Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs. When you’re addicted, you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. As time passes, you may need larger doses of the drug to get high. Soon you may need the drug just to feel good. As your drug use increases, you may find that it’s increasingly difficult to go without the drug. Attempts to stop drug use may cause intense cravings and make you feel physically ill (withdrawal symptoms). The key to fighting an addiction early is to notice the addiction warning signs as soon as they appear. Today we will take a look at these signs, note where to notice them most often, and discuss what to do if you suspect your addiction is out of control.
Signs and Symptoms
Recognizing the signs of addiction is the first step to getting help for yourself or guiding someone you care about to rehab. For this reason, it is critical to have an understanding of the signs of addiction. There are behavioral, physical, and psychological aspects of addiction. Symptoms can only be experienced by the person with the addiction, whereas signs can be observed by other people. You can never know what someone else is experiencing unless they tell you, so if you are concerned that someone else may have an addiction, look for signs as well as for symptoms. You might see some of these signs and symptoms but not others in an addicted person, but you can still be addicted even if you do not have all of them.
Addiction Warning Signs to Look For
Recognizing addiction warning signs in someone you know can be harder than it seems. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a chronic disease that affects the brain’s reward, motivation, and memory functions. Someone with an addiction will crave a substance or other behavioral habits. They’ll often ignore other areas of life to fulfill or support their desires.
General signs of addiction are:
- lack of control, or inability to stay away from a substance or behavior
- decreased socialization, like abandoning commitments or ignoring relationships
- ignoring risk factors, like sharing needles despite potential consequences
- physical effects, like withdrawal symptoms or needing higher dosage for effect
These addiction warning signs are commonly linked. The degree of intensity for each sign may depend on how long the addiction has been going on.
A healthy person can usually identify a negative behavior and get rid of it. This is not the case with someone with an addiction. Rather than admit the problem exists, they’ll find ways to justify and continue the behavior.
Common Symptoms of addiction include:
- Tolerance, which is the need to engage in the addictive behavior more and more to get the desired effect
- Withdrawal happens when the person does not take the substance or engage in the activity, and they experience unpleasant symptoms, which are often the opposite of the effects of the addictive behavior
- Difficulty cutting down or controlling the addictive behavior
- Social, occupational or recreational activities becoming more focused on the addiction, and important social and occupational roles being jeopardized
- The person becoming preoccupied with the addiction, spending a lot of time on planning, engaging in, and recovering from the addictive behavior
- Extreme mood changes – happy, sad, excited, anxious, etc
- Sleeping a lot more or less than usual, or at different times of the day or night
- Changes in energy – unexpectedly and extremely tired or energetic
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Unexpected and persistent coughs or sniffles
- Seeming unwell at certain times and better at other times
- Pupils of the eyes seeming smaller or larger than usual
If someone in your house is having a problem with drugs or alcohol, watch for red flags and addiction warning signs. Frequent use of eye drops or air fresheners can be warning signs. Finding alcohol hidden around the house or in the garage is another. Be suspicious if money goes missing or a bank account starts to get low.
Locked doors and the need for lots of privacy also can be a warning. Also take note of any missing prescription drugs from your medicine cabinet, especially pain medicines. If you spot any of these warning signs in yourself or someone you know, don’t wait to take action. As difficult as it can be to discuss addiction and substance abuse, the disease will only get worse without treatment. Start by talking to your primary care doctor, who can provide guidance on steps you can take to seek treatment, either for yourself or a loved one.
Long-Term Life Consequences
In the middle or later stages of an addiction, the negative effects will be more permanent or have long-term consequences. Someone with a serious addiction problem may allow, ignore, or trivialize these outcomes in favor of continuing their habits.
Potential long-term consequences include:
- Getting a communicable disease. People who are addicted to a drug are more likely to get an infectious disease, such as HIV, either through unsafe sex or by sharing needles.
- Other health problems. Drug addiction can lead to a range of both short-term and long-term mental and physical health problems. These depend on what drug is taken.
- Accidents. People who are addicted to drugs are more likely to drive or do other dangerous activities while under the influence.
- Suicide. People who are addicted to drugs die by suicide more often than people who aren’t addicted.
- Family problems. Behavioral changes may cause marital or family conflict and custody issues.
- Work issues. Drug use can cause declining performance at work, absenteeism and eventual loss of employment.
- Problems at school. Drug use can negatively affect academic performance and motivation to excel in school.
- Legal issues. Legal problems are common for drug users and can stem from buying or possessing illegal drugs, stealing to support the drug addiction, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or disputes over child custody.
- Financial problems. Spending money to support drug use takes away money from other needs, could lead to debt, and can lead to illegal or unethical behaviors.
- Dropping out of school or getting poor grades
- Damaged relationships with friends and family
- Loss of good standing or tarnished reputation
- Arrests or jail time
- Eviction from the home or failed mortgage payments
- Loss of job
- Loss of parental rights
Similar events can occur in the lives of people without an addiction problem. But these can become more common when an addiction is present. Before approaching someone you think may have an addiction, determine if the problem is a result of a single incident or a growing problem with the addiction.
Helping Someone In Need
If you’ve observed some of these addiction warning signs and symptoms of drug use in a friend or loved one, you might feel uncertain about addressing the issue. It can be difficult to communicate your concern, especially if you are worried it might result in a conflict. Still, it is crucial to reach out.
Here are a few steps you can take to create an intervention plan:
- Work with a professional interventionist. Their entire purpose is to help you plan an intervention in the best and safest way possible.
- Invite close friends and family.
- Plan and practice what you’ll say.
Once you’ve taken action and hosted an intervention, you can discuss your options. In most cases, you’ll have three to choose from:
- Outpatient detox, where your friend or loved one can detox at home with professional help.
- Inpatient detox, where your friend or loved one gets the help they need under round-the-clock supervision at a medical facility.
- Medical detox, which is a medically supervised withdrawal program that can be carried out under outpatient or inpatient supervision.
Addiction Warning Signs – Harmony Ridge Recovery is Here to Help
Recognizing addiction warning signs is the first step on the road to recovery, which often takes tremendous courage and strength. If you’re ready to face your addiction and are willing to seek help, you have the opportunity to build a satisfying, drug-free life for yourself. Harmony Ridge Recovery Center is here to help. Our substance abuse treatment center offers comprehensive programs tailored to your needs. Whether you need addiction treatment for alcohol or drugs, we can help you recognize your substance abuse problem and, ultimately, overcome it.