signs of dependency. 

  • A person is more concerned with getting their substance than dealing with other things, 
  • gets angry if confronted about their substance use, 
  • is secretive and evasive,
  •  seems more often intoxicated or appears to be under the influence of something, 
  • is less interested in everyday things, 
  • is unable to say ‘no’ and has a strong desire for the substance, 
  • is using more and more of the substance to get the same effect,  
  • feels tired and irritable,  
  • feels anxious, depressed or shows symptoms of other mental health problems. 

It is important that you seek immediate help if you or your loved ones are showing one or more of these signs. 

The question that keeps nagging the person suffering from addiction and their loved ones is 'Will they ever get better?' The evidence suggests that the chances of recovery are excellent if the patient is provided with right support,  care and treatment. 

The goal of treatment ranges from controlling consumption to giving up drinking or drugs completely.  The treatment consists of medications which help with withdrawal symptoms and reduces craving and help prevent relapse. Apart from medication, there is an important role of psychological and behavioural therapies like motivational interviewing, cognitive behaviour therapy and family therapy. It is also important to rule out and treat any co-morbid mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

Most patients need long-term or repeated care to stop using completely and recover their lives. Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behaviour. No single treatment is right for everyone. Treatment plans must be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs. Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs, not just his or her drug use. Staying in treatment long enough is critical in order to gain maximum benefit from the treatment programme.

In addition to the patient, it is important to address the concerns and provide them with the support the caregivers. As a relative or friend, you may feel frustrated and hurt, unsure how to help, angry and worried about the person’s safety and the consequences of the person’s behaviour on the rest of the family. As apart of treatment, the aim is to support the family members in dealing with their fears and frustration and guide them in how best they can aid the person in recovery.