Drug addiction. Those words call to mind frightening images and upsetting emotions.
But a recent report released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) finds that approximately one in every 10 Americans has a substance abuse problem.
That means that most people have a friend, family member, or coworker that is affected by drug addiction.
Drug addiction consumes the mind and the body, and people who are addicted struggle to function when denied their drug of choice.
This struggle may be hidden at first but eventually overtakes relationships, professional life, and health.
It is a chronic condition that progresses and, if untreated, can be fatal.
So, how do you know when you — or someone you love — is struggling with addiction?
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Signs of Drug Addiction
Drug abuse can affect anyone. People from all walks of life can slip into dependency — sometimes before they even realize it’s happening.
Recognizing Addiction in Yourself
If you’re taking recreational or prescription drugs and are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, you may have a drug addiction.
- You continue taking a prescription medicine, even though you don’t need it any longer.
- You doctor-hop to get refills for the same drug, using health problems as a reason.
- You check other people’s houses, purses, and cars for drugs to take.
- You require higher amounts of a drug to feel satiated.
- When your drug wears off, you begin to feel withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness, depression, nausea, sweating, and headaches.
- You may exhibit physical symptoms of addiction such as bloody noses, shakes or tremors, bloodshot eyes, bad breath, or fluctuations in weight.
- You sleep or eat more or less than normal.
- Even when your drug use causes trouble in your life — like relationship, work, or health difficulties — you can’t stop using.
- You are consumed with thoughts surrounding drug use — how it feels, how you’ll get your next dose, etc.
- You use more than you expect or more often than you expect.
- The things that once bring you joy seem boring and uninteresting.
- You lose interest in activities of daily living like cooking, cleaning, and perhaps personal hygiene.
- You take risks while under the influence of the drug.
- You are secretive about using the drug.
- Close friends, family, and coworkers complain that you’ve changed. You have difficulty getting along with others.
- You have a group of “drug friends” with whom you use on a regular basis.
- You begin to take prescription medications with other drugs or alcohol to increase their effects.
- You beg, borrow, or steal — literally — to get drugs.
As you can see, drug addiction seeps into all aspects of your life, sometimes so slowly that it’s difficult to tell when your use of drugs — particularly prescription drugs — has crossed the line.
Recognizing Addiction in Others
If you believe you have a friend, coworker, or family member who is struggling with an addiction, look for these symptoms:
- Mood and personality changes such as agitation, irritation, and lack of motivation.
- Marked change in daily activities and routines
- Red eyes and constant sniffing or blood noses
- Slurred speech, tremors, or shaking
- Reduced personal hygiene, cavalier attitude toward necessary activities of daily life
- Financial difficulties, borrowing money
- Sudden change in friend group
If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to see a medical professional right away to get assistance in dealing with your addiction.
Is Drug Addiction a Disease?
Yes — drug addiction is a disease.
Drugs change the chemistry of your brain, and addiction is considered a complex, neurobiological disorder that requires crucial intervention in both mental and physical spheres for successful treatment.
At first, taking drugs is a choice.
After the drug alters brain chemistry, however, the ability to make that choice is eroded until it is virtually impossible to stop using without assistance.
Thankfully, there are many drug treatment programs available to help curb addiction.
Drug Addiction Treatment
Drug addiction treatment is always performed on an individual basis — taking the patient’s mental and physical health, life circumstances, and abuse history into account.
There are several modalities of treatment that can occur simultaneously to help addicts recover more quickly.
- Psychological and behavioral counseling
- Appropriate medication
- Devices or medications to minimize withdrawal and cravings
- Therapy to increase coping skills
- Continuing long-term therapy as relapse intervention
The best treatment plan encourages family and/or community support for the patient.
A range of programs and follow-up options that allow the patient a choice of therapies can be important to preventing relapse.
Think You Have an Addiction? Get Drug Addiction Help
Whether you or someone you know has an addiction — there’s help available.
The first thing to do is find a doctor to refer you to a rehabilitation center specific to your addiction.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine is a good place to find board-certified physicians for drug recovery referrals.
The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry can also lead you to a patient referral program to begin your journey to recovery.
There are also numerous confidential helplines you can call for specific drug dependencies.
Have Courage — Help Is Near
Reaching out for help with drug addiction is enormously courageous. And it is the first step toward recovery and rebuilding your life.
Addiction is a chronic disease like any other, and with the help of a good treatment program, it can be managed for a lifetime.
The important thing is to not wait to seek help. The earlier you get treatment, the more successful your recovery will be.
Be courageous — reach out for treatment now.