People struggling with addiction will do all they can to hide it from others, often making it difficult to determine whether your loved one has become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addiction is also a very personal disease and will present itself differently depending on the person and their drug of choice, therefore not everyone will display the same signs of addiction. However, there are some common red flags that signal someone has developed an addiction and needs help.
Common Signs of Addiction to Look Out for
If you are concerned about a loved one's substance abuse and you notice they exhibit one or more of the following changes in behaviour or appearance, than an alcohol or drug addiction may be present.
1. Change in Physical Appearance.
Our bodies do not lie. Changes in physical appearance are often one of the first and most noticeable signs of addiction, as they will appear despite attempts to hide addictive behaviour through lying and denial. The following physical changes may occur when someone is suffering from a substance abuse disorder:
· Rapid weight loss.
The use of many drugs, especially stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, supress the appetite and can cause a person to experience dramatic weight loss. As well, once addiction has a firm grip on a person's life, using drugs or drinking alcohol can become more important to them than eating regular meals — which can of course, also cause weight loss.
· Unusual cuts, bruises, and sores.
Drinking or using to the point of blacking out is not uncommon for someone who is addicted to substances. This can cause loss of motor control resulting in injuries. If your loved one consistently displays unusual cuts or bruises and cannot give a straight answer as to how they occurred, addiction may be present. Unexplained skin sores can also be a sign of continued drug abuse and addiction.
· Itchy skin and skin rashes.
The skin is our body's largest organ and when we continually poison the body with drugs and alcohol our skin will reflect the damage. Dry itchy skin, skin rashes, and skin picking can all be signs of addiction.
· Neglected hygiene.
You may notice that regular hygiene becomes less and less important to someone who has developed an addiction. They may wear the same clothes, shower less often, or become lazy about their daily hygiene routine.
2. Health Problems.
Alcoholism and drug abuse are related to many serious health problems over time such as heart disease, liver cirrhosis and cancer. However, even in the short-term, if you notice a loved one is experiencing persistent illness, such as a stuffy nose and cough that will not go away, nausea and vomiting or other flu like symptoms, and more frequent headaches, substance abuse may be to blame.
3. Loss of Interest.
Addiction is time consuming and it will take the place of everything else in an addict's life causing them to abandon other hobbies they once enjoyed. This can be particularly evident in teenagers and young people who stop participating in sports and other extracurricular activities. If your loved one spends less and less time with family without explanation and loses interest in old friends, this could be an indicator that addiction is present.
4. Change in Sleep Habits and Energy Levels.
Many drugs will cause a shift in a person's sleep habits. Stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine can cause a person to stay awake throughout the night, sometimes for days at a time. Then, once they finally crash, they may sleep for long hours throughout the day or full days at a time. These drugs can also cause intense and unusual levels of energy that may seem odd or out of character.
Depressants such as prescription pain killers and heroin can have the opposite effect and cause people to nod off at all hours, even in the middle of a conversation. Users may display sloth-like behaviour - moving slowly and exhibiting unusually low levels of energy and activity. Alcohol abuse will also affect a person's sleep schedule, quality of sleep and daytime energy levels.
5. Becoming Secretive and Lying.
One of the classic signs of addiction is lies from a person who was once trustworthy and honest. If you feel like you can never get a straight answer from your loved one and they become more secretive about where they have been and what they have been doing, this could signal an addiction. Someone who has developed an addiction will resort to flat out lying in order to deny and hide their problem from others (and even themselves).
6. Mood Swings.
Of course we all experience mood swings from time to time, but when mood swings are dramatic or uncharacteristic, they are often signs of addiction. Substance abuse affects the brain and emotional state of users and can cause people to become more aggressive, hostile, or depressed without notice.
7. Problems at School, Work, or with the Law.
Addiction will almost inevitably lead to problems in other aspects of life. If your loved one has been arrested for driving under the influence or possessing illegal substances, this is one of the greatest signs of addiction. Missing school or work frequently and falling grades, demotions or even being fired from a job are also signs of addiction to take notice of.
What to Do if Your Loved One Displays Signs of Addiction
Having a loved one suffer from addiction is heart-breaking. If you are concerned that your loved one may be addicted to drugs or alcohol and they are displaying one or more signs of addiction, you may feel like you want to help, but do not know where to start.
It is important to understand that the signs of addiction can frequently overlap with other mental health problems, so it is best to consult a professional when getting help for your loved one. Every case is handled in a slightly different manner. In some cases, it will be necessary to perform an intervention in order to get your loved one into drug or alcohol rehab. In others, a simple chat with them will reveal their desire to stop using and get help.
Whichever the case, however, addiction recovery is possible! With a good addiction treatment programme, support from you and other friends and family, your loved one can attain recovery.
(These articles are the sole property of “The Cabin Chiang Mai”, they are its original authors.)