Warning Signs of Drug Addiction

What Are Warning Signs of Addiction?

An estimated 22.6 million Americans abuse drugs and alcohol, according to a 2010 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Drug abuse and addiction often sneak up on an individual. One-time or occasional drug use can become repeated use and abuse, which leads to dependency and addiction. Learning the warning signs of addiction can help.

Drug and alcohol addiction is a disorder characterized by a destructive pattern of drug addiction that leads to abusing drugs is a symptom of drug addiction. Individuals who experiment with drugs often believe that addiction “can’t happen to them” and that occasional substance abuse is “not a big deal.” That’s simply not the case. Many individuals also believe that regular use is not a problem because they can “quit at any time.” While some people can stop, for the majority of users, however, repeated drug abuse causes dependency, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, three characteristics of addiction.

While the frequency of drug use or the amount of drugs consumed does not solely constitute drug addiction, frequency and quantity of use play a role in dependency. Repeated use and abuse over time leads to tolerance. Individuals must use increasingly larger amounts of the same drug to achieve a similar high.

I think my loved one is struggling with addiction; how do recognize the signs of addiction?

If someone you love is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, identifying early warning signs of addiction is essential to helping your loved one seek treatment. Early intervention can help minimize the physical damage that drugs and alcohol cause to the body. For example, years of heavy drinking due to alcoholism can cause permanent brain and liver damage. Abusing meth for just a few months can cause a dramatic loss in weight, rapid aging and open sores on the face.

Early warning signs of addiction include abusing drugs and alcohol. Substance abusers may initially turn to drugs or alcohol to escape problems, numb pain, or overcome social anxiety. As occasional use turns to addiction, the substance abuser is unable to function without his drug of choice. The addict begins neglecting responsibilities and home or work, engaging in risky behavior while high, and getting into legal trouble because of drug use. The addict’s behavior and relationships will change. The most important thing in an addict’s life is obtaining and using his or her drug of choice; family, work, friends and hobbies become unimportant.

The following are symptoms of drug and alcohol addiction:

  • Change in behavior. Getting and using the drug becomes more important than fulfilling work and family commitments or enjoying hobbies and sports. Initially, an addict may miss or frequently be late for work and school. As dependency worsens, the addict may neglect social and family obligations altogether.
  • Change in relationships. Drug addicts socialize primarily with other addicts. While the addict’s substance abuse may cause fights with family, friends, and co-workers, the abuser appears not to care and ignores the repercussions of his or her behavior. An addict may be uncharacteristically violent, angry, moody or defensive, especially when confronted about his or her drug use.
  • Change in personality. Drug and alcohol addiction may lead to sudden personality swings, unexplained emotional outbursts, periods of hyperactive behavior followed by lethargy, paranoia, and other unexplained changes in personality.
  • Change in appearance. Drug and alcohol abuse affects an addict’s physical appearance, causing unexplained weight gain or loss, a deterioration in personal grooming habits, unusual body odors, slurred speech, and coordination difficulties.
  • Engaging in risky behavior. While high or on drugs, the addict engages in risky and destructive behaviors. These behaviors include sharing needles, unprotected sex, driving while drunk or high, or making other dangerous decisions that put the addict’s health and safety at risk.
  • Inability to stop using. What began as a voluntary choice is now a physical and psychological need; users cannot only “stop” using. Addicts use drugs not only to get high but also to combat withdrawal symptoms. Users use even when they don’t plan to do so or have told themselves they will stop.

How do I help a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol?

Addiction is a complex problem affecting every aspect of a user’s life. Overcoming addiction begins by recognizing that there is a problem. If someone you love is exhibiting the early warning signs of addiction, talk to a drug counselor or rehabilitation center. Trained rehabilitation professionals can help you stage a successful intervention and ensure that your loved one receives the treatment he or she needs. The primary goal of drug and alcohol abuse treatment is abstinence, rehabilitation and relapse prevention. Recognizing the early warning signs of addiction is the first step towards getting healthy.

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