Although one can get addicted to just anything, even to specific activities, dependence on certain substances is much worse for well-being. Dependence on opiates, marijuana, heroin, amphetamines, and other drugs may cause severe and irreversible damage to health.
Substance abuse is widespread in the US. Perhaps close to 80% of the adults have abused one or another substance in their life. Though some people will be able to get rid of their dependence without medical help, a considerable number of individuals will fail to do so without medical attention.
Signs of drug addiction
In most cases, individuals will try their best to hide their dependence, which makes spotting addiction difficult for others. Early indications in adolescents and young adults could be worsening of academic performance and disinterest in schooling. Those in professional life may start performing poorly, start coming late to work, and may have frequent health issues.
As the addiction becomes chronic, every aspect of life is affected. One of the notable changes could be in physical appearance as addicts lose interest in grooming. They may wear dirty clothes. Men may go several weeks without shaving. Sleeping becomes affected. Bloodshot eyes could also be symptoms of addiction.
Another notable thing is changes in behavior pattern. People will often say that the person has changed a lot recently. Addicts try to hide their addiction, and thus they stop socializing. This also means drastic changes in the relationship with everyone around.
Physical signs become evident soon. Addicts have dietary issues, chronic intoxication, physiological and psychological changes. They lack energy and find it difficult to do their tasks. Many may start losing body weight due to reduced appetite.
Financial wellbeing also suffers a lot as a person stops earning and needs money to fulfill his or her needs for substance. Such people will start failing to pay their bills. Addicts will frequently begin to borrow money, and may not return them.
Discussing things with people addicted to drugs is never easy as they immediately become defensive. After all, they are aware of the adverse effects of drug addiction. In many cases, they want to get rid of habit but fail to do so.
How to spot a Drug Addict – Specific Drugs
How an addicted person behaves may depend on the substance of addiction.
- Alcohol – Those addicted to alcohol may be easier to recognize as the smell of alcohol can be readily identified. Functional alcoholics are common these days, these are individuals who are more or less independent, able to be productive, but they are struggling in life.
- Marijuana– one may smoke or consume edible marijuana-based products. Marijuana is an appetite stimulant; thus, most individuals addicted to it may eat more than usual. However, chronic addiction leads to illusions, problems with perception; a person may look uncoordinated and may start forgetting things. On prolonged dependence, there may be personality changes like becoming paranoid and suspicious. Bloodshot eyes may also be seen in those addicted to marijuana; they may have droopy eyelids and overly relaxed looks.
- Stimulants (like cocaine or amphetamine) – make people more active, aggressive with changes in sleep pattern. Individuals using these substances have many ups and downs. At times they are full of energy, and then there are days when they lack any energy. When taking substances, pupils are dilated, a person breathes faster and has higher energy levels. On chronic abuse, the person becomes paranoid or even hostile to others. Snorting drugs like cocaine may also lead to nasal congestion, damage to the nasal mucosa and changes in voice.
- Barbiturates and benzodiazepines- are prescription drugs used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Nowadays benzodiazepines are more commonly used in medicine then barbiturates. Barbiturates may be prescribed to control seizures in some individuals. Both these agents have a depressive effect on the brain. Thus, people addicted to them may be depressed, dizzy, and appear inhibited. Some may experience blurry vision; they may look confused and have coordination problems. Some of the individuals may also have involuntary eye movements.
- Hallucinogens- there are numerous drugs belonging to this class and symptoms will depend on the substance abuse. As the name suggests, most of the substances (like LSD) will cause illusion, hallucinations. Some people may start to lose a sense of reality and may sometimes make strange claims about seeing things or hearing strange sounds that are not there. Many of them may have a visible tremor. However, it is worth noting that those taking these drugs go through various stages thus sometimes they may appear excited, another day calm, and somedays drowsy. Whatever signs you see depends on the “trip” they are going through.
- Opioids- are prescribed to treat chronic and severe pains, but in recent years they have become subject of abuse. Pain killers like OxyContin are commonly abused by addicts. Street drug heroin also belongs to this class of drugs. These drugs suppress mental abilities and person may become drowsy, may have psychological issues, the problem with memory, slow reaction times, mood swings. These drugs slow down the movement of the digestive tract leading to severe constipation and other intestinal issues. When not taking drugs individuals may become anxious, and develop flu-like symptoms.
Nowadays there are many so-called club drugs or designer drugs with various effects on mental abilities. Most people using them will show changes in thinking skills, poor coordination, dizziness, sweating, slurred speech.
As there are so many different substances that can be abused or a person can become addicted to, one of the most important things to take seriously is the severe change in a person’s personality and behavior. Usually, such a change will happen in a short time of a few months.
Early identification of drug addiction is essential as most of these substances cause severe changes in the brain on prolonged use. It means that treatment becomes more difficult in those with several years of addiction. Any therapy should be started as early as possible; treatment relapse should not be seen as a failure of the treatment, but just a part of the treatment process.
For tips on how to help someone suffering with drug addiction, check out this article.