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Recognizing Addiction

It may be more difficult than it seems to spot addiction in the early stages. Whether the addiction is to drugs or alcohol, addicts can be adept at hiding their addiction from those close to them. Individuals can become addicted to alcohol or a number of drugs. Some of the most common substances one can be addicted to include:

  • Alcohol
  • Synthetic marijuana AKA Spice. These are chemical compounds sprayed on dried herbs and smoked. Spice is dangerous and unpredictable as there is no quality control and ingredients are unknown
  • Barbiturates and benzodiazepines which are central nervous system depressants
  • Meth, cocaine and other stimulants which are used in search of a high or to boost energy
  • Club drugs such as Ecstasy, Rohypnol and Ketamine
  • Hallucinogens such as LSD and PCP
  • Narcotic painkillers such as heroin, morphine and oxycodone

Behaviors caused by substance abuse may be mistakenly attributed to other causes, especially if there is also an underlying condition present such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. If an addiction continues untreated it can become a debilitating and even life threatening condition. The sooner treatment begins the better the outcome, making it beneficial to be able to identify the symptoms of substance abuse.

Early signs

It is important to watch for signs of the early phase of addiction so treatment can be provided as quickly as possible. In the early stages, a person may not outwardly show signs of addiction. It may appear that they are using a substance casually or socially. However, some clues may be present such as:

  • Being particularly attracted to a specific substance
  • Seeking out places where the substance may be or where it may be available
  • Episodes of bingeing or loss of control

Major symptoms of addiction

There are several major signs of addiction. One of the first is alienation or isolation from others. A person may isolate themselves from friends and family members and begin socializing with others who share or encourage their addiction. They will avoid situations in which they cannot continue their addictive behavior. Alienation progresses over time. To avoid discovery, an addict may cut off communication with friends and family, especially those who have become aware of the addiction. They may avoid phone calls and text messages and even answering the door.

Illness, injury or chronic fatigue may be signs of a problem. Skin, hair and nails may be in poor condition, particularly so if the person is abusing methamphetamine or cocaine. Work or school will be neglected and changes may occur in appetite and sleep patterns. In addition to physical signs, drug or alcohol addiction can affect a person’s mental and emotional health. Other major symptoms of addiction can include:

  • Mood changes: irritability, depression, anxiety, apathy etc.
  • Aggressive or paranoid behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Increase or decrease in blood pressure or a irregular heart rate
  • Red or watery eyes; dry mouth
  • Decreased coordination
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Inability to control or stop use of substance
  • Intense cravings
  • Increasing dosage to achieve the same effect as the initial dose
  • Spending money they can’t afford on the substance
  • Lying or stealing to get the substance
  • Risky behavior such as unprotected sex or driving under the influence
  • Suffering withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using the substance
  • A sense of euphoria
  • Heightened sense of visual, auditory and taste perception

Consequences of addiction

  • Dropping out of school or plummeting grades
  • Missing work or social obligations
  • Damaged relationships with family and friends
  • Accidents, injuries or hospitalization
  • Arrests or jail time
  • Loss of job and/or home
  • Serious physical or mental consequences

Addressing the issue

It is important to assess whether the problem stems from a single incident or a growing addiction. An addict will deny the presence of an addiction and make excuses for their behavior, blaming it on any number of things which are not true. Many will convince themselves that the addiction should continue and are thus resistant if an intervention is carried out in an attempt to get them to seek treatment. However if an addict is ready to address their addiction then the recovery process can start.

Finding help

If drug use is out of control in either you or a loved one, help is only a phone call away. The Drug and Alcohol Recovery Helpline can give you information on addiction and connect you to treatment programs in your area that can help you start your recovery. If you would like further information, please call our 24/7 Recovery Helpline at (855) 441-4405 or talk to one of our representatives on our LiveChat.