What is an addiction?

Addiction is a complex condition, characterised by an uncontrollable urge to use a particular substance (drugs or alcohol), or engage in a behaviour (gambling, technology, sex and love), despite many harmful consequences.

When someone develops an addiction to a substance or a behaviour, use will overstimulate the reward pathways in the brain resulting in pleasure. Use of the substance and behaviour can be then used as a coping mechanism to avoid unpleasant feelings, thoughts or emotions.  Over time, the brain function of self-regulation is diminished and control becomes almost impossible, resulting in an addiction.

An addiction can rapidly impact an individual’s mental and physical health, relationships, finances and cause social and legal problems.

Causes and signs of an addiction

The doing, taking or using a substance or action creates a ‘high’ feeling physically and mentally which in turn gives a powerful urge to repeat the action. This can develop into a habit that becomes very hard to stop. Stopping the action can then cause withdrawal which is unpleasant; it is often easier to carry on so the cycle starts and continues.

To satisfy the craving can require more and more of the action or substance leading to an addiction to get out of control.

Factors that may cause an addiction

Signs and symptoms of an addiction

  • Behavioural changes; secretive, dishonest, defensive, paranoid, mood swings
  • Lack of responsibility e.g. work attendance and performance
  • Lack of self-care
  • Issues with judgement and decision making
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Memory problems

Signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction

Addiction treatment at Nightingale Hospital

All of our treatment is tailored to our patient’s needs based on the understanding that every person is unique and has their own challenge.

We treat the following types of addiction:

Treatment services

Our approach to treating all addictions combines individualised addiction treatment programmes, with therapies that are based on current clinical evidence. Patients can seek help for their addiction at Nightingale Hospital in an inpatient, day patient or outpatient setting.

The aim of addiction treatment is to first clarify the underlying causes of the addiction and to develop skills for responding to difficult and problematic situations.

Our addiction treatment multidisciplinary team (MDT) consists of leading consultant psychiatrists, nurses and therapists who are all specially trained in addiction. They are supported by clinical psychologists, trauma therapists, counselling psychologists and psychotherapists ensuring that we deliver specialised, evidence-based treatments.

Our inpatient addiction treatment is provided via two separate modalities:


We provide ongoing support with a weekly free aftercare group for inpatients and day therapy patients for one year after treatment. These can be invaluable in helping you consolidate your recovery.

Family support groups

Those nearest to the sufferer often blame themselves, going through a range of emotions from despair, depression, and guilt to anger and frustration, leaving them exhausted and having difficulty coping and feeling powerless in how to deal with the situation.

Research has shown that the involvement of families in the treatment process greatly increases the prospects of a person’s recovery.

Addiction monthly free family day

Our addictions family day takes place once a month and is led by addictions and family specialist therapists. It consists of two groups.

One group is for family and partners only. It will offer them education in not only how to deal with the addicted person, but also how to safeguard themselves in this difficult situation. This can allow you to help your loved one in a healthy way while still being able to lead your own life.

The other group is to bring together the families and partners and the addicted person. It gives the addicted person the opportunity to learn how their addiction has affected family members and partners. It gives a forum for them both to express their thoughts and feelings.

Addiction weekly family free support group

Family support groups are aimed at families, partners and friends of people suffering from an addiction problem. When these problems arise, they can have a devastating effect on those who are close to the person. Our weekly family support groups are a huge source of emotional support for loved ones.

Free telephone consultation

We offer a free telephone consultation to determine if addictions treatment would be right for you or a loved one. Complete the form below and a member of our expert addictions team will be in touch to arrange an appointment.

Useful information resources for addiction patients and their families

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“Very good and helpful place for a beginner who has not tried to quit before. There was an excellent mix between care and independence when ready. I hope this will be my last time here but if I were ever to relapse this is the place I would come back to.”