What can start off as occasional partying with friends – smoking a joint here and there, having a bump of cocaine – may send an individual over an invisible threshold into addiction. People who are dependent on drugs do not often realize they are addicted to the drug at first; a few “good times” can turn into a sort of survival situation for the user. It’s important to remember that an addict can’t simply turn off a switch to free themselves of dependency. Addiction is a chronic and complex disease that must be handled with proper support from family and friends, and with the help of trusted professionals.
If you or a loved one abuses or is addicted to substances then getting the proper help can be a critical step toward recovery. But how do you know if “occasional” drug use is a full-blown addiction?
What Is Drug Addiction?
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence notes that addiction is not simply an event; it is a process that occurs over a period of time. It is a complicated disorder that affects the brain, the body, and the friends and family of an addict. When a person becomes addicted to drugs, the brain processes that are relied upon for survival are altered. The addiction becomes a survival process in and of itself, with the brain rationalizing the addiction as something necessary for the person to keep going. Eventually, the craving for the drug becomes out of control and takes over a person’s life; obtaining the drug and achieving the high that comes with it becomes paramount to anything else.
How Can I Tell if a Loved One Is Addicted to Drugs?
Aside from obvious signs of addiction, like frequent drug use and the amount of drugs used, the symptoms of addiction can manifest themselves in all areas of a person’s behavior.
Here are some signs that someone you love may be addicted to drugs:
- Changes in appearance, such as weight loss/gain, unkempt physical appearance, unusual smells/odors, slurred speech or impaired coordination
- Unexplained financial problems or always borrowing money
- Secretive behaviors; paranoia, anxiety, fearful
- Sudden change in social activities such as friends and usual hangouts
- Unexplained mood swings or changes in attitude
- Unusual bouts of excitability, irritation or hyperactivity
- Frequently in trouble
Addiction goes one step further from abuse as the individual has built up a tolerance for the drug. Often an addict will continue use despite the harm the drug is doing to the person, or the individual will use drugs to fill a void or need in his/her life. The key factor with addiction is dependency. The person doesn’t just use the drug to get a high, but the person feels that the drug is necessary to survival. Drugs might be taken to ease or avoid symptoms of withdrawal, to self-medicate, or to avoid the pain of a traumatic experience. One main factor is that the person cannot stop drug use despite wanting to quit. The addiction has spiraled out of control.
If you or someone you know is addicted to drugs and exhibiting signs of addiction, you should seek help immediately. Our professionals here at The Oaks at La Paloma are experienced with drug addiction and can help you or your loved one get the treatment necessary to begin a life without drugs.