Types of addiction and getting support

Fatmata Kamara
Mental Health Nurse Global Case Manager
04 July 2023
Next review due July 2026

Addiction is when we don’t have control over doing, taking, or using something. Addiction often involves a substance like alcohol, nicotine, or drugs. But it’s possible to become addicted to lots of things such as gambling or social media.

Here, I look at different types of addiction and what support is available for you or a loved one.

person rubbing their eyes looking worried

How do addictions start?

Addictions begin for all sorts of reasons. Drugs, alcohol, and nicotine affect the way you feel. They can make you feel relaxed, and less self-conscious. This can make you feel an urge to use or take the substance again to try and recreate these feelings.

Taking certain drugs and gambling can create mental ‘highs’, which are usually followed by a strong urge to do it again. Once a habit develops, it can be very hard to stop.

If you’re addicted to something, you often lose the ability to choose whether to stop or continue the behaviour. You may crave it, and not having it can cause withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be unpleasant, so you may think it’s easier to continue the behaviour. And, it then becomes hard to break this cycle.

What are the different types of addiction?

Alcohol addiction

Lots of people drink alcohol and it’s easy to buy. But, it’s highly addictive and can cause many physical and mental health problems. It can also affect your relationships and work.

If you’re dependent on alcohol, you’ll crave it and can have a high tolerance for it. This means you might often have to drink a lot to feel drunk, and won’t have a hangover the next day. You might also continue to drink even when you know it’s damaging your health.

There are lots of support groups and treatment plans to help with alcohol addiction. The charity Alcoholics Anonymous can offer advice on how to start your recovery.

Below, Joshua shares his story about his recovery from alcohol addiction.

Drug addiction

Both illegal and prescription drugs can be addictive.

Regular use of powerful drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, often lead to addiction that can have a serious impact on your health and wellbeing.

If you have chronic pain, your doctor might prescribe painkillers. But you should only use them for a short amount of time. This is because they can be addictive, and it can become very hard to stop taking them.

As well as mental and physical health problems, drug addiction can lead to:

  • the breakdown of relationships
  • job loss
  • financial struggles
  • homelessness

If you have a drug addiction, or you know someone who does, get support to find the right treatment. Contact your GP, your local NHS drug and alcohol service, or one of the following drug support organisations.


If you regularly gamble, you can become addicted to the thrill and excitement you might feel whilst gambling. It’s estimated that around 1 in every 100 people have a gambling disorder.

Gambling can take on different forms. Some people might gamble through the lottery or online casino games. But, problems can also start from gambling through investments, trading, and spending money in online games.

Gambling can result in serious debt and financial problems, which can affect your life and the lives of those around you.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a gambling addiction, you can seek support and advice from gambling support charity GamCare.

How is addiction treated?

There are different treatments available depending on the type of addiction you need support with. For the best chance of a successful recovery, you might often require a combination of some of the following:

Where can I go for support and advice on addiction?

There are many support charities and organisations that offer advice and can help you begin your recovery. Action on Addiction is a great resource for anyone affected by addiction.

Remember, your GP is there to see you about all aspects of your physical and mental health, including addiction. Making an appointment can be a good first step towards recovery.

Fatmata Kamara
Fatmata Kamara (she/her)
Mental Health Nurse Global Case Manager



Lucy Kapoutsos, Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

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