Frequently Asked Questions


Drug addiction is a complex and often chronic brain disease. It is characterized by drug craving and use that can persist even in the face of devastating life consequences. Addiction arrises largely from brain changes that stem from prolonged drug use changes that involve multiple brain circuits, including those responsible for governing self-control and other behaviours. Drug addiction is treatable, often with medications (for some addictions) combined with behavioural therapies. However relapse is common and can happen even after long periods of abstinence, underscoring the need for long-term support and care. Relapse does not signify treatment failure but rather should prompt treatment re-engagement or modification. 

This question is an important one, however until the result of the Gibraltar national drug prevalence survey is conducted and analysed by experts, it’s not possible to give an accurate or reliable assessment of the situation in this respect. However using official data that is available (not collected under a drug prevalence survey criteria) it is possible to say that amongst Gibraltar's youth, Alcohol, Cocaine, Cannabis, Ketamine, Amphetamine, Crack Cocaine and Legal Highs are probably the most commonly abused drugs on the Rock.

There is no easy answer to this common question. If and how quickly you become addicted to a drug depends on many factors, including your biology (your genes, for example), age, gender, environment, and interactions among these factors. Vast differences characterize individual sensitivity to various drugs and to addiction vulnerability. A person may use a drug once or multiple times and suffer no ill effects, another person may overdose with first use, or become addicted after a few uses. There is no way of knowing in advance how quickly you will become addicted but there are signs. An important factor is whether you have a family history of addiction.

Risk factors for becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs like other conditions and diseases, vary from person to person. Common risk factors include: 1. Genetics - your family history; 2. Age when you start using alcohol or drugs; 3. Family (including abuse, neglect and traumatic experiences in childhood) and Social Environment (including access to alcohol and drugs), and 4. Types of drugs used.

Yes. For most, addiction to alcohol and drugs is a process not an event. Most people who consume alcohol and drugs do so with an intention of only using once or on occasions. No one decides that they want to become addicted to alcohol and drugs. However we are dealing with addictive drugs that directly affect the brain. It is easy for occasional use to become to frequent use and subsequently addiction. The only thing we know for sure is if you don't consume drugs and alcohol, you won't become addicted.

Yes, Cannabis/Marijuana is a plant but it has very real health consequences, including drug addiction. While some may think cannabis is a “harmless drug”, actual experience and medical research portray a different reality. More teens (generally) are in treatment with a primary diagnosis of cannabis dependence than for any other illegal drug combined.

While most marijuana smokers do not end up using other illegal drugs, long-term studies of secondary students in the United States and Britain, show that few use other illegal drugs without first using marijuana. Using marijuana puts people in contact with drug suppliers and this exposes them to try other drugs.

You or your friends might think that prescription drugs are safer than alcohol or illegal drugs because doctors prescribe them.  But these drugs can be just as dangerous. When prescription drugs are used without a prescription they can be as dangerous as alcohol or illegal drugs.  You can die from abusing prescription drugs . . . even the first time.

As a teen you should be concerned about alcohol and all other drugs, legal and illegal. Recently in many places there has been a significant increase in the non-medical use of prescription pain drugs among young people. 

If a person is using/misusing a drug(s) despite negative consequences, such as loss of job, debt, family problems, or physical problems brought on by drug abuse, then they are probably addicted. And while people who are addicted may believe they can stop any time, most often they cannot and will need professional help. Initially to determine if they are in fact addicted and then to obtain drug abuse treatment. Support from friends and family can be critical in getting people into treatment and helping them to maintain abstinence following treatment.

The short answer if you or someone close to you is having a problem with alcohol or drugs and they continue to use, it’s time to get help. Continued use despite negative consequences, is a powerful indicator of addiction.

This is information is not available at the moment, however there is no doubt that drug abuse costs the Gibraltar economy many millions of pounds each year in increased health care costs, social care, crime, and lost productivity.

Yes, alcoholism and drug addiction can be treated.  Alcoholism and addiction treatment programs can help a person stop drinking and consuming drugs.  Treatment in Gibraltar has helped countless people stop drinking and taking drugs, rebuild their lives and live a life in long-term recovery.

For information on treatment programmes go to our Get Help page.

International research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism and drug addiction runs in families.  But just because there is a genetic predisposition doesn't mean that the child of an alcoholic or addict parent will automatically follow suit.  Not all children of addicted parents get into trouble with alcohol and drugs, far from it in fact.  Some people develop alcoholism and addiction even though no one in their family suffers from this.

No, research show that the younger a person starts using alcohol and drugs, the greater the chance that they will become addicted.

Governments around the world have attempted to put in place something called the “standard drink” of alcohol, as a way of clarifying how much people should be drinking. As the alcohol content from beer, to spirits, to wine, differs so much, they have used rather complicated metrics¤ to state how many standard drinks are in a shot of gin versus a glass of beer. Not only that but different countries use different metrics, complicating the whole thing even more.

Studies show that children who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence than people who first used alcohol at age 21 or older.  

Once absorbed into the bloodstream, the Kidneys eliminate 5% of alcohol in the urine, the Lungs exhale 5% of alcohol and the Liver breaks down the remaining 90% of alcohol.  Alcohol is broken down (metabolised) by the liver at the average rate of one standard drink per hour and nothing can speed this up, including drinking coffee.

Detoxification is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. It is often the first step in a drug treatment program and should be followed by treatment with a behavioural-based therapy and/or a medication, if available. Detox alone with no follow-up is not treatment.

Withdrawal describes the various symptoms that occur after long-term use of a drug is reduced or stopped abruptly. Length of withdrawal and symptoms vary with the type of drug. For example, physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal may include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhoea, vomiting, and cold flashes. These physical symptoms may last for several days but the general depression, or dysphoria (opposite of euphoria), that often accompanies heroin and withdrawal from other substances may last for weeks. In many cases withdrawal can be easily treated with medications to ease the symptoms but treating withdrawal is not the same as treating addiction.