There are many reasons why people start to experiment with drugs, whether it is out of curiosity, to ease stress or depression, through peer pressure or through an attempt to improve physical performance. Often this behaviour is a one-off or an infrequent activity, but there is no specific point at which drug using becomes an addiction. Drugs can be classified as illegal, prescription or as legal highs.
Drug use is classed as an addiction when a person becomes dependent on the drug. This means the drug taking interferes with ‘normal life’, affecting the person’s health and wellbeing, and their personality, along with important relationships, may change. Their performance at work or school may suffer and they may become fully immersed in the cycle of dependence.
Drug addiction is a complex illness characterized by intense and, at times, uncontrollable drug cravings, along with compulsive drug seeking and use that persists even in the face of devastating consequences. Addiction is a brain disease that affects multiple brain circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behaviour.
Counselling for addictions is a specialist area and what we recommend can depend on how long the person has been addicted and to what. CBT seeks to help clients recognise, avoid and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to abuse drugs.