For many people in the U.S., serious drug addiction isn’t an issue. They are able to use drugs and alcohol in a recreational way without ever experiencing an addiction. However, others find themselves immersed in an addiction, which then becomes a life long battle. Contrary to popular belief, addiction is a disease of the brain and not a battle of willpower and currently over 23 million Americans are suffering with an addiction to drugs (prescription or otherwise) and/or alcohol. As with most medical conditions there are signs and symptoms that you or someone you know is developing a problem and once you recognize these signs it is important that you seek help.
To start with, you may notice changes in the appearance and personality of the person who has the problem. They may start to lose weight, appear scruffy and unkempt and personal hygiene may lapse. In terms of their personality, they may be moody and irritable. They may also experience periods of anxiety and paranoia.
There will also be changes to the way they go about their lives. You may find that they start neglecting certain responsibilities such as school, work or family. They may behave dangerously and take many risks such as driving whilst under the influence or being sexually promiscuous with no thoughts about protecting themselves against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. They may start to avoid certain activities or situations in which they used to regularly participated in prior to the drug use. This can be due to wanting to get “high” or because they are ashamed and worried about someone discovering their addiction.
You will know that the problem is becoming severe when you find that tolerance has increased and therefore they will need to take much higher doses of the drug or alcohol to get the same effects. Using the substance to avoid withdrawal symptoms and continuing its use even though it is damaging to health (such as continuing to drink after suffering liver damage) gets them trapped.
There are many other signs of addiction that you can watch out for but generally a person partaking in regular substance abuse will not be able to keep their problem a secret forever. The truth has a way of outing itself and once it does you will need to be on hand to offer support and guidance. Trying to withdraw from any sort of drug is not going to be easy and the severity and difficulty of the recovery depends on what the substance was, how long and how regularly it was being used and the dose that was being taken.
Those who are suffering from an addiction should know that they are not alone. As I stated above, millions of Americans are currently receiving treatment, whether that be from groups such as AA or NA, privately run groups, private sessions with a therapist or for the most severe cases a stay in a rehabilitation center. Your first port of call should always be your doctor’s office. They are not there to judge you and will most likely be able to get the type of support that is needed.