Addictions can present in many ways; from substances and alcohol to gambling and eating disorders. However, they all have one thing in common – they hinder our ability to live a healthy, happy life.

At Ishmail & Associates, we help the entire family unit access their potential to achieve lasting recovery.


Heroin is a semisynthetic opiate. It is developed from the chemical morphine, which in turn is a natural opiate that comes from the opium poppy. As an opiate, heroin is a depressant drug that produces a wave or ‘rush’ of euphoria, followed by hours of calm sedation and drowsiness.

Heroin is most commonly injected, although it is sometimes snorted, sniffed, or smoked in its powdered form. Addiction can start to take hold of our bodies and minds from the very first use of heroin. It is an extremely potent drug that can substantially alter the chemistry of the central nervous system after very little use.

Heroin addiction continues to be one of the most stigmatised addictions seen in the media. As a result, it can be extremely difficult for those who are struggling to reach out to their loved ones for support. 

There is a popular misconception that all heroin addicts are ‘street-level’ users. However, there are many people who are addicted to heroin who maintain seemingly normal lives, and people can become very proficient at hiding their use. Still, this doesn’t spare them from the physical dangers and emotional pitfalls of addiction. If you are concerned about heroin addiction in yourself or a loved one, educating yourself on the nature of the condition, its dangers, and signs to watch out for is crucial when seeking or offering assistance.


Cocaine is a stimulant that can become addictive with prolonged and regular use.

There are three types of cocaine:

  • Coke (which looks like a fine, white powder)
  • Crack (which comes in the form of small rocks)
  • Freebase (a crystalised powder)

Cocaine is usually snorted or smoked, and it produces a short, intense high. It induces changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters which release dopamine and stimulate feelings of pleasure and happiness. The neurotransmitters affected include serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), norepinephrine and glutamate.

Regular use can provoke feelings of anxiousness, depression and paranoia, and because the stimulating effects of cocaine are brief, users often take the drug more frequently, resulting in increased tolerance to the drug’s effects and a dependency on the drug itself. This is when addiction takes hold. 

The comedown associated with cocaine is extremely unpleasant, and many people continue to use it to avoid this.


Marijuana (also known as cannabis, weed, green, or pot) is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK.

It is mixed with tobacco in a ‘joint,’ used by itself in a ‘blunt,’ or smoked through a pipe. It can also be vaporised, brewed as tea, or mixed in with food.

Marijuana promotes a wide range of intoxicating effects on the body and mind, including a sense of relaxation and euphoria and, for many, increased appetite. With heavy and continued use, it is extremely addictive and can cause both physical and mental problems.

Continued use can result in feelings of panic, anxiety and paranoia, as well as an increased risk of developing psychotic illnesses, such as schizophrenia. Since it is most commonly smoked with tobacco, users are likely to become addicted to nicotine, too, which increases the risk of other diseases, including cancer.

Repeated use of marijuana over time can cause dependence. The body gets used to the presence of the drug and responds by altering its natural production of certain chemicals, resulting in the need to use marijuana just to feel normal. Up to 30% of people may go on to develop an addiction.  


Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic and debilitating condition characterised by the excessive and compulsive consumption of alcohol despite its negative consequences. It is a complex disease that affects people from all walks of life and can have devastating effects on physical and mental health.

Alcohol seems to be ubiquitous in modern society, and unhealthy drinking habits have almost become a social norm. We will likely find alcohol at most work and social events and may even find ourselves receiving alcohol as a present.

While it is legal to consume alcohol in the UK if you are aged 18 or over, addiction to the substance is still a huge issue and, in some cases, can be life-threatening. Needing a drink to get through the day, hiding alcohol from loved ones and drinking at inappropriate times, such as at work, are all signs that someone has developed a drinking problem and needs professional help.

Other issues that can present with AUD include:

  • Physically – prolonged and excessive alcohol intake can lead to liver damage, cardiovascular problems, neurological disorders, and an increased risk of certain cancers.
  • Psychologically – it can cause mood swings, depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairments.
  • Socially – alcoholism can strain relationships, lead to financial difficulties, and contribute to legal issues.

The causes of alcoholism are multifactorial, including genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and psychological influences. Recognising the signs and seeking early intervention is crucial in managing alcoholism. It requires a comprehensive approach, and support from family, friends, and healthcare professionals can make a significant difference in helping individuals overcome alcoholism and regain control of their lives.

Treatment for alcoholism often involves a combination of medical interventions, therapy, and support groups; however, recovery can be challenging, and relapse is common.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug dependence is where an individual becomes physically and/or psychologically reliant on prescription medications. This dependence can develop due to the prolonged use of certain medications, particularly those with addictive properties, such as opioids, benzodiazepines, or stimulants. Prescription drug dependence can occur even when individuals take the medication as prescribed by a healthcare professional.

Physical dependence on prescription drugs manifests through withdrawal symptoms when the drug is abruptly discontinued, or the dosage is reduced. These symptoms may include nausea, sweating, tremors, insomnia, and intense cravings. Psychological dependence creates a strong desire to continue using the medication to experience its effects or alleviate emotional distress.

Addiction to prescription drugs is often underestimated, but it can be just as dangerous as dependence on an illegal drug. It poses significant risks to an individual’s health and well-being and can lead to tolerance, where higher doses are needed to achieve the same effects, and can eventually progress to addiction. The misuse or diversion of prescription drugs can also have serious legal and social consequences.

Treatment for prescription drug dependence may include medical detoxification, where the drug is gradually tapered to minimise withdrawal symptoms, followed by therapy or counselling to address the underlying reasons for dependence. 

Eating Disorders

The most common types of eating disorders are bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.

In bulimia nervosa, we typically see an individual who experiences episodes of eating a significantly large amount of food (bingeing) and subsequently feeling a huge degree of shame, causing them to make themselves vomit (purging). The side effects of this condition include dehydration due to the loss of vital nutrients when purging, irregular or no periods, and tooth erosion. The feelings of shame and guilt surrounding bulimia are large contributors to the ongoing cycle of this condition and therefore require specialist support in overcoming the condition and finding healthier ways to cope.

A diagnosis of anorexia nervosa is essentially down to an individual’s weight being too low as a result of not eating enough food. However, it is more than a physical condition, as it is often caused by extremely low self-esteem, a skewed self-image and elevated feelings of distress. Sufferers of anorexia nervosa often report feelings of not being good enough and have a constant obsession with food and worthlessness.

Closely linked to anxiety and depression, eating disorders are complex and debilitating conditions that require professional attention and treatment.

Customer Testimonials

Working with Michael for six months gave me the best start I could of ever hoped for in my new life in recovery.

I now understand why I was acting out in such a way that was detrimental to my mental and physical health.

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