Drug Addiction has many faces, and some of them may look very familiar.
Depending on your level of tolerance, the stages of drug addiction may take days; sometimes even years, to develop.
When an individual uses a substance, whether recreationally or under the care of a physician, it is possible to develop tolerance, increased use, physical dependence, and ultimately addiction. At this point, he or she may be unable to stop using the substance despite harm to their physical or mental health, relationships, job, and other important areas of life.
Addiction is sometimes referred to as substance abuse, drug abuse, or substance use disorder (SUD) as diagnosed by a treatment professional. One of the hallmarks of addiction is withdrawal, which occurs when you attempt to stop using the substance. Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, sleeplessness, nausea and vomiting, high or low blood pressure, seizures, or even death. It is critical that someone experiencing withdrawal symptoms seeks the care of a medical professional in order to detox safely.
Drug abuse can cause a number of physical and behavioral symptoms.
The abuse of drugs can deeply impact one’s ability to function both on a physical and psychological level. The mind-altering qualities that drugs can possess can cause individuals to not only appear to be under the influence, but also cause them to operate as such. The emotions they experience while abusing drugs can be exaggerated and the response their bodies have to the presence of drugs can cause both short-term and long-term damage.
The types of physical and behavioral symptoms that an individual exhibits is dependent on several factors, such as what type of drug is being abused and in what quantity. The length of time that an individual has been abusing drugs must also be taken into consideration, as well as what preexisting mental health and/or physical health conditions they have.
Physical symptoms include:
Behavioral symptoms include:
Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction
Because drug addiction can take on many forms, it can sometimes be difficult to recognize the signs and symptoms in ourselves or our loved ones. Obvious signs of drug abuse include frequent intoxication, hangovers, or possession of drug paraphernalia. Other signs and symptoms may take behavioral, physical, and emotional form.
Behavioral Signs of Addiction
The abuse of any type of mind-altering substance is going to affect a person’s behaviors in one way or another. Unfortunately, the more that drugs are abused, the more severe the behavioral consequences of that abuse can become. Some of the most common behavioral signs of drug addiction can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Being secretive about whereabouts
- Isolating from others
- Continually engaging in risky behaviors despite the potential consequences
- Spending excessive amounts of money on drugs or alcohol
- Asking others for money frequently but never paying them back
- Participating in illegal activity, such as dealing, stealing, or prostitution
- Having several legal problems as a result of drug abuse
- Being unable to control how many drugs are consumed
- Neglecting responsibilities at home in order to use
- No longer participating in previously enjoyed activities or hobbies
Physical Signs of Addiction
The extent of the physical damage that drug addiction can do is typically directly related to a number of factors that include what type of substance is being abused, how often the abuse is occurring, and how much is being abused at a time. Some drugs, such as meth and cocaine, can quickly cause a deterioration in appearance. Others slowly erode away at the cardiovascular system or other types of systems in the body, for example. And, similar to any other type of consequence of drug addiction, the more serious the drug addiction is, the faster physical symptoms can start to develop.
Someone who is addicted to drugs can begin displaying any number of the following symptoms:
- Poor hygiene (e.g. not brushing teeth or hair, re-wearing clothes several times without washing them, a general unkempt appearance)
- Changes in weight, which can include gaining or losing weight depending on what substance is being abused
- Problems with sleep patterns, such as sleeping too much or not enough
- Bloodshot eyes
- Development of withdrawal symptoms when not using (a sign of physical dependence)
- Contracting bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV
- Increased tolerance for drugs or alcohol, meaning that more needs to be consumed at a time in order to develop a sense of being high
- Changes in appetite
- Track marks on arms if using intravenously
Emotional Signs of Addiction
Emotions can be difficult to deal with even if you are not abusing drugs or alcohol. But if you are addicted to mind-altering substances, you will face emotional challenges. Ranging from pervasive sadness and hopelessness to extreme euphoria and excitability, the emotions that can be produced by drugs or alcohol can fluctuate over and over again. And, of course, being under the influence of any substance can impair you from being able to manage your emotions appropriately.
Frequently experienced emotional signs of addiction include the following:
- Aggression, anger, or irritability
- Sudden changes in mood
- Anxiety, panic, or fear
- Feeling unable to function without drugs or alcohol
- Turning to the use of drugs or alcohol in order to cope
- Euphoria followed by pervasive sadness
- Suicidal thoughts
How is Drug Addiction Treated?
While drug addiction is a pervasive disease that continually increases in intensity as time passes, it is a disease that can be treated. Addiction treatment is focused directly on helping individuals end their active drug abuse, remain abstinent from drugs, and be productive in all areas of their lives. These goals can be met with an individual’s determination and perseverance along with evidence-based tactics provided by licensed professionals that include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Therapy — Each individual has their own treatment needs, meaning that while one person may benefit from one type of therapy, another person may not. Therapies that have been proven to help treat the disease of addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), motivational interviewing, contingency management, individual psychotherapy, and group counseling. Those individuals obtaining therapeutic treatment will have their own set schedule of evidence-based therapies determined by their specific needs.
- Medication — Some types of drug addiction can be treated with the use of pharmacological medications. For example, individuals who are dependent on opioids like heroin and fentanyl can benefit from including buprenorphine or methadone in their treatment. Those who are dependent on benzodiazepines like Xanax or Klonopin can be prescribed a medical taper to help them safely wean off of benzos without becoming at risk for serious and potentially life-threatening side effects. Medications designed to treat mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders can also be prescribed to those who have a co-occurring mental illness that requires pharmacological attention.
- Devices — While not as common as therapy and medication, there are a number of devices that can be used to help treat issues related to drug addiction. For example, the exists an electrical device that can be placed behind the ear of someone withdrawing from opioids, sending pulses to interact with specific nerves in the brain.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to treating a disease as complex as addiction is that it often takes more than one singular approach to produce positive results. When these and other forms of addiction treatment are combined into a comprehensive plan, individuals can garner the most success possible.
Drug addiction is a disease that impacts millions of people in the United States alone. Whether it is an illicit street drug or a prescription drug from the pharmacy that is being abused, the risk of damage and destruction remains the same. Despite the knowledge of how dangerous drug abuse and subsequent addiction is, it is still something that Americans find themselves caught up in.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million Americans ages 18 and older experienced a substance use disorder in 2017. The NSDUH report provided in 2017 also reported the following:
- 1 out of 8 Americans experienced an alcohol use disorder and a drug use disorder simultaneously
- 8.5 million Americans experienced both a substance use disorder and a mental illness at the same time (known as a co-occurring disorder)
- 38% of American adults experienced an illicit substance use disorder
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that genetics account for anywhere between 40-60% of a person’s risk factor for developing a substance use disorder. Additionally, teenagers and those with mental illnesses are at greatest risk for drug abuse and addiction than others.
Additional reporting on specific drug-related statistics for 2017 includes the following:
- Cocaine use disorder occurred in 966,000 Americans
- 652,000 American adults abused heroin, with about one-quarter of those individuals becoming addicted to it
- 1.7 million people were battling a prescription painkiller addiction
- 4.1 million adults experienced marijuana use disorder
Stop struggling with addiction alone.
One or more of the above mentioned symptoms can indicate serious problems with drugs. The good news is that drug addiction is treatable! Contact us to determine the next steps for treating alcohol abuse.