Drug or alcohol addiction is a complex and devastating disease that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, social status, or background. It is characterized by compulsive and harmful behaviors related to the use of drugs or alcohol. However, it often goes unnoticed or ignored until it reaches a critical stage. Recognizing the warning signs of substance addiction can inspire you or a loved one to get help.
Understanding Addiction: An Overview
Substance addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD), is a chronic disease characterized by an uncontrollable craving to use drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences to a person’s health, relationships, and life in general. Addiction is not just about the substance itself but rather a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Addiction is not a matter of weak willpower or a moral failing but rather a disease that affects the brain and behavior. As a chronic disease, SUD requires treatment and management, much like diabetes, heart disease, or asthma. If it is left untreated, substance addiction can result in significant physical, emotional, and social damage and even death.
Common Signs of Drug or Alcohol Addiction
The United States Department of Health and Human Services warns that many individuals with drug or alcohol addiction try to downplay their problem and hide any symptoms. While the specific symptoms may vary depending on the substance of choice, people with drug or alcohol addiction have many similar symptoms.
One of the most common symptoms of addiction is a loss of control over substance use. The individual may be using larger amounts of drugs or alcohol than intended, be unable to stop using despite wanting to, and spend a significant amount of time obtaining and using the substance. Another common sign is continuing to use the substance despite negative consequences, such as relationship problems, financial difficulties, or declining physical or mental health.
Physical Signs and Symptoms
Someone suffering from addiction may have bloodshot or watery eyes, and their pupils may be larger or smaller than usual. They may have unusual smells on their breath, body, or clothes. Loss of coordination, lethargy, headaches, and a runny nose are common.
Addition physical signs and symptoms include:
- Changes in appetite, weight, and sleep patterns
- Noticeable changes in physical appearance over time, such as looking drawn, tired, or disheveled
- Development of diseases caused by alcohol or drugs such as cardiovascular disease, liver disease, hepatitis, or mental disorders
- Noticeable neglect of physical appearance and personal hygiene
When someone who has SUD tries to stop using substances, they will experience physical symptoms of withdrawal that can range from mild discomfort to severe pain and can include headache, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, sweating, and even seizures in severe cases.
Behavioral Signs and Symptoms
Individuals may be hyperactive and have unexplained mood swings or angry outbursts. They may have sudden periods of irritability, agitation, or giddiness. For no apparent reason, they may become fearful, anxious, or paranoid. Changes in personality and attitude are noticeable.
They may act in a suspicious or secretive way, hiding their drug or alcohol use. Many people hide their drugs or alcohol in their yard, vehicle, or home.
Additional behavioral signs and symptoms include:
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, such as family events, sports, or hobbies
- Difficulties at work, school, or home
- Financial, legal, or relationship problems
- An abrupt change in friends or preferred places
- Denying they have a problem
Psychological Signs and Symptoms
When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they find it impossible to stop using the substance, no matter the negative consequences it may bring to their health, relationships, finances, or legal standing. They become fixated on the substance, obsessing over how to obtain and take it.
Individuals with a substance use disorder typically turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with their problems. Risk-taking becomes prevalent as they will often go to great lengths to obtain their fix, such as stealing from loved ones or exchanging sex for drugs. While under the influence of their drug of choice, they may engage in dangerous behavior such as reckless driving, unprotected sex, or criminal acts.
We Can Help
Although it is a chronic brain disease, addiction can be treated. If you or someone you care about struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, now is the time to get help. Contact English Mountain Recovery in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. Our skilled professionals will provide you with the care and skills you need to live a sober life. Take the first step on the path to recovery.