Recognizing the Signs of Addiction in a Loved One… And What You Can Do
Active addicts live a life of secrecy and lies, which makes it difficult for the people who love them to recognize the signs of addiction. As difficult as it may be to identify a problem, there are things you can look for that are blatant signs. It is also a good idea to look for distinct behavioral changes that are unique to that person.
Signs of Addiction
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, (NAMI), there are eleven symptoms that characterize a substance dependency. They are:
- An inability to manage work and home responsibilities.
When a person gets swept up into their substance abuse, it becomes their number one priority. Things like work and basic home responsibilities fall to the wayside while the person continues to indulge in their drug of choice. You may find that a person’s house is dirty and unkempt. At work, they may be taking too many sick days or missing deadlines. Often, these individuals are terminated because of their inability to function adequately.
- Repeated use of drugs or alcohol even when it is clearly dangerous.
From drunk driving to using the same drug a person OD’d on, one clear sign of addiction is when a person won’t stop despite clearly negative consequences and danger. People who drink will often get behind the wheel, which is clearly dangerous and highly illegal. Drug addicts will overdose and return to using the next day. This cycle of repeating behaviors despite negative consequences is a clear sign of addiction.
- Ongoing interpersonal issues caused by chronic drug and alcohol use.
A person heavily addicted to drugs or alcohol will make that their number one priority. As a result, personal issues will start to occur. Whether it is a spouse, a parent, or a close friend, others will start to take notice of the addiction and the change in personality. This will cause friction and can even make precious relationships crumble.
- An increased tolerance for the drug of choice.
When a person regularly drinks or takes a drug, you’ll notice that they need more and more to achieve the same effects. For example, a person who once drank 2 glasses of wine a night may increase to 2 bottles. A person addicted to heroin may go from spending $40 a day to $200. Everything is relative, but as addiction progresses, there will be a need for bigger quantities of the substance.
- Withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug of choice.
When you first notice some of the other signs of addiction, you may encourage a person to stop. If they try to stop and experience withdrawal symptoms, you know that their body has come to rely on the substance. Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the drug, how much of the drug was used, and for how long. Some common symptoms include a headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, anxiety, insomnia, hallucination, restless legs and achy muscles.
- Intentionally using increasing amounts of the drug, to feel stronger effects.
This is especially the case for people who are abusing prescription pills. They may be prescribed two per day, but you’ll find that they start taking more. Their bottles may be running out ahead of time, or you may find that they are doctor shopping – using multiple doctors to get the same medicine.
- An inability to independently stop using the substance of choice or to cut down on use.
When a person regularly uses drugs or alcohol, their body will become dependent. As a result, they will feel anxious and sick when they remove the substance. Mentally, they will also be resistant to stopping or cutting down because they have become accustomed to the ritual of taking the drug or drinking.
- Spending a large amount of time and effort to find the drug of choice, being under the influence, or recovering from use.
A person’s life will become centered around the drug of choice and all related activities. You’ll notice that the person focuses the majority of their time around using, and other things become less important as the addiction progresses.
- Avoiding family functions, social events, or former hobbies due to substance use.
If you ask a person to do something they would have loved to do in the past, and they choose to stay home and partaking in getting high or drunk instead, it is a problem.
- Continued use of drugs and alcohol despite clear negative consequences.
You may have given the person an ultimatum about their drug use or drinking, or a doctor told them they had to stop to prevent their physical condition from worsening. Yet, the person continues their negative addictive behavior.
- Strong cravings for the drug of choice that cause a person to continue using.
An addicted person will have drugs or alcohol on the forefront of their mind, constantly. It will be the first thing they think of when they wake up. It will take up most of their thoughts during the day. Every day, they will focus on getting their hands on as quickly as possible.
Do Not Ignore The Signs of Addiction
When signs of addiction are there, the worst thing you can do is ignore them. As long as they are ignored, the addict will think they are getting away with it and continue with their behavior until they reach rock bottom. And, it doesn’t stop at rock bottom because there is always a lower place to go until that person goes to jail or dies.
Getting help for addiction is crucial to getting back on track. Unfortunately, as long as the addict is an adult, they are the only ones who can decide that they need help. As a person who loves them, you need to support them without enabling. You may want to consider holding an intervention to try to get through to them.
Learn to recognize addiction and be open and upfront with your loved one about their behavior. You may just end up saving their life.