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Addiction /
Breaking the stereotypes

Addiction is tragically and fundamentally misunderstood. Every part of the disease is distorted by myth and coloured by opinions which have no firm basis in fact. If the addict is ever to recover, the truth must be understood and the myths must be challenged and destroyed.

Addiction is tragically and fundamentally misunderstood. Every part of the disease is distorted by myth and coloured by opinions which have no firm basis in fact. If the addict is ever to recover, the truth must be understood and the myths must be challenged and destroyed. 

‘Isn’t she disgusting?’

‘He is so pathetic’

‘What an embarrassing evening; why can’t he hold his drink like a man?’ 

Such comments show that many still think of addiction as a moral issue. Alcoholics and drug addicts are bad and nasty moral degenerates or worse, weak-willed and wet. Most of us will happily laugh at the comic ‘stoner’ on TV or feel superior as we wrinkle our nose at the down-and-out ‘wino’ on the street with his odour of stale wine, fumes and human grime.

But look in the mirror. If you like to ‘get out of it’ with alcohol or other substances, there is a chance you may be an addict. 

What is addiction?


Addiction is a chronic illness resulting in an ever-increasing dependence on a substance, such as alcohol or drugs, with an associated decline in physical and emotional health, an impairment of relationships at home and work and a deterioration in personal standards of behaviour.

Who is an addict?

An addict is a person with the illness of addiction regardless of whether he or she is initially a light, moderate or heavy user. Dependence is an illness of the body and the mind, but mostly an illness of the emotions. 

The scale of the problem

Alcohol: According to the UK Office for National Statistics’ General Lifestyle Survey:

> In England in 2012 there were 6,490 alcohol-related deaths, a 19% increase compared to 2001.

Alcohol is 10% of the UK burden of disease and death, making alcohol one of the three biggest lifestyle risk factors for disease and death in the UK, after smoking and obesity.

An estimated 7.5 million people are unaware of the damage their drinking could be causing.

> Alcohol misuse costs England around £21bn per year in healthcare, crime and lost productivity costs.

> Alcohol is 61% more affordable than it was in 1980.