We all have someone in our lives who we think might have an addiction problem. Drugs and alcohol can stifle their ability to carry on meaningful relationships, find a fulfilling career and stay out of legal trouble. Bringing up addiction is an incredibly sensitive subject and one that shouldn’t be done flippantly, and while overindulgence in drugs and alcohol is never a healthy thing it doesn’t always necessarily denote addiction. So, how can you tell if your loved one is an addict? Here are a few signs to look for.
Increased Drug Use
Addiction is a gradual process, which makes it very hard to spot when someone has crossed the line into addiction. It isn’t uncommon for someone to go out socially and enjoy a few drinks or even smoke the occasional joint with a few friends. Causes for concern come when the few drinks turns into six or seven interspersed with “shots,” or that joint shared with friends becomes a joint to themselves daily.
I’m using these examples to give you a general sense of what can be too much and what is too much for one person may not be for another, however the real issue is when the user relies on the substance to create their sense of happiness as opposed to enjoying an activity in and of itself, separate from the substance. An addict will slowly start to associate their substance of choice with pleasure. For instance, just the taste of alcohol can trigger a release of dopamine and this is intensified in young adults.
Overspending on Drugs
This is a major red flag. When a person has become addicted to a substance, they will do things that they normally wouldn’t to satisfy their craving. A lot of the time this comes in the form of overspending. If they are constantly talking about needing money, perpetually short on rent or neglecting basic expenses such as utilities, insurance, and food this can be a sign that they are spending too much of their income on an addiction. If they get really financially strained, some addicts will even resort to theft to supplement their habit.
Lack of Responsibility
Because substance abuse usually comes hand-in-hand with late nights, it can interfere with an addict’s ability to address the responsibility it takes to lead a productive, fulfilling life. Major causes for concern are neglect of basic tasks such as hygiene and cleanliness of their living space, sacrifice of relationships with family and friends, and neglect of work and school. Deviation from a daily routine can also be an indicator that someone is struggling with substance abuse.
Change in Personality and Physical Appearance
One of the more recognizable characteristics of addiction is a change in personality and appearance. Often times addicts will lie in order to enable their addiction. A good example would be an increased amount of random problems in someone’s life that lead to them either being unable to fulfill obligations – such as spending time with family or a constant need for money due to unfortunate incidences that are out of their control. You’ll start to notice changes in social habits as well. For instance, an addict will often times change their social circle or frequent places that help enable their addiction.
Addiction almost always alters an addict’s physical appearance in one way or another. The types of physical changes will differ from person to person and are also contingent upon the substance the addict is abusing. For example, common signs that someone is struggling with alcoholism are increased anxiety and agitation (especially when not using alcohol) trouble sleeping, weight gain and increased redness in the hands and feet while common signs of drug abuse are irregularly large or small pupil size, drastic change in weight and lack of hygiene.
How can I Help?
Watching someone you care about spiral into addiction is traumatizing for everyone who cares about that person. You might not feel like there is a lot you can do and this is partly true. For real change to occur the addict has to truly want to change and that can be a very slow process, however that doesn’t mean that you’re helpless to inspire change. The best thing you can do is to let that person know that you care about them deeply and that you are concerned about their well-being. This one can be tricky to navigate because while you want to convey your concern, you want to do it in a manner that isn’t judgmental.
Unfortunately when helping an addict it’s really more about what you don’t do. Be sure to avoid being overly emotional as that can cause guilt which can trigger their addiction. Don’t make excuses for them or take responsibility for what they are neglecting. Don’t blame yourself for their problems and never try arguing with them when they are high as this never leads to anything positive. For a more comprehensive look at how you can help an addict I would encourage you read this.
Hopefully this guide has been helpful in addressing whether or not you have an addict in your life and what you can do or rather not do to help them overcome their addiction. Always remember that it’s not your fault and for true change to occur, the addict needs to want it.
Brooks is freelance writer who lives in boise, idaho. I enjoy writing about health, the outdoors, and music. When I am not writing I enjoy playing guitar, wakeboarding, mountain biking and rafting.
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