Approximately 700,000 Americans have died of a drug overdose since 2000. But many individuals are living with addiction. More than 20 million Americans over the age of 11 are affected by substance use disorders, and addiction is the most severe substance use disorder.
Some signs that someone is addicted are more evident than others. An individual whose drug use is negatively impacting their life will often try to hide the symptoms. Therefore, it’s important to recognize subtle cues as well as more noticeable signs of a problem.
Recurrent Misuse of Drugs
Repeatedly misusing drugs is the basis for drug addiction. However, not everyone who misuses substances is addicted. Someone who binges on a substance regularly but doesn’t exhibit other signs may not have a full-fledged addiction. Still, chronic substance abuse leads to brain and body changes that can result in dependency.
Developing a Tolerance
We’ve all heard someone brag about being able to “drink someone under the table.” That describes a tolerance, which is indicative of a substance abuse problem.
Our bodies are designed to maintain homeostasis. When introducing a new chemical to your system, your body must adjust to maintain that balance.
Over time, your body seems to function normally with regular doses of the substance. You need to increase amounts or frequency to achieve the same effects. Tolerance is a sign that your body has plateaued at the regular dosage, and that’s your new normal.
You Feel Worse When You Stop Using the Drug
Withdrawal goes hand in hand with tolerance. That plateau that was achieved through tolerance requires a certain level of drugs to keep you feeling normal. At this stage, you are dependent on the substance.
Your body has created a delicate balance that includes the drug. When you don’t use it, you feel out of sorts.
Withdrawal symptoms differ depending on the substance. Some drugs, like opioids, are associated with intense detox periods that could last a few weeks. Other substances, such as cocaine, don’t have such prolonged withdrawal effects. However, they can produce acute discomfort as the high wears off, provoking users to chase the high and take another dose.
Major life events, such as graduating from school, switching careers, or becoming a parent, can make you face your strengths and weaknesses. These happenings can change your personality, but the transformation typically happens gradually.
Abrupt personality changes are often indicative of a problem. Perhaps the issue isn’t drugs; character fluctuations are also signs of some physical and psychological disorders. But if you worry that you or a loved one has a substance problem, dramatic attitude shifts can signal that they’re addicted.
Others are often likely to notice this symptom. It’s easy for the addicted individual to justify the difference as part of their personal growth.
Some things to look out for include:
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- A shift from being energetic and engaging to quiet and sullen
- A swing from shyness to extroverted and exuberant
- Unpredictable emotions or behaviors
- Impulsiveness or explosive rage
- Intense irritation from someone who was previously easygoing
Increased Isolation, Secrecy, and Dishonesty
People who battle addiction often have to lie to maintain their disorder. Most people recognize that their problem is not beneficial on some level. However, to admit that would mean acknowledging that they would have to stop using the drug.
To a logical mind, that seems like the obvious next step and an encouraging way to inspire someone to start substance abuse treatment. But to the addicted mind involves taking away something that has become a primary source of pleasure and reward.
Therefore, individuals who suffer from a substance abuse disorder usually keep their distance from anything that could interfere with their drug use. This often means hiding substances, making excuses for their behavior, altering their schedule so they can use them, and lying about where they have been.
Plus, most drugs aren’t free. Maintaining a drug habit can get expensive. Moreover, long-term substance use isn’t always conducive to holding down a job. At some point, many people with this issue have to find alternative means to support their habit financially, and they may steal money.
Inability to Control Substance Use
Addiction is not an issue of willpower or self-control, it is not a moral deficiency, and it is a biological process that creates a cycle of dependency.
As much as you want to stop using or intend to decrease your consumption of a drug, you may not be able to. Someone with a substance abuse problem often takes more than they intended to. Once they have access to the drug, they have trouble limiting its use.
Substance abuse often has detrimental effects. It can drain your savings, damage relationships, hurt your body and get you into trouble. Someone who is addicted continues to use it even though they recognize the harm. They may want to stop hurting themselves, but they are locked into a psychological and physical pattern that tells them they can’t function without the substance.
Regular substance abuse can change your appearance in marked ways, including:
- Weight gain or loss
- Bloodshot eyes
- Inadequate personal hygiene
- Skin lesions
- Tooth decay
Changes in Interests
As you depend on a chemical, you need less favorable stimulation from other sources. A quick fix makes you feel good. Therefore, you may spend more time thinking about and procuring drugs than participating in other activities and hobbies that make you happy.
Loss of interest is also a sign of mood disorders. If you feel apathetic or notice indifference in a loved one, you might want to consider the cause. Even if substance abuse isn’t the issue, a mental health issue could be to blame.
Chemicals can take a toll on the body, and substance abuse can impair the immune system and increase your risk of developing severe medical conditions.
Different drugs have different risks. Heavy, long-term alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and memory problems. Other health issues linked to substance abuse include stroke, STDs, gastrointestinal problems, organ damage, and abscesses.
If you can’t shake that cold or feel run down all the time, your substance use could be to blame. Someone addicted may not stop using even when other health problems significantly impair their quality of life.
A drop in Performance
When someone is addicted, drugs will take preference to almost everything else. The individual will spend much of their time and money thinking about and using the substance.
Other responsibilities will fall by the wayside, and this causes performance to suffer.
An adult may no longer meet their goals at work, and a student’s grades may suffer. The neglect may reach a point where the individual no longer shows up for work, school, or other obligations. If drugs make you or someone you know fall behind, there’s a big chance they need professional help.
Everybody changes as they experience personal growth throughout their lives. But dramatic shifts in personality, behavior, routines and habits could be warning signs that something is off. People who struggle with addiction can’t always choose to stop and must work with their brain’s messaging systems to alter deeply rooted patterns.
Seeking professional treatment and support is the first step toward developing a successful recovery plan. Call Long Island Interventions to learn more about addiction resources for the greater New York area.