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Addiction is characterized by the inability to stop using a substance despite negative consequences. Addiction differs from other drug or alcohol use in that it causes significant impairment in the person’s life, and it can’t be controlled by the individual. Those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol often report that their substance use feels “out of control.” They may want to stop using but feel unable to do so. Oftentimes, people are in denial about the problems substance use is causing and need the help of friends and family to recognize the problem.
As reported by Psychology Today, addiction is typically accompanied by tolerance and physical dependence. Tolerance occurs when the body adapts to the substance of use, and higher doses must be used to achieve the desired effects. This often contributes to dependence. The body can only function normally with the addictive substance, and will experience withdrawal symptoms when the substance is taken away.
Loved ones may notice changes in behavior related to these symptoms. The individual may need to drink or use drugs to excess in order to become intoxicated. In addition, the person may show signs of withdrawal – such as shaking and sweating – when going without the addictive substance.
According to Mayo Clinic, some normal teenage behaviors can be hard to distinguish from symptoms of substance use. Moodiness, rebellion, and changes in interests are common in adolescence and not necessarily signs of a problem. Parents and friends should look for multiple signs of addiction, beyond normal teenage behavior in this age group.
Addiction is pervasive, influencing all areas of an individual’s life. There are typically signs that family and friends can watch for that may indicate an addiction. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence lists various physical, behavioral, and social signs of substance abuse. The following steps will help you to recognize if your loved one is suffering from addiction.
Follow these steps to help find out
Drug or alcohol addiction can have devastating effects on physical health. Some of these effects can be observed by others in the person’s life. An individual suffering from addiction may show any of the following physical signs:
Addiction impacts every area of a person’s life. The individual will seek out and use drugs or alcohol even as the substance use negatively impacts health, relationships, and daily functioning. The behavioral changes that result from addiction are often the first signs of a problem that loved ones notice. The following behavioral changes may occur:
Parents of children who may be suffering from addiction may want to search their child’s belongings for drug paraphernalia. Everyone is entitles to some personal privacy; however, a child’s wellbeing is the responsibility of the parent or caregiver, and searching from drugs or alcohol may be warranted in some cases. Psychology Today recommends taking this step if you have reason to believe your child is using illegal substances.
If the person in question is an adult, it can be trickier to search for drug paraphernalia. While you don’t want to invade personal space, you can certainly look for such paraphernalia in shared living spaces. If uncertain whether or not to search the individual’s personal space, consult with a therapist or addiction professional beforehand.
The U.S. Department of Justice lists the following common forms of drug paraphernalia:
Changes in relationships often occur with excessive alcohol or drug use. Individuals spend more time with others who engage in substance use and neglect relationships with family and friends. Loved ones may notice that the individual is less social or secretive about how time is spent. New friends may appear in the individual’s life, with little explanation as to how they met.
Work or school performance typically declines when a person is addicted to substances. A student who previously performed well in school may experience a drop in grades and appear less concerned with schoolwork. Job performance may suffer, and an individual may have frequent problems with coworkers or supervisors.
Substance addiction frequently occurs with other mental health disorders, particularly depression and anxiety. If your loved one suffers from a mood or anxiety disorder, they may attempt to self-medicate with illicit drugs or alcohol. Since various mental health conditions put individuals at a higher risk for addiction, monitor your loved one for signs of substance abuse.
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