If you don’t know what you’re looking for, the warning signs of drug and/or alcohol addiction can be easy to miss. To make sure nothing goes over your head, keep reading this guide to learn more about how to recognize early warning signs of an addict.
It’s often said that the first step on the road to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Unfortunately, for many of us, the slippery slope that ends in substance abuse can often be difficult to see. Abuse generally starts with using substances in a social setting, with others around us doing the same thing. As dependence grows, so the need to use the substance begins to take over our lives.
For the individual who is abusing, and for those around them, the realization that they have a dependence can be a painful one. They may respond with denial. That’s why it’s important to understand the signs of addiction so that you can recognize them.
Only with this knowledge can you begin to help yourself, or others, on the road to recovery.
There is no certainty with substance abuse. Some people can continue to abuse drugs or alcohol but they will not go on to form a dependence. Others have a predisposition towards dependency; these people have risk factors which make them more likely to go on to become an addict. These risk factors include:
- Being male – Men are more likely to abuse substances than women. At AA meetings, 2/3 of attendees are men, on average.
- Having a close family member with an addiction, for example, one or both parents.
- Experiencing mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression.
- Childhood trauma, including abuse.
- Early exposure to drugs and/or alcohol.
- Coming from an economically deprived background.
- Having issues with making and maintaining social relationships.
The type of substance can also affect the likelihood of abuse. Using heroin, for example, is more likely to lead to a dependence than alcohol. Drugs which are taken in tablet form are less likely to become addictive than those you smoke, snort or inject.
Although having any or all of these factors doesn’t mean that you or a loved one will go on to experience substance abuse, they do make it more likely.
Signs of an Addict
Substance abuse is a complicated issue, and those struggling with dependence may try to hide their addiction signs. If you are looking at the behavior of yourself or a loved one, then you will need to be honest and take a close look at several aspects of their lives.
Physical Symptoms of Addiction
- Changes to pupil size – they may be bigger or smaller than normal. The eyes may also look red or bloodshot.
- Weight changes, this can be losing or gaining weight. You may notice that clothes are not fitting as well as they did.
- Varied sleep patterns, either insomnia, an increased need for sleep or a change in the pattern of sleep.
- An altered smell; the person does not have their usual body odor. This can be caused by poor hygiene, but may also be due to the substance being abused leaving the body via the skin. Alcoholics, for example, often have a characteristic sweet smell.
- Unexpected clumsiness. Walking into things, dropping or breaking what they are carrying.
- Reduced care in physical appearance.
- Nasal congestion, and experiencing flu-like symptoms.
- Sores on the face or body.
- Needing to use more of a substance to get the same result.
Behavioral Signs of Substance Abuse
- Becoming unreliable, not meeting the usual commitments. Calling in sick to work.
- Asking to borrow money, or not repaying debts as usual.
- Mood swings, and in particular impatience or temper problems in someone who does not normally act this way.
- Feeling anxious or depressed if you don’t have the substance.
- Physically craving the substance.
- Lying about your use of the substance, or becoming defensive or angry when asked about it.
- Continuing to use the substance, even after using it has caused negative experiences in life – for example, continuing to drink even after a DUI.
What to Look for in a Loved One
If you think that someone close to you is developing a substance abuse problem, then you should look for some of the physical and behavioral signs mentioned above. In addition, you could look out for:
- Sudden and dramatic mood swings, associated with substance abuse.
- Receiving unusually poor grades in school, or getting unusual negative feedback at work.
- Money problems, or legal issues that are out of character. This can involve lying about spending and stealing.
- Rationalizing their substance abuse when challenged, giving explanations and excuses which don’t ring true.
- Refusing to talk about the problem, placing the blame on others, or diverting the conversation to other subjects.
- Withdrawing from their usual social groups, becoming more isolated. Or changing their friends to a group of fellow abusers.
Signs of an overdose
If you believe that you or your loved one have taken an overdose of a substance, then it is important to get medical help as soon as possible. You should be honest with healthcare professionals about what has been taken, and when, to allow them to best help. If you are worried about overdose, look out for the following:
- Unexplained drowsiness, finding it difficult to wake them. Difficulty walking and coordinating movements.
- Extreme anxiety, aggression or violent behavior, particularly if this is out of character.
- Seeing things which aren’t there (hallucinations) or talking about unusual or impossible beliefs (delusions).
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Becoming unconscious.
There is Hope
Where you are looking at these signs of an addict with yourself in mind or a loved one, it’s important to remember that substance abuse can be successfully treated. With loving support and professional help through recovery and beyond, it is possible to reclaim life from addiction and to move into a new phase of life, sober.
Here at Muse, we come up with customized recovery plans for all those we help, whether it as an inpatient, or as part of our outpatient program. By offering an individualized approach, we can help identify the root cause of the substance abuse problem and help set you up for a successful, sober life.
Whether you are enquiring for yourself, or a friend or family member please get in touch today. The sooner the journey begins, the sooner you will reach your destination.