Drug addiction is highly prevalent in the United States, where nearly 4% of Americans have had a drug use disorder during the last 12 months, reports JAMA Psychiatry. Prescription drugs including opioids and benzodiazepines are abused just as much as illicit drugs like heroin and methamphetamine — meaning sometimes it can be difficult to tell when someone is struggling with addiction and needs help.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as a “chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.” Many people who suffer from addiction are often unable to recover on their own without professional treatment due to compulsive behaviors associated with this disorder. Therefore, if you recognize signs of drug addiction in someone you care about, connecting that person with drug rehab treatment is the best thing you can do to ensure their safety.
Here’s a closer look at the top seven signs of drug addiction.
1. Withdrawal Symptoms
People who struggle with drug addiction will start experiencing withdrawal symptoms within hours after abruptly stopping drug use. Or, they may continue using drugs indefinitely just to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms that can occur during lapses in drug use. Both of these signs can indicate a person may have a serious drug-using problem.
The type and severity of withdrawal symptoms will vary from one person to the next based on the drugs being used. For instance, a person addicted to opioids may experience muscle aches and vomiting, while a person addicted to cocaine may experience increased appetite and highly vivid dreams.
Take note of any unusual symptoms your loved one may be experiencing to determine whether they may be going through drug withdrawal. If they are, talk to them about the importance of going to a drug detox center immediately to reduce their risk of serious complications.
2. Higher Tolerance
Chronic use of drugs will usually result in higher tolerance — meaning people who suffer from addiction will need ever-increasing amounts of drugs to achieve desired effects such as euphoria. For example, a person addicted to painkillers may initially have needed only one pill to achieve euphoria and relaxation, but now need three pills to achieve those effects. High tolerance also means that the same person may experience no effects at all when taking just one pill.
3. New or Worsened Health Problems
Heavy, chronic drug use can cause a wide range of health problems and make existing health problems even worse. Many people who suffer from drug addiction will continue using drugs even if they’re aware that drug use is contributing to or worsening certain health conditions.
Mental health disorders are among the most common health problems associated with addiction. The NIDA reports that an estimated 50% of people with mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa.
Look for signs of anxiety and depression in your loved one to determine whether it’s possible they may also be suffering from drug addiction. According to the NIDA, other health problems that commonly co-occur with addiction include cancer, stroke, lung disease, heart disease, and gum disease.
Baystate Recovery Services offers specialized for families and therapies to accommodate those with a dual diagnosis (addiction and another health condition).
4. Lots of Time Spent Using Drugs
Drugs are a top priority for people who suffer from drug addiction, in that these individuals will devote a great deal of time using drugs, obtaining drugs, and recovering from the effects of drugs. For example, a person may spend hours trying to track down someone who can sell them drugs or spend lots of time finding a new doctor outside of their healthcare network who can give them a new prescription for opioids or benzodiazepines.
Pay attention to whether your loved one has started spending more time with people who use drugs and less time with friends and relatives. Those who suffer from addiction may also want to spend more time alone in their bedroom or in the garage to use drugs in isolation, or they may start missing days of work or school to use drugs, obtain drugs, or recover from using drugs.
5. Giving Up Favorite Activities
Many people who become addicted to drugs will give up their favorite interests and hobbies. You may see a significant shift in your loved one’s personality and behaviors as they become less interested in things that were once important to them.
For example, they may stop going to the gym and caring about their health, or they may stop spending time with their favorite friends and relatives. If they enjoyed productive activities such as reading books or building furniture in their spare time, they may drop these activities to do more drugs, watch more television, or take more naps to accommodate their drug-using behaviors.
6. Inability to Control Drug Use
Having a “persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control use of the substance” is one of the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorders, according to SAMHSA. In other words, people who suffer from addiction are often unable to control their drug use despite their desire to do so. For example, they may announce their plans to stop using drugs the following weekend, but will end up using drugs “one last time” and go on to repeat their behavior every weekend thereafter.
The factors that often prevent these individuals from being able to control and stop drug use are drug dependence, compulsive behavior, and physical and psychological drug cravings. Many times, these factors can only be addressed with professional treatment at a drug rehab center in the form of drug and alcohol detox, counseling, and behavioral therapy.
7. Using Drugs in Physically Hazardous Situations
Your loved one’s drug use may be an addiction if it clouds their judgment to the point they are willing to use drugs in situations where it is physically hazardous to do so. For example, they may be willing to drive home while under the influence after using drugs at a friend’s house, or frequently engage in unsafe sex with strangers.
Sharing needles during intravenous drug use is also indicative of addiction given the high risk of hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. If your loved one’s drug use often goes hand in hand with dangerous behavior and situations, it’s highly possible they may need help fighting addiction.
If you suspect that your loved one may be suffering from addiction after reviewing the above signs, contact Baystate Recovery Services. We can help your loved one get safely through drug or alcohol addiction and achieve long-term recovery.