What are some of the most common signs that could indicate someone is addicted to drugs? Find out here.
Drug addiction is a massive problem that affects individuals, communities, and societies across the world. It carries an enormous stigma which can result in sufferers hiding their problems and being discouraged from contacting addiction services.
Drug addiction can be hard to spot, but there are tell-tale signs that can indicate a problem. If you are concerned about a friend or family member, knowing what to look out for can be vital. We’ve put together a list of some of the most common signs of drug addiction.
What is Drug Addiction?
To spot the signs of drug addiction, it’s important to understand what exactly drug addiction is. Drug addiction is also referred to as substance use disorder. It is characterized by chronic, relapsing use of a substance despite negative effects. People who are addicted to drugs are unable to stop using them, and their behavior may change as a result of their use and in an attempt to ensure they have a constant supply of and access to a substance.
Some of the most common substances among drug addicts include marijuana, cocaine, prescription opioids, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, and heroin. Some of these substances are more addictive than others, but all have the potential to cause serious effects on people who misuse them.
What Causes Drug Addiction?
For many people, drug misuse doesn’t cause addiction straight away. People may use drugs experimentally or recreationally in social situations. Over time, their use increases and eventually spirals out of control and into a full-blown addiction.
Drugs affect the brain’s reward system, which is usually used to reward healthy behaviors, such as exercise, by releasing a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine causes feelings of pleasure and satisfaction and motivates us to continue these behaviors.
Some drugs mimic dopamine, while others encourage the brain to produce more dopamine than normal. This leads to feelings of happiness and euphoria often associated with drugs and can result in people using drugs repeatedly to feel these effects.
Over time, drug use can change the way the brain functions. The reward system becomes desensitized. This means that more drugs are required to feel the same effect and that other reward-generating activities trigger the release of less dopamine. Eventually, addicts will be less able to enjoy any activities other than drug use.
Drug addiction can also affect how the brain handles negative emotions such as stress. When not using a substance, these feelings can be amplified. This means that drug addicts eventually use drugs to avoid negative feelings rather than in an attempt to generate positive feelings.
Drug addiction can start off as casual substance use but can quickly get out of hand. Changes to the function of the brain as more drugs are used can create a cycle that is incredibly difficult for sufferers to escape from.
These are the biological causes and mechanisms of addiction, but there are other factors, including upbringing and environment, that play a part as well.
If you are worried about a friend or loved one and are concerned that they may be addicted to drugs, there are key signs that you need to look out for. Find out more below.
Physical changes are often some of the most noticeable effects of drug addiction. Depending on the type of substance being abused, the eyes may look different, with either dilated or constricted pupils. The eyes may also be bloodshot, which could be a direct effect of the drug or an indirect effect caused by lack of sleep.
Addicts could display rapid, unexplained changes in weight or show changes to eating habits and appetite. They may constantly clench their jaw or chew their lips or the insides of their cheeks.
Some physical changes are specific to certain drugs. Cocaine addiction, for example, could cause a constantly runny nose or other nasal issues.
In extreme changes, drug addiction can manifest physically as tremors, seizures, loss of coordination, and skin issues.
Behavioral changes are often what we notice first. Addicts may become more secretive and more isolated, less willing to take part in social activities with friends and family. They may abandon activities they used to take part in, and you might notice changes in their friends and associates.
Drug addiction can impact performance at work or in education, and it can cause people to neglect existing commitments and responsibilities. Addicts may be caught lying or acting dishonestly.
Some addicts may have legal issues if they have been caught in possession of illegal drugs, and they could face financial issues, with some resorting to stealing to fund their habit.
Finally, drug addiction can also cause a number of psychological changes. You may notice a shift in personality, with greater irritability and aggression. Drug addiction can cause sudden and wild mood swings, sufferers may be happy when on a substance and then sad or angry when going through withdrawal.
Some addicts can display a lack of ambition or motivation, with increased apathy and a generally bleak view of themselves and of life in general.
Drug addiction can also cause mental health issues. Addicts may be depressed, anxious, paranoid, or even delusional.
How to Help an Addict
If you have spotted some of the above signs in a friend or loved one, knowing what step to take next can be difficult. It’s important you remember that drug addiction is a disease, it’s vital that you remain non-judgmental and avoid blaming the sufferer for their current condition.
Offer a means of support rather than being punitive. Try and put yourself in their shoes and figure out how they have got into this situation.
You’ll need to broach the subject carefully and sensitively. Addicts can be ashamed of their behavior and could get defensive or even lash out if confronted about it.
Conclusion Drug addiction is a serious condition that can have severe consequences for sufferers and those closest to them. If you are worried about a loved one and are concerned they could be abusing drugs, knowing what signs to look out for is vital and the first step towards tackling