Intervention FAQ

Posted on by Melany Heger

How Do You Do An Intervention?

To stage an intervention, set an appropriate time and place, prepare the right mindset and most importantly, get the help of an Intervention Specialist.

First, in order to set the tone, an initial intervention should be done at a conducive place.

It is useful to remember that the end goal of this initial intervention goal is to get the concerned person professional help.


Second, in order to motivate a person with alcohol and/or substance use disorder to seek professional intervention, family members and/or loved ones must have the right mind-set.

Alcohol and/or drug addiction is a health condition requiring professional attention.

Highly-regarded evidence has shown that alcohol and/or substance use disorders can be effectively treated with comprehensive continuing care [1].

Like other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, alcohol and/or drug addiction should be approached as a disease with a strong behavioural component.


The third step in staging an intervention is to invite the presence of an Intervention Specialist.

Having an Intervention Specialist or another helping professional can communicate to the concerned person that:

  • >> Nobody is “out to get them”
  • >> Family members and/or loved ones have the concerned person’s well-being in mind
  • >> Support is available/ there is adequate and professional help


Individuals with alcohol and/or substance abuse disorder tend not to be receptive if they feel harshly judged.

An intervention staged solely by family members and/or loved ones can be perceived as threatening.


There is a tendency for the concerned person to think:

“They are ganging up on me.”


Whilst, the presence of a third-party, with an objective, professional stance can communicate to the person that:

  • >> “We are here to help.”
  • >> “It is a problem we will solve together.”
  • >> “You are not alone in this.”


In addition, an Intervention Specialist can help family members and/or loved ones put together:

  • >> Well-thought-out plans about what to do next
  • >> Ideas about a possible alcohol and/or drug treatment program
  • >> A helpful and sympathetic tone to carry out the message


Because the initial intervention may be the first time the concerned person is made aware of the problems brought about by addiction, an emotional scene is almost unavoidable.

An Intervention Specialist can mediate between loved ones and the person concerned so that both parties do not feel aggravated or antagonized.

It must be remembered that this initial intervention is just a run-up to the longer process of change that the concerned person and his/her supports will face.

What Happens In An Intervention?

In an intervention, a person with substance abuse problems is approached by his or her significant others and an Intervention Consultant to talk about the difficulties caused by the addictive behaviour.

Significant others pertain to:

  • >> Adult family members – spouse/partners, siblings, parents
  • >> Adult children of the concerned individual
  • >> Community members – neighbors, members of the clergy, etc.
  • >> Friends
  • >> Colleagues at work


Working together, the significant others and the Intervention Consultant try to convince the concerned individual to go to a rehab clinic.

The particular steps taken for successful intervention are:

  1. Contacting the Intervention Consultant
  2. Family members and/or loved ones formulate a strategic Intervention Plan with the consultant; they also check in with each other
  3. The significant others write down in advance what they want to say to the concerned person
  4. A specific time and place is prepared for the event.
  5. The concerned person is gently nudged towards attending the intervention in the appointed date
  6. The significant others take turns talking about the impact of the addictive behaviours in their respective lives.
  7. The Intervention Consultant mediates between the significant others and the concerned person
  8. The most positive outcome would be for the concerned person to agree to enter treatment in a rehab clinic or a similar facility as soon as possible.


To take advantage of the opportunity as soon as it exists, it can be helpful to ensure that a slot is available for the concerned person to go to if he or she agrees to seek treatment.

In addition the following elements can lead to a successful outcome:

  • Empathic communication
  • A non-judgmental stance
  • A plan that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely (SMART)
  • And a tone that the concerned person is not condemned or judged


Even if the concerned person does not take action immediately, an intervention is not considered an utter failure.

Some individuals may take longer than others to seek help.

Often times, bringing up the issues about the concerned person’s addictive behaviour is already a powerful move.

Chances are, the concerned person would respond to the message.

Hopefully, he or she finds the motivation to change.

What Is The Purpose Of An Intervention?

The main purpose of an intervention is to help a person with health problems find ways to cope better with life.

According to health experts [2], the term “intervention” means activities aimed to improve a person’s life by:

  • preventing a disease
  • curing a disease
  • lessening the number of symptoms of a disease
  • reducing the negative impacts of the disease
  • shortening the time the disease is felt
  • restoring functions lost because of disease
  • helping the person recover or adapt to new ways of doing things after an injury


Because alcoholism and substance abuse are both considered diseases, they can be treated with interventions.

The formal term for alcoholism as a disease is “Alcohol Use Disorder”.

Meanwhile, persons who have problems with drugs have “substance use disorder”.

For these problems, an alcohol rehab facility such as Abbeycare Gloucester can help by offering interventions such as:

  • >> 12 Step Facilitation
  • >> Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • >> Family-therapy
  • >> Dialectic Based Therapy
  • >> Animal-Assisted Therapy


In a rehab clinic, an intervention can be classified according to how many people participate in the activity.

Some individuals prefer to participate in Group Therapy.

Some individuals Individual rely on Individual Therapy.

Usually, both group and individual interventions are offered side-by-side.

The logic is they complement each other.

Lessons learned from Individual Therapy can be explored in Group Therapy before being applied outside the rehab facility.

Interventions can also be classified according to the problem targeted. This is why some programs are named:

  • >> Alcohol Abuse Intervention
  • >> Drug Abuse Intervention
  • >> Substance Abuse Intervention (for simultaneous addiction to many substances, called poly-addiction)
  • >> Behavioural Addiction Intervention (for addiction to sex, gambling and pornography)


Also, there are preventive interventions geared towards changing behaviours target specific groups of people.

For example, some interventions target:

  • >> Overweight individuals to encourage exercise
  • >> Teenagers to help raise awareness of problems associated with drug use
  • >> Pregnant women to explain the benefits of breastfeeding


With these programmes, education is paramount.

However, it is not enough to merely educate the target population.

If individuals are not motivated to change, or if they lack the resources, no new skills will be learnt.

Whatever goal an intervention has, a structured environment provides much-needed support [3].

In a safe place such as a rehab clinic, a hospital, or a community centre, individuals can be adequately supported while learning essential new skills.

Specifically, structured environments help by: [4]

  • >> Reducing anxiety about unpredictable events – a person in rehab is already dealing with a lot of changes
  • >> Maintaining and monitoring group dynamics, so everybody plays fair
  • >> Providing dedicated and professional help when clients ask for it
  • >> Continuous supervision and guidance


How Long Does An Intervention Last?

An intervention can last 1.5 hours to 2 hours.

This time frame applies to initial interventions such as those intended to motivate individuals with substance alcohol and/or substance abuse issues to seek professional help.

Taken from guidelines used in time-limited group therapy [5], 1 to 2 hours would be enough time for a group of people to discuss a tough issue such as substance abuse without causing fatigue.

As for interventions that happen inside a rehab clinic or an outpatient program, the duration of an intervention depends on the specific type of intervention.

  • >> For individual therapy sessions –  45 to 50 minutes [6]
  • >> For group therapy sessions –  75-120 minutes [7].


Recent research says that 15 to 20 sessions can be good enough for 50% of individuals to say the treatment done was effective.  [8]:

Some psychological conditions can take 12 to 16 weekly sessions for significant changes to occur.

Mostly, therapists and their clients prefer to continue treatment over longer periods of time in order to reap the positive benefits.

Some therapists and clients use up 20 to 30 sessions, lasting a period of six months.

The amount of time spent in therapy or intervention depends on the problem tackled.

With alcohol and/or substance abuse, inpatient treatment in a rehab clinic lasts approximately 28 days.

Therapeutic interventions that happen within the rehab facility are generally conducted twice a day, lasting form one hour to two hours.

In a structured environment typical of a rehab clinic, interventions are expected to:

  • >> Foster independence and feelings of competence
  • >> Encourage self-efficacy
  • >> Help restore planning and decision-making skills
  • >> Decrease challenging and/or aggressive behavior
  • >> Promote engagement in community
  • >> Facilitate friendly social interactions with others
  • >> Provide predictability in day-to-day functions


After the duration of the rehab stay, clients are encouraged to keep in touch with therapists and to seek further help if needed.


  1.   US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Available at:
  2.   Smith. P., Morrow, R.H., & Ross D.A. (eds.) (2015). Field Trials of Health Interventions: A Toolbox. 3rd edition. Available at:
  3.   Yen, I. Syme, S. (1999). The Social Environment and Health: A discussion of the Epidemiologic Literature. Available at:
  4.   The Conversation. (2019). How rehab helps heavy drug and alcohol users think differently. Available at:
  5.   Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (1999). Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse. Available at:
  6.   American Psychological Association. (2019). Understanding psychotherapy and how it works. Available at:
  7.   Group Therapy. Available at:
  8.   American Psychological Association. (2019). How Long Will It Take for Treatment to Work? Available at:

Alcoholism FAQ

Posted on by Melany Heger

Do Alcoholics Die Early?

Alcoholics can die earlier than individuals who never had an addiction to alcohol.

According to recent research in Manchester, alcohol-addicted individuals die 7.6 years earlier on average than patients without an experience of the disease [1].

Meanwhile, a study done in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden found out that patients with alcohol addiction live 24–28 years shorter than the rest of the population [2].

Women who have been hospitalized for alcohol use disorder are expected to live up to the age of 50–58 years  [2].

Men who have been hospitalized for alcohol use disorder are expected to live up to the age of 47–53 years [2].


There is a general consensus among researchers that world-wide that women tend to live longer than men [3].

Experts cite various biological, behavioural, and environmental factors not specifically connected to alcoholism as a condition.


Alcohol addiction is a preventable disease.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is the formal term for alcohol addiction.


AUD is a characterised by the inability to stop or control alcohol use despite negative social, occupational (work), or health consequences [4].

The cure for alcohol addiction is life-long abstinence from alcohol.

However, to make it easier for AUD sufferers, addiction experts approach the problem step-by-step.


Individuals who have AUD are given the suggestion not to suddenly stop using alcohol without professional support, as sudden withdrawal could be life-threatening. [5]


According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or NIAAA (US), the most common diseases that AUD sufferers die from are: [4]

  • >> liver cirrhosis (last stage of liver disease)
  • >> cancer of the mouth
  • >> cancer of the oesophagus
  • >> cancer of the pharynx
  • >> cancer of the larynx
  • >> cancer of the liver
  • >> cancer of the breast


Other life-threatening diseases include alcohol-related pancreatitis and complications of heart disease.

Additionally, deadly vehicular accidents can be caused by drunk driving.

Liver disease, the most-occurring medical condition that an alcoholic suffers from has four distinct stages [5].


Stage One: Alcoholic fatty liver disease

In this stage, there are usually no obvious symptoms apart from pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. Liver cells could be damaged and the liver could be inflamed [5].


Stage Two: Alcoholic Hepatitis

  • >> The most obvious symptom is yellowing of the skin (jaundice) [5].
  • >> Alcoholic hepatitis can be classified as mild or severe. In the most severe cases, kidney and liver failure can occur.
  • >> Serious symptoms can show up without warning
  • >> Can be triggered in alcoholics by consuming a heavy amount of alcohol



Stage Three: Fibrosis

  • Experts have identified two specific brain areas that alcohol affects [6].
  • >> When the liver is continuously and repeatedly damaged by alcoholic hepatitis, it forms scar tissues.
    • >> Scar tissue formation is the main feature of fibrosis.
    • >> Scar tissues block blood flow to and in the liver.
    • >> Blood pressure in the portal vein, which carried blood to the intestine to the liver, also increases with fibrosis patients


Stage Four: Cirrhosis [6]

  • >> At this stage, liver damage is permanent.
  • >> Scarring that began with fibrosis is wide-spread in liver cirrhosis.
  • >> However, a person can still survive this disease if it is professionally intervened.
  • >> Symptoms come from liver failure and portal hypertension
  • >> The patient is also at risk of liver cancer
  • >> Liver failure can manifest in difficulty digesting and absorbing food, bleeding, and problems thinking clearly.
  • >> While a sign of portal hypertension is passing blood through the rectum.


Is Alcoholism A Disease Or Addiction?

Alcoholism is considered a disease. Formally it is called Addiction Use Disorder. AUD is an addictive disorder characterised by the need to use alcohol even if faced with negative consequences [7].

Individuals who suffer from AUD are successfully treated with professional help from addiction experts in a rehab clinic.

Because it is a lifestyle disease like hypertension and diabetes, a person with AUD needs to make lifestyle changes.


Lifestyle changes are implemented best if psychotherapy and psycho-social interventions are utilised.

Currently, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and 12 Step Facilitation are the most popular forms of psychosocial intervention. [4]


As an addiction, AUD manifests itself in physical and behavioural symptoms.

The physical symptoms of AUD are largely brought about when the person tries to quit drinking.


Meanwhile, psychological symptoms include craving alcohol, being preoccupied with alcohol, and having difficulty performing expected responsibilities because of alcohol use.

Addiction experts determine the diagnosis of AUD by taking a person’s history and conducting specific assessments.

AUD is rated as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the individuals’ symptoms, physical as well as psychological.


The NIAAA defines AUD as a “chronic relapsing brain disease”, meaning:

  • >> Scientific studies have shown alcoholism is a problem at the level of the brain
  • >> Alcoholism is not a matter of will, self-discipline or morals
  • >> If left without treatment, it will progress, causing the individual more harm
  • >> Relapse will likely occur if the person is not adequately supported in treatment


As signs of problem drinking become obvious, it is wise to immediately seek treatment.

Many individuals can be functioning alcoholics or grey area drinkers.

Functional alcoholics or high functioning alcoholics are likely to  [9]:

  • >> Keep their jobs
  • >> Perform parental duties
  • >> Keep problematic drinking behaviour a secret
  • >> Experience emotional problems such as anxiety or depression
  • >> Can have emotional problems at a level that is not yet a mental health condition
  • >> Fall into the category of Mild AUD


Meanwhile, grey area drinkers also exhibit problematic behaviours associated with AUD, but their number of symptoms do not qualify them to the full diagnosis of AUD.

Grey area drinkers may not have the correct number of symptoms to have AUD, but their drinking is already causing them problems in day-to-day life.


Most grey area drinkers shy away from alcohol rehab or therapy because they do not outright believe they are sick.

Some grey area drinkers are also not ready for treatment because they have not “hit rock bottom”.[10]

Sadly, this way of thinking can be detrimental to a person’s physical, psychological, and emotional health.


Individuals who are in AUD treatment are given the procedure to gradually reduce alcohol intake.

Professionally managed detox also involves use of medication to ease the withdrawal symptoms.

Individuals who suffer from AUD are encouraged to approach this disease as a health issue to take away the stigma of seeking cure.


Is It Safe To Stop Drinking Cold Turkey?

It is not safe to stop drinking alcohol cold turkey [11]

According to addiction experts, persons who quit cold turkey, meaning, suddenly stopping alcoholic consumption, without help or professional intervention, are at risk of:

  • >> Delirium Tremens (DT) – a severe reaction after stopping alcohol, occurring 2-3 days after their last drink.
    • >> DT could be fatal.
    • >> DT is caused by changes in the brain due to heavy drinking
    • >> Symptoms of DT are:
    • >> Trembling of the hands and feet
    • >> Feeling agitated or very irritated
    • >> The person is confused about where s/he is or what s/he is doing
    • >> Seeing and hearing things that are not there (hallucinating)
    • >> Convulsions (in the form of grand mal or tonic-clonic seizures)


  • >> Kindling – Worsening of alcohol withdrawal symptoms every time an attempt to quit is performed. Symptoms include [12]:
    • >> Depression
    • >> Anxiety
    • >> Irritability
    • >> Panic attacks
    • >> Difficulty sleeping, staying asleep, and early morning awakenings (EMA)
    • >> Emotionally unable to cope with the daily demands of life


  • >> High rate of relapse – Due to the desire to stop the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol, AUD sufferers tend to use alcohol to self-medicate. Scientific data has shown: [13]
    • >> 79% of untreated individuals do not achieve abstinence from alcohol
    • >> 20 to 50% of individuals who did not seek treatment relapse (percentage depends on the severity of alcohol addiction)
    • >> 40% of treated individuals were able to be problem-free from alcohol up to one year after treatment
    • >> 43% of treated individuals stayed sober three years after joining a treatment program


How Can I Stop Drinking So Much?

The safest way to stop drinking so much is to do alcohol detox with professional intervention.

Quitting alcohol with proper help tends to:

  • >> Be safer
  • >> Guarantee a better success rate
  • >> Prevent the chance or a relapse


Professional intervention can be in the form of inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab.

Home detox for mild cases of Alcohol Use Disorder can also be arranged.

To keep motivated in drinking too much, a person needs to go dive deep into the motivations that keep him or her drinking.

Careful examination of these motives is best done with counseling or psychosocial interventions.

12 Step Facilitation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectical Based Therapy, and Holistic Therapy are found to be successful in combating alcoholism [14].

In the US, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines Drinking at Low Risk for Developing Alcohol Addiction as

  • >> Women: No more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week.
  • >> Men: No more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week.


One drink = 14 grams of pure alcohol (US measures)


In the UK, The Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines for both men and women [15] is:

  • >> Do not drink regularly more than 14 units per week
  • >> If a person does drink as much as 14 units per week, it is recommended to spread this amount evenly over 3 days or more.
  • >> Heavy drinking sessions are not recommended


According to the NHS [16], 14 units Alcohol in the UK means:

  • >> 14 single measures of spirits (ABV 37.5%)
  • >> 7 pints of average-strength (4%) lager
  • >> About 9 and one-third 125ml glasses of average-strength (12%) wine
  • >> 7 glasses of 175ml average-strength (12%) wine
  • >> About 4 four 250ml glasses of average-strength (12%) wine



  1.   Universitat Bonn. 2016. Alcohol study yields surprising results. [Press Release]. Available at:
  2.   Westman, et. al. (2015). Mortality and life expectancy of people with alcohol use disorder in Denmark, Finland and Sweden. Available at:
  3.   Ortiz-Ospina, E. & Beltekian D. (2018). Why do women live longer than men? Our World in Data. Available at:
  4.   National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2019). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. Available at:
  5.   Felman, A. (2018). What’s to know about alcoholic liver disease? Medical News Today. Available at:
  6.   Orfanidis, N. (2015). Overview of Vascular Disorders of the Liver. In Merck Manuals. Available at:
  7.   Thompson, W. (2011). Alcoholism Clinical Presentation. In Medscape. Available at:
  8.   Science Daily. (2019, April 2). Study reveals genes associated with heavy drinking and alcoholism. Science Daily. Available at:
  9.   National Institutes of Health. (2015). Researchers Identify Alcoholism Subtypes. Available at:
  10.   Gonzales, G. At 30, My Gray Area Drinking Problem Spiraled Into Alcoholism—and I Lost My Dream Job. Prevention. Available at:
  11.   Tidy, C. (2018). Alcohol Withdrawal and Alcohol Detoxification. Patient Info. Available at:
  12.   Modesto-Lowe, V., Huard, J. & Conrad, C. (2005). Alcohol Withdrawal Kindling: Is There a Role for Anticonvulsants? Psychiatry, 2(5), 25–31. Available at:
  13.   Moos, R. & Moos, B. (2006). Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders. Addiction, 101(2), 212-222. Available at:
  14.   Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. (2018). Available at:
  15.   UK Department of Health. (2016). Chief Medical Officers’ Alcohol Guidelines Review. Available at:
  16.   NHS. (2018). Alcohol units. Available at:

Alcohol FAQ

Posted on by Melany Heger

What Is Alcohol And Why Is It Bad For You?

“Alcohol” usually means “alcoholic drinks”.

Alcoholic drinks have popular appeal, but many individuals are affected by it because alcohol contains ethanol.

Ethanol is the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks.


But ethanol is toxic because it affects the nervous system negatively if the amount used is excessive [1].

When alcohol poisoning happens due to too much ethanol in the body, serious health problems occur.

Some cases of alcohol poisoning can cause coma and death.


In addition, alcohol is also considered an addictive drug [2].

When alcohol is initially consumed, it acts as a stimulant, meaning, it energises a person.

As the person consumes more alcohol, a depressant or slowing-down effect happens [2].

Ethanol in alcohol can stimulate (excite) or depress (slow down) a person’s reactions depending on the person’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).

BAC can be measured by breathalyser, which is a hand-held device that can measure BAC rapidly [3].


The major reasons why individuals use alcohol are:

  • >> To socialize
  • >> To relax
  • >> To celebrate special occasions


Drinking alcohol is important in many cultures, where “social drinking” or drinking with other people is part of bonding [4].

After consuming an alcoholic beverage, the body does not digest it. Instead, alcohol enters the bloodstream quickly through the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines).


Because alcohol enters the bloodstream quickly, the effects of alcohol are immediately obvious.

In moderate amounts, the good effects of alcohol are: [5]

  • >> Giving the person a “beer buzz”, a feel-good effect brought about by endorphin release in the brain
  • >> Can relax a person so that worries and bothersome thoughts are tuned out
  • >> Can initially help a person fall asleep
  • >> Possibly contributing to heart health, especially if alcohol consumed is red wine


However, some individuals become addicted to alcohol. To recover, they opt to join a rehab centre.


Experts have identified two specific brain areas that alcohol affects [6].

These are:

  • >> Nucleus accumbens – controlling the reward and pleasure experience
  • >> Orbitofrontal cortex – involved in planning and decision making


Because these two areas are specifically affected, individuals who are addicted to alcohol tend to have long-term problems which include:

  • Controlling the amounts of alcohol they consume
  • Drinking even if the consequences will be dire (being in trouble with the law, family conflicts, etc.)
  • Difficulty coming up with and following a plan, especially about quitting alcohol
  • Having problems with following specific instructions unless guided by supportive persons
  • A tendency to experience depression of alcohol is not consumed
  • The likelihood of being addicted to other substances other than alcohol, as the neuropathways for drug addiction are the same brain areas affected by alcohol addiction


To recover from alcohol addiction, individuals can use NHS services or join a rehab clinic, such as Abbeycare The Hygrove, Gloucester.


Usually, how alcohol affects an individual depends on the following factors:

  • >> Bodyweight
  • >> Male or female
  • >> Nutritional state (well-nourished, over-nourished or malnourished)
  • >> General health status
  • >> Usage and exposure to other drugs


How Is Alcohol Made?

Alcohol used as alcoholic beverages is made by the process of fermentation [7].

Fermentation occurs when yeasts are put into carbohydrates and left to mature.


The yeasts can be from a wild or a cultivated strain. Most alcoholic products use “Saccharomyces cerevisiae” or “Saccharomyces uvarum” as yeast agents [8].

The carbohydrates that the yeast comes into contact with can be from:

  • >> grapes
  • >> malted barley
  • >> malted wheat
  • >> rice
  • >> corn (maize)
  • >> potatoes
  • >> millet


The combination of yeast and carbohydrates are usually left to ferment in a vessel with a maintaining temperature (so as not to kill the yeast).


Manufacturers also add:

  • >> Diammonium phosphate – to improve yeast growth
  • >> Hops – as a preservative and to make beer taste bitter


The process by which alcoholic beverages are made is called anaerobic fermentation.

The end result of anaerobic fermentation is ethanol, which is the intoxicating ingredient of alcoholic drinks [7].

The carbohydrates eaten by the yeast also produce carbon dioxide.

The quantity of ethanol and carbon dioxide as an end result is because of the unique combination of the yeast agent and the fermenting ingredient.

This unique combination is why there are distinct flavours and types of alcoholic beverages.


There are specific ways of classifying alcohol products, depending on government regulations and traditional rules.

In the UK, the government regulates the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic drinks.

For taxation purposes, UK alcoholic drinks are classified according to:  [9]

  • >> Spirits – whisky (wholly malt or wholly grain), blended whisky
  • >> Cider and Perry – sparkling or still
  • >> Beer
  • >> Wine and made-wine
  • >> Low alcohol beverages – these are wines that have an alcoholic strength no higher than 5.5% or made-wine with no more than 5.5% alcohol content.


There is a predominant belief that the type of alcohol a person consumes contributes to the aftereffects he or she feels.

Some people perceive that:

  • >> Beer makes a person more friendly or sociable
  • >> Tequila makes a person “crazy”
  • >> Gin makes a person feel tearful


But alcoholic drinks only affects individuals in two concrete ways, namely alcoholic concentration and alcohol-related beliefs [10]:

Spirits have a high concentration of alcohol compared to beer or wine. Usually, spirits are also consumed quickly. Because spirits are drinks with a high amount of sugar, bloodstream absorption is quick. This is why spirits have a stronger kick.


Meanwhile, beer is generally lower in alcohol content than spirits. The usual consumption of beers involves a social set-up. This is one of the main reasons why we perceive the consumption of beer as relaxing.

Applied psychology has been used to increase the appeal of alcoholic drinks to the general public by enhancing its good qualities and downplaying its potential for abuse.

In recent years, efforts have been made to sell beverages that are low in alcohol or alcohol-free, so that individuals who want to socialise with friends who drink will not feel left out.


Among the three types of alcohol, only food-grade ethanol is safe for human consumption [7].

The three types of alcohol, when classified according to chemical make-up, are isopropyl, methyl, and ethyl.

Isopropyl alcohol is used as rubbing alcohol, nail polish solvent, aftershave lotions, hand lotions, and other cosmetic products.


Methyl alcohol is used as an ingredient in antifreeze, rocket fuels, and as a clean-burning fuel alternative.

There is also an industrial grade of ethanol, and this is a solvent added to gasoline used in cars.


How Do You Know If Alcohol Is Affecting Your Health?

When individuals exhibit certain physical symptoms, it is an indication that alcohol is affecting their health. These physical symptoms are : [11]

  • >> Breathing difficulties
  • >> Coughing up blood
  • >> Irregular heart rate (too fast or too slow)
  • >> Frequent diarrhoea
  • >> Frequent Stomach upsets
  • >> Muscle weakness or shaking
  • >> Numbness in hands and feet


In addition, there are also behavioural symptoms that indicate alcohol is affecting a person’s health. These behavioural symptoms are:

  • >> It takes more alcohol than before to achieve the desired effects of alcohol (a sign of alcohol dependence)
  • >> Drinking alcohol even if there are negative consequences
  • >> Mood swings
  • >> Seems to keep on forgetting things (memory loss)
  • >> Blackouts, which are periods of time when a person loses consciousness and forgets what has happened for quite some time
  • >> Slurred speech or mumbling and poor pronunciation of words
  • >> Feeling tired all the time
  • >> Difficulty going to sleep without consuming alcohol


With adolescents or teenagers, drinking can: [12]

  • >> Impair the development of memory skills, long-term thinking skills and learning skills
  • >> Harm the liver by disrupting the levels of liver enzymes
  • >> Disrupt hormonal balance critical for the development of organs, muscles and bones
  • >> Affect the reproductive system which is still in development during adolescence


Immediate intervention in a rehab facility can successfully stop teenage drinking so that alcohol addiction does not progress as a life-long disease.

To differentiate what moderate consumption of alcohol is versus alcohol addiction, we must refer to the presence of physical and psychological symptoms.


Casual drinking is when a person consumes alcohol in moderation. There are minimal physical symptoms and there is an absence of psychological symptoms.

Alcohol addiction is an illness characterised by the presence of physical and psychological symptoms. There is a great chance that a person who has alcohol addiction may be in denial.

Some individuals only seek help when they are affected socially by their behaviours. Ideally, persons who notice that a loved one is having problems with drinking behaviour should approach the situation as a health concern.


We must also bear in mind that not all persons who are addicted to alcohol hit rock bottom. There are so-called “grey area drinkers.”

“Grey area drinkers” are functional alcoholics. Most of these individuals are able to appear responsible enough, fulfilling daily obligations. But they experience alcohol dependence symptoms.

The main factors that influence drinking behaviour are:  [4]

  • >> To help cope with stress
  • >> Because of social influences


As a result, persons who have successfully transitioned from alcohol addiction to addiction recovery find non-addictive ways to cope with stress.

Help by other people through Mutual Support Groups serve as positive social influences that steer a person away from alcohol addiction.


Joining an alcohol rehab program, especially one that is structured has been proven as an effective way to kick-start recovery.

Recently, there is a trend called “sober living”, another term for abstinence from alcohol. Apparently, there is an underlying desire to change the image of alcoholism as a disease.

Instead, the focus is on living the best life without alcohol. Hence, a person who is recovering from alcoholism can call himself or herself a “sober warrior” instead of a “recovering alcoholic”.

The practice of Dry January is slowly gaining momentum in the UK.



  1.   Encyclopaedia Briatnnica. (2019). Ethanol: Chemical Compound. Available at:
  2.   National Institute of Health. (2011). Curriculum Supplement Series: Alcohol. Available at:
  3.   British Medical Journal. (2002). Alcohol Breath Testing. Available at:
  4.   Abbey, A., Smith, M. J. & Scott, R. (1993). The relationship reasons for drinking alcohol and alcohol consumption: An interactional approach. Addiction Behavior, 18(6), 659–670. Available at:
  5. (2019). Alcohol. Available at:
  6.   Thayer et. al. (2012). Nucleus Accumbens Volume Is Associated with Frequency of Alcohol Use among Juvenile Justice-Involved Adolescents. Brain Science, 2(4), 605-618. Available at:
  7.   Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019). Alcoholic Beverage. Available at:
  8.   Lumen. (2018). The Microbiology of Food. Available at:
  9.   United Kingdom Government. (2019). Guidance: UK Trade Tariff: Excise Duties, Reliefs, Drawbacks and Allowances. Available at:
  10.   National Health Service. (2017). Different alcoholic drinks may trigger different emotions; many of them negative. Available at:
  11.   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Fact Sheets – Alcohol Use and Your Health. Available at:
  12.   National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2011). Alcohol Use Disorder. Available at:

Spice FAQ

Posted on by Melany Heger

What Is Spice Drug Used For?

Spice is a drug used to get high. It is a synthetic cannabinoid, which is a machine-made drug mimicking the chemical compounds found in marijuana [1].

In the UK, Spice is banned. Spice is one of the many drugs previously called “legal highs” [2].

Legal highs are machine-made drugs designed to work like cocaine, ecstasy and speed.


The way these drugs were made, manufacturers tweaked them in order to evade The Psychoactive Substances Act (PSA).

Up until 2016, legal highs were allowed for sale in the UK.

After amending the law in May 2016, Spice was made illegal.

The new law also meant “headshops” that sell drug paraphernalia are scrutinised.


“Not Safe for Human Consumption”

To get around the law, manufacturers of Spice and other Legal High products alter the chemical components of their merchandise.

Spice products are also presented in colourful packaging with the label “not fit for human consumption”, which seemingly warns the public of its adverse effects.

But the packaging and the warning appear to be very misleading.


The majority of Spice users are young people, who are led to think that the effects of Spice are similar to weed. After all, Spice could hide under the name, “Fake Weed”.

But Spice and other legal high products pose a health hazard to individuals who experiment with them.

The sad truth is there are many A&E incidents due to Spice usage. This is heart-breaking, especially for the parents and family members of young users.


How Addictive Is K2 Spice?

Spice tends to be as addictive as the “natural” drug it was designed to mimic, cannabis.

However, in a recent report, commissioners have been actively campaigning for Spice to be categorised as a “Class A” drug [3].

Class A drugs include heroin and cocaine, which are highly addictive and dangerous drugs.


Officials have also urged to government to make the use of Spice a public health issue.

The process of manufacturing Spice varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, because of this variance, how negative it affects individuals differs for each kind of product.

In the illegal market, Spice can be sold under the following labels:

  • >> Synthetic marijuana
  • >> Herbal incense
  • >> Herbal smoking blend
  • >> Mr. Happy
  • >> Mojo
  • >> Bliss
  • >> Genie
  • >> Scoobie Snax
  • >> Mamba
  • >> Fake Weed


Physical signs of addiction to Spice are [4].

  • >> Developing a tolerance for Spice – need more and more of the drug in order to feel high
  • >> Withdrawal symptoms when cutting down or trying to stop the usage of Spice


Unlike physical signs of addiction, some individuals ignore psychological dependence symptoms, labeling these behaviours as “acting out”.

As a result, psychological signs of addiction to spice sometimes overlooked.


These psychological symptoms, which are originally for Cannabis Use Disorder are [4].

  • >> Using more Spice than initially planned
  • >> Trying but being unable to cut down the usage of Spice
  • >> Spending way too much time obtaining and using Spice
  • >> Not enjoying activities previously enjoyed, preferring usage of Spice instead
  • >> Continued usage of Spice even if problems at work or school are caused by it
  • >> Not fulfilling financial and/or family obligations
  • >> Financial problems due to buying Spice


Some individuals chose to have professionally assisted detox in a drug rehab clinic in order to deal with the physical and psychological issues associated with Spice addiction.

The chance of relapse is lower when professional help is sought, improving the outlook of a person trying to recover.


How Does Spice Drug Work?

Spice affects the same parts of the brain cannabis does [5].

Having the same effect on the brain’s receptors as THC but in a stronger more unpredictable manner, Spice specifically works by:

  • >> elevating mood – producing feelings associated with happiness
  • >> making individuals fee relaxed
  • >> altering how individuals perceive things, which can make persons more aware or vigilant
  • >> creating a sense of detachment
  • >> affecting the part of the brain that distinguishes reality from fantasy, which can lead to having hallucinations.


In addition, Spice works in parts of the brain controlling a person’s:

  • >> Memory
  • >> Sexual activity
  • >> Pain management
  • >> Moods
  • >> Appetite
  • >> Attention


How Long Does It Take For Spice to Kick In?

By smoking Spice, the effects usually start to kick in between 5 to 30 minutes.

By swallowing spice, the effects are noticed 4−6 hours afterward [6].


How Long Does K2 High Last?

The high felt after taking Spice lasts several hours; with some individuals, the effects can be felt up to seven hours after using the drug [4].

Spice can stay in the body longer than a month, as it has been documented that storage is primarily through a person’s fatty tissues.

After 41 days in the body, half of the amount used is excreted (drug half-life). About half of the remaining Spice in the body would need some more time to be completely eliminated [7].

The effects of Spice can be felt for up to 24 hours after use. But most research efforts show that Spice is felt most intensely 1 to 8 hours after being smoked [7].

What Are The Side Effects Of K2 Spice?

The side effects of using spice are: [4]

  • >> vomiting (with or without blood)
  • >> nausea
  • >> hallucinations
  • >> heart palpitations
  • >> seizures
  • >> extreme anxiety
  • >> high level of irritability
  • >> violent behaviours such as destruction of property, harming other persons
  • >> suicidal thoughts


To understand addiction to Spice better, we need to know that individuals who use Spice are motivated by:  [7]

  • >> wanting to get “high”
  • >> avoid detection from drug testing
  • >> [previous] legality of Spice
  • >> curiosity
  • >> liking the effects
  • >> readily available in “headshops” or internet sources
  • >> for relaxation
  • >> lower cost than other mind-altering substances

In addition, some individuals are more at risk of using Spice than others [4].


Usually, these at-risk individuals are described as:

  • >> Previous or current users of cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol, and other addictive substances
  • >> With less than 10 years of formal education
  • >> Has a family member who has a substance abuse problem
  • >> Has a family member with depression, anxiety or bipolar mood disorder
  • >> Has a family member with mental health disorder associated with personality difficulties.
  • >> (Examples of personality problems are: borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder)

Can You Die From Spice?

Individuals have been reported to die from using spice.

In 2018, Spice was on 60 deaths certificates in England and Wales [8].

There have been 27 cases of deaths due to Spice overdose between 2015 to 2016 [9].

Recently, nine minor age individuals collapsed after inhaling Spice through vaping [8].

Can K2 Cause Permanent Psychosis?

Using spice could trigger acute psychosis, not permanent psychosis [10]:

Acute psychosis lasts for a short time, progresses quickly and is obviously noticed.

Signs of acute psychosis are: [11]

  • >> Being awake, but in a “zombie-like” condition
  • >> Hallucinations -seeing, hearing, and noticing objects that are not really present; sometimes talking to persons who do not actually exist or are already deceased
  • >> Dissociation – feeling separated from one’s own body, “floating above my body”
  • >> Disorganised thinking or thoughts
  • >> Changes in mood and behaviour, especially hyperactive thoughts
  • >> Persecutory delusions “someone is out to get me”
  • >> Delusions of reference “the person in TV is talking to me”; “they are always gossiping about me”
  • >> Delusion of grandeur – feeling exceptionally wealthy, strong, powerful etc. without factual evidence
  • >> Sexual delusions – including beliefs that s/he is being sexually pursued even by persons they do know personally
  • >> Fantastic delusions –  common themes are science fiction, religion, and supernatural phenomena


In the US, “spiceophrenia”  was a term created by Addiction Specialists to describe how Spice-induced psychosis is similar to schizophrenia, a psychiatric disorder.

The populations most affected by Spice misuse are teenagers and young adults [11].

Research has shown that using “regular cannabis” in adolescence is likely to increase the risk of risk of psychosis in individuals [4].

It could be argued that this risk of psychosis in adult life is magnified by the usage of synthetic cannabinoids like Spice.

Aside from psychosis, individuals under the age of 21 who use cannabis and Spice are a high risk for long term cognitive impairments (brain function damage).

The damage is potentially irreversible and could mean:  [12]

  • >> problematic decision-making skills
  • >> tendency to take inappropriate risks
  • >> impulsivity
  • >> difficulty remembering information presented (working memory damage)

Does K2 Have Withdrawal Symptoms?

K2 or Spice has withdrawal symptoms. These behaviours are most severe when individuals try to quit Spice on their own (or “quitting cold turkey”) [4].

These withdrawal symptoms mean that a person trying to stop Spice use will express how awful s/he is without using Spice.

Sometimes, the person will continue using Spice “just to feel normal”.

Spice withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • >> diarrhoea
  • >> loss of appetite
  • >> nausea
  • >> vomiting
  • >> anxiety and restlessness
  • >> depression
  • >> chest pain
  • >> problems breathing
  • >> fast heart beat
  • >> hypertension
  • >> excessive sweating
  • >> aches and pains all over the body
  • >> having difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
  • >> hypertension
  • >> headaches or migraines

The most intense period for Spice withdrawal is the first week [4].

After one week, symptoms usually taper off.

However, if a person has been using Spice for a prolonged period of time, the effects can last for up to a month.

There is a risk of complications when withdrawing from Spice, especially when it is done without professional help.

The safest recourse would be to use a supervised detox facility for Spice withdrawal.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice) Available at:
  2.  BBC. (2016, 26 May ). Legal highs ban comes into force across the UK. Available at:
  3. Barnes, T. (2018, 29 August). Spice should be upgraded to Class A drug, say police and crime commissioners. The Independent. Available at:
  4. Spaderna, M., Addy, P. H. & D’Souza, D C. (2014). Spicing things up: Synthetic cannabinoids. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 228(4), 525–540.  Available at:
  5.  National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice). Available at:
  6. Huestis, M. (2007). Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics. Chemistry & Biodiversity, 4(8), 1770–1804.  Available at:
  7.  Lovett, C. Wood, D. M. & Dargan, P. I. (2015). Pharmacology and Toxicology of the Synthetic Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists. Available at:
  8.  Byrne, P. (2019, August 18). Spice crisis deepens as 9 kids collapse after taking zombie drug and deaths surge. Available at:
  9. Financial Times. (2019, January 10). UK to reconsider classification of synthetic drug spice. Available at:
  10. Papanti et al. (2013). “Spiceophrenia”: a systematic overview of “spice”-related psychopathological issues and a case report. Human Psychophramacology, 28(4), 379-89. Available at:
  11. Kulhalli, V. Isaac, M. & Murthy, P. (2007). Cannabis-related psychosis: Presentation and effect of abstinence. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 49(4), 256–261. Available at:
  12. Patel, J. & Marwaha, R. (2019).Cannabis Use Disorder. Available at:

Prescription Medicines FAQ

Posted on by Melany Heger

What Is The Difference Between A Prescription Drug And An OTC Drug?

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can be bought at a pharmacy or supermarket without a prescription. Prescription drugs are for conditions that are more serious, or need precise dosage and intake instructions given by a health care professional.

In the UK, the NHS has a list of conditions that do not need prescriptions. To obtain these medications, one can simply approach the prescribing professional at a local pharmacy [1].

The NHS is limiting the unnecessary amount of prescriptions given due to budget concerns.


Common conditions that do not need prescriptions are:

  • >> Sore throat
  • >> Fever and flu
  • >> Burns (minor)
  • >> Indigestion or heartburn
  • >> Hay fever
  • >> Diarrhoea
  • >> Constipation
  • >> Dry eyes
  • >> Travel sickness


Some individuals get addicted to OTC drugs. The most abused OTC drugs are those containing codeine [2] and Dextromethorphan (DXM) [3].

If taken continuously for three days, drugs containing codeine can be addictive [2].

If there are concerns regarding OTC addiction, a source of help would be an addiction clinic such as Abbeycare Scotland.


Is it Illegal To Misuse Prescription Drugs?

Possessing prescribed drugs without a prescription is illegal in the UK.

Using prescription medicines in a non-medical manner is also illegal in the UK.

If a person is given prescriptions for medicines, he or she can only use these medicines as advised by a health care professional.

Penalty for possession of these drugs for non-medical use is up to 5 years in prison with no limit on the amount of fine imposed [4].


The most misused prescription drugs are:

  • >> Opioids/narcotics/painkillers such as Dilaudid, Vicodin, Percodan, and OxyContin
  • >> Benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax
  • >> Stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall
  • >> Prescription grade Codeine


Prescription misuse can lead to addiction to prescription drugs. Some cases can also lead to overdose with lethal consequences [5].


How Long Does It Take To Flush Medication Out Of Your System?

The time taken depends on what kind of drug is taken, how much of it is taken and how long an individual has been taking it.

For psychoactive drugs (drugs that can change moods and consciousness), the following are to be considered:

  • >> For benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium or Xanax), the effects of the medicine wane within 2 to 4 days [6].
  • >> For Rohypnol® (Flunitrazepam) – half of the effect is gone within 18-26 hours, but it is not totally eliminated in the system a few more hours [7]
  • >> For Adderall® Concerta®, Ritalin®, which are prescribed stimulants, the effects are gone approximately 10 hours after swallowing (for adult individuals) [8].


With regards to medication prescribed to treat other diseases like high-blood pressure, high-cholesterol, diabetes, and acid reflux, consult other authoritative sources.

To know the specific time needed to flush these medicines out, it could be helpful to be familiar with the concept of “half-life” in medicine.

When a medication hits its “half-life”, it means that from this time on, it has half the power it has from the point it was most effective. After half-life, the effect of the drug gradually decreases [9].

Knowing the half-life of a particular medicine can help predict the approximate amount of time the total effect of the medicine will wear off.


Factors that affect how long a drug stays in the system are [10]:

  • >> The type of drug used – some medications have a longer half-life than others, while some stay in the system for a long time because they are metabolised slowly by the body
  • >> The amount used – consider the dosage taken
  • >> How long an individual has been taking the drug
  • >> Body weight – generally speaking, if a person has a lot of body fat, s/he could be less affected by the drug taken
  • >> Age – younger people and the elderly generally are generally more affected by strong medication
  • >> Being hydrated or dehydrated – being well hydrated makes drug elimination somewhat faster
  • >> Body’s metabolism – an important factor as it determines how long the liver and kidneys filter the chemicals out of the bloodstream


Because withdrawal from prescription drugs could be risky, many individuals prefer to consult an addiction clinic whilst undergoing the process.


Tips on flushing out medicine from the system:

  • >> Drink up to 64 oz. of water or clear liquids a day to help your liver and kidney filter the drugs
  • >> Engage in aerobic exercise to promote sweating
  • >> Eat foods rich in fibre such as porridge oats, brown rice, and wheat bread
  • >> Try green juices, green tea, and lemon water, all of which have natural detoxifying effects on the body


How Long Do Detox Symptoms Last?

The usual amount of time for detox symptoms to disappear is within three to ten days. This amount of time generally applies to opiate drugs [11].

Drug detox from prescription medicines depends on several factors, but in general, the timeline would be:

Day 1 to Day 3

Initial symptoms include flu-like symptoms, insomnia, and anxiety

Day 4 to 7

This is the time when detox symptoms peak. Expect:

  • >> Cravings for prescription drugs
  • >> Irritable mood
  • >> Persistent insomnia
  • >> Fever and chills
  • >> Abdominal cramps
  • >> Vomiting/nausea

Day 7 to 10

A management team should be able to assist an individual to transition from drug withdrawal to the therapeutic stage on intervention at this point.

Some facilities offer medication such as buprenorphine, methadone or naloxone to help relieve withdrawal symptoms.


Some individuals ask why buprenorphine, methadone or naloxone is used to treat opioid addiction, since these medications are in the same family as the prescription medicines they are addicted to.

These medications used in medical detox work because like the addictive substance, they bind with opioid receptors in the brain. The brain’s receptors are occupied with the substitute drug, preventing further ties with the unwanted drug.


When an individual takes buprenorphine, methadone or naloxone under supervised detox, he or s/he does not feel euphoria, only relief from prescription medication withdrawal.


Giving the substitute drug is a form of gradual weaning off prescription medication. The end goal is abstinence.

Usually, a rehab clinic will work with the patient to make a personalised treatment plan to treat prescription drug addiction [11].


Can You Detox While On Medication?

Individuals can safely take medication while on drug detox provided that they are cared for in a facility with good standards. In the UK, certification from CQC is considered the industry standard [12].


Professionals well-versed in professionally assisted detox will routinely screen individuals for the usage of other medications.


Drug interactions happen, and without proper guidance, the results could pose serious health risks.


There are many conditions that require the usage of medication even whilst in detox. These conditions include:

  • >> HIV
  • >> Liver disease
  • >> Alcohol dependence
  • >> Hepatitis
  • >> Staph infections
  • >> Tuberculosis

How Is Prescription Drug Misuse Prevented?

To prevent prescription drug misuse, open communication with a health care professional is important. The following information should be relayed:

  • >> Medical history – past diseases, current complaints
  • >> Current diseases
  • >> Other medications taken, even vitamin supplements
  • >> Eating and sleeping habits
  • >> Psychological concerns about taking medicines such as need for treatment, fears of drug dependency, concerns about side effects, etc.
  • >> Scheduling problems about taking medication


Note that some people are more at risk of prescription drug misuse. If the following are present, it could help to be extra aware:

  • >> Past or present addictions to other substances such as alcohol and cigarettes
  • >> Family history of alcoholism or drug use
  • >> Psychological problems such as anxiety and depression
  • >> Being in environments where drug use is an accepted norm
  • >> Easy access to prescription drugs


If one is parent, preventing the misuse of prescription drugs can be done by:

  • >> Being vigilant with the amount and type of prescription medicine available at home (know how many there are exactly).
  • >> Some teenagers get access to prescription medications because the medicines were prescribed to their parents. Safeguard these types of medication properly.
  • >> Dispose of unused medications in the right place. Most pharmacies are obliged to take back unwanted medicines from patients for disposal.
  • >> Frame talks about drugs as a health issue to remove the shame and stigma.
  • >> Talk about real-life examples of drug problems in a neutral tone. Instead of stigmatising an individual with a drug use problem, adopt a problem-solving approach or a humane approach.



  1.  National Health Service. (2018). Why can’t I get a prescription for an over-the-counter medicine? Available at:
  2.  Gil, N. (2018). Young, Female & Addicted To Legal Pills. Available at:
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Commonly Abused Drugs Chart. Available at:
  4. United Kingdom Government. (2013). Drugs Penalties. Available at:
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Misuse of Prescription Drugs. Available at:
  6. Federal Drug Administration. (2011). Valium. Available at:
  7. (2007). Rohypnol. Available at:
  8. Medical News Today. (2018). Adderal (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine). Available at:
  9. Smith, Y. (2016). What is the Half-Life of a Drug? Available at:
  10. (2019). How long do drugs stay in your system? Available at:
  11. Gupta, M. & Attia, F. (2019). Withdrawal Syndromes. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Available at:
  12. Care Quality Commission. (2019). Treatment and Rehabilitation. Available at:

Methadone FAQ

Posted on by Melany Heger

What Are The Effects Of Methadone?

Taking methadone could delay and/or eliminate heroin withdrawal symptoms [1].

Methadone is a synthetic opioid like heroin, tramadol and fentanyl. Primarily, it causes:

  • >> Pain relief
  • >> Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • >> Sedation


When an opioid dependent individual takes methadone, it does not cause feelings of euphoria. Rather, withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings are relieved.

Withdrawal symptoms curbed or eliminated by taking methadone include insomnia, carvings for heroin, fever and moodiness.

Taking methadone can also lead to some side effects. These are [2]:

  • >> Some difficulty breathing or shallow breathing
  • >> Lightheadedness or feeling faint
  • >> Allergic skin reactions
  • >> Chest pains
  • >> Fast heartbeat
  • >> Some may feel confused or disoriented


Side effects should be reported immediately in case they are signs of serious trouble.

Total abstinence from heroin is challenging. As this is the case, some individuals rely on methadone to stabilise before undergoing a rehab programme like that at Abbeycare Scotland.


How Often Can You Take Methadone?

Methadone is usually taken only once a day.

The typical dosage for methadone is 20 to 30 mg.

This dose is often enough to make withdrawal symptoms tolerable. An additional 5 to 10 milligrams is given if the first dose is not working.

A total daily dose usually does not exceed 40 mg [3].


Methadone works by stopping cravings for heroin and other opioids such as oxycodone and fentanyl.

In the UK, methadone is used in Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT) by the NHS.


Some addiction clinics also use methadone as part of its in-patient programme.

Methadone helps with opioid cravings by reducing the withdrawal symptoms of heroin, morphine and other prescription drugs.


Examples of these withdrawal symptoms are:

  • >> Irritability and moodiness
  • >> Anxious feelings
  • >> Feeling tired or fatigued
  • >> Depression
  • >> An increased heart rate
  • >> Muscle pains or cramps
  • >> Stomach pains
  • >> Nausea
  • >> Fever and chills
  • >> Vomiting
  • >> Diarrhea
  • >> Tremors
  • >> Muscle spasms


Methadone is dispensed by the NHS and other private facilities because there is a risk of diverting the drug for illegal use.

A single dose usually lasts for 24 to 36 hours. NHS clinic services are free, and will often provide other helpful services for people who seek to limit or stop drug use.


How Long Does It Take For Liquid Methadone To Absorb?

After swallowing liquid methadone, it can usually be absorbed by the body in as little as one hour.

But due to differing metabolism and other factors, some individuals could respond differently to the drug, taking up to 7 hours for full absorption [4].

Because methadone is not immediately absorbed by the body, some individuals may not feel complete relief from withdrawal symptoms a short time after they take it.


If methadone is being taken as part of a drug rehab programme, there is a need to be in touch with addiction experts during the process.

Drug detox using methadone has caused deaths because of complications with existing heart problems [5].


The WHO lists methadone as one of its essential medications because of its proven efficacy. Specifically, methadone is used two ways:

  1. Methadone Management Therapy (MMT)
  2. Methadone-assisted detoxification


For MMT, authorities view opioid addiction as a lifetime disease.

Using this way of thinking, methadone is used as a maintenance drug very much like how individuals with diabetes use insulin—as a drug that they have to take to keep functioning properly [6].


In the UK, MMT is used by the NHS. It is believed that long-term opioid abuse causes a form of damage in the central nervous system that makes individuals who want to stop using it feel sick.


By using methadone, individuals who quit opiates such as heroin and fentanyl tend to be able to cope better.

The second way of using methadone typically treating it as part of medically assisted detox, where methadone is the only the first part of a structured rehab programme.


After detox, individuals in a rehab programme usually attend therapy sessions, then rehab aftercare.

Some individuals misunderstand the use of methadone in MMT as “substituting one drug for another”.


There can be shame and stigma if an individual seeks methadone treatment because of this way of thinking.

Current research [6] proves that methadone could be effective in helping individuals stop using heroin and other illegal drugs.


In fact, MMT may prevent the spread of HIV through lessening the need for needle sharing.

MMT tend to curb criminal behaviour associated with drug use. The WHO has listed methadone as one of its essential medicines [6].


Is Methadone Free To Addicts?

In the UK, the NHS provide a daily dose of methadone to individuals who utilise either of the two approaches utilised to stop heroin misuse [7].

These approaches are Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT) and detox with the assistance of methadone.


Because heroin dependence is a condition where individuals tend to relapse, abstinence could be hard to achieve for many.

The NHS decided to prescribe methadone and buprenorphine as a form of substitution treatment.

It is not about substituting one drug for another because although methadone can be addictive, substitution treatment can help stabilise individuals to be able to undergo rehab and talk therapies [8].


Substitution treatment also aims to offer a legal and safe heroin or opiate substitute so that addicted individuals can reduce risky behaviours.


How Long Does It Take To Stabilise On Methadone?

It takes about two weeks to stabilise an individual using methadone in Methadone Management Therapy [9].

There are no set rules on the duration of Methadone Management Therapy (MMT). But the longer an individual stays on the programme, the better the chances are for behavioural change.


In the UK, the NHS strongly believes that MMT is the solution to resolving the problem of heroin/morphine/fentanyl abuse. Aside from MMT, the other approach is to use methadone as part of drug detox [7].

Although long-term abstinence from illegal opioids is the end goal of methadone treatment approaches, some individuals are not able to achieve this goal.

This is because methadone is addictive, just like other opioids. Some individuals on MMT have gotten addicted to methadone and require a detox from methadone in order continue living a sober life [2].


The NHS methadone approaches work on the premise that there are support services after methadone administration—it appears that methadone alone cannot solve the problem.

The quality of the NHS treatment programme, including the capacities of the staff, the services of the local drug services, and the treatment methods used are important in determining the success of methadone treatment [1].

However, because waiting for approval by NHS for methadone detox service takes time, some individuals chose private rehab instead. In addition, methadone addiction could be a tricky issue to talk about with a professional who works for the NHS.


Detoxing from methadone addiction is a serious concern, and in a private in-patient rehab setting, there could be a greater chance of recovery than in public programmes because private rehab centre services are more comprehensive and timely [10].

Most of all, the admission process in most private rehabs take only a matter of days.


Likewise, unlike NHS services, private clinics offer:

  • >> A lower staff-to-patient ratio
  • >> Better amenities
  • >> Personalised treatment
  • >> Continuation in care
  • >> Rehab aftercare


There is another drawback to the methadone treatment offered to the public: some individuals who use illegal opioids do not want methadone treatment.

Some may have tried methadone treatment, disliked it, or found it ineffective.


Some individuals are unable to manage on the prescribed dose and some continue to use illegal opioids to ‘top-up’ their prescription.

And lastly, some individuals do not like to give up injecting drugs. Apparently, the ritual of injecting is an experience that sometimes becomes a focus for addiction [1].



  1. Stimson, G. V. and Metrebian, N. (2003). Prescribing heroin: What is the evidence? Joseph Rowntree Foundation.  Available at:
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Methadone. Available at:
  3. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2016). Methadone® Available at:
  4. US Food and Drug Administration. (2015). Methadone Hydrochloride (marketed as Dolophine) Information. Available at:
  5. Harvard Medical School. (2019). Treating opiate addiction, part I: Detoxification and maintenance. Available at:
  6. Australian Government Department of Health. (2013). Four principles of methadone maintenance therapy. Available at:
  7. National Health Service. (2017). Heroin addiction: get help. Available at:
  8. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2007). Methadone and buprenorphine for the management of opioid dependence. Technology appraisal guidance. Available at:
  9. Australian Government Department of Health. (2015). Induction to methadone treatment. Available at:
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Available at:

Coping With Alcoholism As A Student

Posted on by Melany Heger


Why do we hurt the ones we love in the worse way possible?

It’s as if there is an invisible force that wants us to hurt them.

If we don’t do it, we are going to hurt ourselves.

Why do we turn the sweetest memories into poison?

We say the wrong things, we don’t mean it.

But we say it anyway, and in a quick instance, we crush someone’s soul.

We do it because of a compulsion.

It’s as if the invisible force tugging us to the bottom of oblivion is a demon.

A demon that will swallow us whole.

For a lot of us, that demon began at the bottom of a bottle. Or a pint of beer.

If that demon has a hold of you, then you are here to understand it better.

And maybe understand yourself better.

Let’s dig a bit deeper.

Why Did You Start Drinking?

Everybody’s doing it, and I’d look weird if I don’t try it.

It feels good.

It made me feel better when I was down

It was an experiment.

It changed the way I thought.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with these reasons, right? So why did drinking make you feel so bad?

Because you became an addict.

Because it got a hold of you, because instead of you being the one in control, it controlled you.

This is what we are talking about when we use the word “compulsion”.

You see, it’s not about self-control, or discipline anymore.

It’s about being out-of-control—that’s great when you’re having fun, but when you are out-of-control and you are hurting the ones you love, and worse, not giving a damn about hurting the ones you love, you are in such a mess.

Understatement of the year.

Perhaps I can say it better.

You are in hell.

Your personal hell.

And who’s gonna save you then?

We’re going to introduce you to Emily Smith. She’s a child of addicts.



Instead of a normal family, she grew up with parents who were addicts and grandparents who were addicts. If you have a problem drinking, chances are, your parents had problems drinking too.

You had a 50% chance of becoming addicted to alcohol the moment you were conceived. In the womb, growing as a foetus, you were already predisposed to a life of addiction.


Not “An Alcoholic” But “Addicted To Alcohol”

Why do we say “alcohol-addicted” instead of “alcoholic”? Because based on neuroscience, drinking a certain amount of alcohol for a certain amount of time changes how your brain behaves.

The chemicals become imbalanced and you become addicted. Here’s the difference between an alcohol addicted brain versus a normal brain.


Credit: Lundbeck Institute Campus


If you were born with the genes that predisposed you to addiction, you only need a little bit less of the drink than “normal” people to convert your normal brain to an addicted brain. Your genes are partially to blame, like in Emily’s case.

But genetic inheritance is only one part of the story.

Where you grew up, who you grew up with, and how your life came to be gives us the whole reason why you’re compelled to drink and drink alcohol.

Compelled to drink and drink even if it only brings you destruction.


Why Can’t I Stop?

The combination of genetics predisposing you to alcohol addiction and being surrounded by people who drink, and who see it as a normal thing to do strongly push you towards the direction of alcohol addiction.

In addition, when you drink heavily, changes happen in your brain. Here is a video if you are interested to know more about the topic.



Essentially, when you drink a lot, the dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and Glutamate pathways are affected. These neural pathways are your reward systems.

They get overstimulated with the presence of too much alcohol. When you take the alcohol away, these pathways malfunction.

Used to being overstimulated, they cannot manage without the drug. They will need time to go back to the level they were functioning before they got overstimulated.


Credit: National Institute of Health, United States Department of Health and Human Services 


The good thing about having a young brain is that your brain still has a chance to repair the damage.

The bad thing about drinking before you reach your 20’s is that the experts say you can get addicted easier than when you start drinking as an older person.

So is your case that bad? Are you really addicted? If you question yourself, check out:

Serious Signs That You Have A Problem With Alcohol

You drink more alcohol than you really want, and for a longer time than you really want.

You spend a lot of time thinking, buying, hiding, and drinking alcohol.

You crave it.

You do alcohol binges.

You seem to be angry or depressed all the time.

You crave alcohol even if you miss school for it. Even if you miss a date for it. Even if you have to avoid your family for it.

You slowly stop going out with friends, your family, and other people, period. (Except for the times when you have to buy alcohol and you need to pay the shopkeeper).

You blackout when you drink too much, sometimes.

Your grades suck now.

You have sex with people you shouldn’t have sex with, or, you have sex without protection, or, you have sex even when you did not have sex before all this drinking began.

If you stop, you feel really bad. You don’t think straight at all, and sometimes you get the shakes.

The signs of alcohol dependence are different for young people than from adults. Experts have identified three stages and these are:

Stage 1

At this stage, you drink too much and longer than you intend to drink. You may feel out-of-control of your dinking.

Stage 2

At this stage, your out-of-control feeling gets worse. Other people are also noticing that you have changed. You could start to have problems in school, or you could stop socialising. Usually, at this stage, people around you get worried about you. You also feel sick. There’s a sense that drinking is what makes you feel sick, which leads you to…

Stage 3

You know you have a problem and you try to quit drinking. But it seems like your body is not cooperating. When you go cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms show up.

You only feel good when you drink.

When you don’t drink, you experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, stomach upsets, tremors, and even hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there).

Basically, at stage three, you are in such a big mess!

How Do You Ask For Help?

This is the hardest part. You don’t want to admit it, and you don’t want to ask for help.

To tell someone about it means you will have to expose your weakness.

Then you will have to depend on them and listen to them.

But if you don’t ask for help, you’re screwed.

So what do you do?

You can keep on going around and around in this circle. Until something forces you to ask for help, or your secret gets exposed.

We think it’s better if you ask for help in your own terms rather than be in an uncomfortable situation where people are forced to know that you have a problem. And you need their help.

At least if it was in your terms you have control of how to say it, when to say it and how much to say.


In line with this, here are tips on how to get you started:

Talk to an adult you trust at home – it does not necessarily mean your mum or dad. It could be an aunt or your grandparent. The important thing is you trust this person, and you feel safe with this person

Talk to an adult you trust in school – some schools have school counsellors, and they can help. If you trust your Form Teacher, s/he can help too. Or just look for a teacher you trust.

Talk to a friend you trust. This person should be someone who looks after your wellbeing. Aim for someone slightly mature. (Not in age, in attitude.)

Youtube and Google will only get you so far, but helplines are okay too. Search engines and videos can teach you a lot of things about sobriety and sober living. They can be a way to trigger your curiosity and get you to a better place. In fact, check this video out:




Sobriety versus Cutting Back

There are generally two camps when it comes to recovery from alcohol addiction.

The first group is what we call “The Sobriety Group”, and the second group is called “Harm Reduction”.

Recovery groups that use the 12 steps, SMART recovery and AA are examples of groups that use sobriety as a way out from Alcohol Addiction. Drinkware and Moderation Management are examples of organisations that belong to the Harm Management Approach.

What will work for you depends on you as an individual. The recovery process in a unique and personal process—methods that work for a friend you know may not be effective for you.

Generally, though, the more addicted you are to alcohol, the more you are encouraged to cut it out of your life completely. (To be totally sober.)

Some people are very sensitive to alcohol in their system.

They can stay sober and not drink, but once they start drinking again, they can’t seem to stop. They can’t have “just a little”.

If they do, they can go back to being addicts again. You will not know which type of person you are until you begin the recovery process.


It’s scary, isn’t it?

You may not have the courage to stop drinking totally. You can start with moderation or cutting back. If this is how you want to do it, here are some tips to cut down on alcohol:

  1. Know how much you are drinking – use your smartphone and record how much you drink in a week
  2. Cut back little by little – set your own goal. How much can you really cut back?
  3. Ask your parents not to keep alcohol in the house.
  4. Pace your drinking by alternating alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks
  5. Order low alcohol drinks or alcohol-free drinks
  6. Have an accountability partner or a moderation partner (see below)


The last step we suggest is having an accountability partner to help you with your drinking problem.

Who is this person and how does it work?

An Accountability Partner is basically someone you trust and who is going to help you stay focused on an agreed-upon set of goals.

The use of accountability partners first started with Life Coaching, but it’s pretty much something we can use for life’s small and big problems.

Simply put, when there’s another person checking on you, you tend to make progress. Accountability Partners have been successful in helping people lose weight, get financially stable, and more.


Things you should look out for when choosing accountability partners are:

  1. They see your potential, they see you for more than what you are now
  2. You trust them.
  3. They are emotionally mature
  4. They give lots of encouragement, even if things look bleak.
  5. You can be honest with them and they are honest with you.
  6. They are able and willing to give you feedback

And lastly,

  1. They are available and not too busy to hear you out.

What To Expect If You Go To Rehab Or Detox

If you asked for help and your loved ones came up with the solution that you need professional help, you are likely to go to rehab.

It’s not as bad as it sounds.

In fact, rehab can be a place where you can stop pretending you don’t have a problem.

You can honestly be who you are, and who you are right now sucks pretty bad.  There are quite a few people in the same situation you are in, and they don’t like to be judged.

They won’t be judging you either.

Here’s what’s going to happen to you if you go to rehab.


This stage is where the centre evaluates how serious your symptoms are. To do this, they need to run some medical tests. They will usually give you a questionnaire to answer.

There will also be an interview where A doctor or nurse will attend to you and you may be given the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test.

Medically assisted detox

Within a week to ten days (depending on the results of your assessment), you will be monitored by staff while you stop using alcohol.

They can give you medicines like disulfiram and some type of benzodiazepines to cope with your withdrawal symptoms.

You should be feeling better after the alcohol detox period. The first three days are the hardest, especially if it’s your first time.

Inpatient care or outpatient care

Inpatient means you stay in the rehab facility the whole time for the next 28 days at the minimum.

During this time, you have to attend the activities that are planned out by the centre. You will be repeatedly urged to join the activities. (It’s just the way it is.)

Outpatient care means you go to the clinic in a scheduled time to see a therapist or to attend group therapy.


In rehab, there are activities organised by groups such as AA or SMART Recovery. These organisations are called “Mutual Support Groups”. The activities these groups plan are not therapy, but they can be therapeutic.

These meetings are held to link people in recovery together, so they can support each other.

It is important to know that nobody is forced to join any organisation they are not comfortable with.

You choose what organisation you want to join because it is you who is in recovery. So choose what works best for you.


A recent article by Time Magazine mentioned that younger people are less into drinking alcohol now than in the past.

In July 2019 for instance, there was a Mindfulness Drinking Festival held in London. In this event, people danced to techno beats and drank alcohol-free drinks while partying.

If you’ve ever heard of Dry January and maybe even tried it, then you are aware that people are more conscious now about their drinking habits.

There is even a belief that if, for instance, alcohol was a newly invented product, it wouldn’t get past the Health Ministry.

Alcohol is as addictive as any prescription or illegal drug. And there is social life outside drinking and partying.

In addition, there is a slow culture-change happening across our country. People are starting to wake up from their alcoholic stupor and see that life is brighter and clearer and happier sober.

Will you be one of them too?



Getting help early can prevent experiencing severe consequences of drinking or disrupting the lives of loved ones.

Call our local number 01603 513 091

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