Signs of Addiction

Understanding the Signs of Addiction

Recognising the signs of addiction in yourself or a loved one can be harder than you think, but it is the critical first step to getting help for yourself or someone you care about.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines substance abuse as “the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.”

Drug and alcohol addiction, also called “substance use disorder” (Mayo Clinic) is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of legal or illegal drugs or medication.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a chronic disease that affects the brain’s reward, motivation, and memory functions. Someone with an addiction will crave a substance or other behavioral habits. They’ll often ignore or neglect other areas of life to fulfill or support their addiction.

General signs of addiction are:

  • lack of control or inability to stop using a substance or doing a behavior
  • decreased socialization, such as neglecting commitments or ignoring important relationships
  • disregarding risk factors, such as sharing needles despite potential negative consequences
  • physical effects, such as withdrawal symptoms or needing higher dosage for the previously same effect.

These days, drug addiction is a common cause of death and many problems in society. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs.

When you’re addicted, you may continue using the drug or engaging in the behavior despite the harm it causes to yourself, family, friends, and employers.

Types of Addiction

Addiction is most commonly connected to substance abuse, but behavioral addictions like gambling are just as serious and devastating.

According to ASAM, addiction is when a person is unable to consistently abstain from a particular behavior/s or substance/s. This is usually regardless of the cost to mental and physical health.

Substance addiction is dependence on any one or more of the following:

  • Nicotine, or tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Inhalants, often household items like oven cleaners, spray paints, or other aerosol products
  • Drugs, illicit or non-illicit medication

Research has shown that behavioral addictions can be as serious as substance addictions. Both types result in unhealthy dependency and have similar negative consequences.

Behavioral addictions can include:

  • Gambling
  • Working
  • Sex
  • Shopping
  • Video games
  • Using the Internet or media

No matter the type of addiction, it’s important to recognize warning signs and seek help if necessary.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) maintains that ‘Recovery from drug addiction requires effective treatment, followed by management of the problem over time.’

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Symptoms can only be experienced by the person with the addiction and signs can be observed by other people.

You might see some of these signs and symptoms but not others in an addicted person, but you can still be addicted even if you do not have all of them.

Common signs of addiction include:

  • Obsessive thoughts and actions
  • Secretiveness
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Disregard of harm caused
  • Financially erratic, perhaps having large amounts of cash at times but no money at all at other times
  • Changes in social groups and friends with unusual phone conversations
  • Repeated unexplained and usual urgent outings
  • Drug paraphernalia and “stashes” such as unusual pipes, cigarette papers, plastic baggies etc…
  • Unusual dilation of the pupils of the eyes
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Changes in energy – unexpectedly and extremely tired or energetic
  • Unexpected and persistent coughs or sniffles
  • Seeming very unwell at certain times and much better at other times
  • Sleeping a lot more or less than usual, or at different times of the day or night.

Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Temporary blackouts (can’t remember what happened the night before)
  • Arguments with family and friends
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • The need for substance use to ‘cheer up, sleep, cope with issues, or feel normal’
  • Using the substance in the morning or in secrecy
  • Guilt and shame about the use
  • Constant need of the substance
  • Behavior to hide use (e.g. finding isolated areas to use in order to keep the use secret)
  • Lying about the substance use when confronted
  • Hiding the substance from others
  • Tolerance (the need to engage in the addictive behavior more and more to get the desired effect)
  • Difficulty cutting down or controlling the addictive behavior.

Addiction Affects the Family

People with substance abuse problems rarely recognize their problem until it starts to become obvious and controls their everyday lives. Addiction can have a devastating impact on family members.

Many substance abusers will deny the issue if they are told they have an addiction problem by a family member or friend. The stigma of being a “druggie” or an “alcoholic” is damaging to a person’s mind and they insist that they don’t have a problem, or they have it “under control”.

Recognizing signs of substance abuse is key to recovering or helping someone recover. Recovery cannot take place until the person realizes they have substance abuse issues.

Additional signs of addiction can be how addiction adversely and profoundly affects the family, friends and colleagues of addicts.

Short-term and Long-term Signs of Addiction

There are both short-term effects and long-term effects of substance abuse. Even though each type of substance has its own specific effects, there are common short-term and long-term effects.

Common Short-term Signs of Addiction Can Include:

  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Extreme anxiety and restlessness
  • Alertness
  • Change in heart rate
  • Impaired vision
  • Reduction of ability to make decisions
  • Slow reflexes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sleeplessness
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing.

Common Long-term Signs of Addiction Include:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Damage to vital organs
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Overdose
  • Impaired thinking
  • Violent behavior
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Suicide or death.

The most addictive substances are the ones that produce dangerous short-term and long-term effects. For example, they could affect the heart rate, the blood pressure, or the nervous system. However, they could also damage vital organs and lead to death.

Other signs of addiction from drug and alcohol abusers are that they typically report feelings as extreme as having a huge surge of pleasurable sensations to an overwhelming sense of complete and total isolation and depression.

Other Warning Signs of Addiction:

  • Neglecting other daily life activities
    Risk taking
  • Relationship issues
  • Secrecy
  • Family history
  • Tolerance (needing more of the substance to get the same effect)
  • Withdrawal symptoms (these differ for different substances)
  • Continued use despite negative consequences
  • Loss of control.

Substance abusers lose control when they keep using a substance for longer than they intended and in larger amounts than they originally planned. They may lose track of time and even though they told themselves they would only have “one drink for a quick 15 minutes”, before they know it two hours have passed and they have drunk a whole bottle.

The amount of alcohol drunk can quickly add up before they realise it. Other times users are aware that they have already taken the amount they planned on using but cannot control themselves and instead continue using the substance. Substance abusers can start to neglect activities such as work, school, family functions all because of “the need” to use.

Alcohol and drugs affect the brain’s decision-making processes which can have negative impacts on both home and work life.

Signs of Addiction in the Workplace

The US National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) estimated that alcohol and other drug abuse costs employers $81 billion annually.

The main effects of alcohol and drug abuse in the work environment are premature death/fatal accidents, injuries/accident rates, excessive absences/sick leave, and loss of production.

Fatal accidents happen when people work under the influence of alcohol or drugs, falling asleep or not being completely aware of their surroundings.

The NCADD found that workers with alcohol or drug abuse issues were nearly three times more likely to have injury-related absences.

It’s not just those using drugs or alcohol who are at risk; their coworkers are also at an increased risk of injury. Workers with substance abuse issues also tend to have more absence or sick-leave days than their co-workers who don’t abuse alcohol or other drugs.

These scenarios show that substance abuse not only affects the user but their co-workers as well.

You may be a victim of this issue without even knowing it, having to complete work for co-workers who are often absent.

Health complications from substance abuse can lead to multiple doctor visits, medication costs, and expensive surgery to correct complications from substance abuse.

As we begin to better understand mental health and the impact of substance abuse on mental health issues, we can expect to see these healthcare costs rise.

We Can Help with Treatment

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of addiction, we suggest treatment in a holistic environment that can offer the best possible outcome for their individual needs.

Miracles Asia has a proven track record in providing this treatment. The first step is recognising the signs and symptoms of addiction and then making a free call to us.

At Miracles Asia’s rehab in Thailand, our residential treatment program boasts a 98% completion rate. Clients from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, UK, USA and many other countries, have sought treatment for substance and behavioral addiction in our luxury rehab in Thailand.

Even the most effective treatment will not work if the participant does not have support systems in place to help them monitor and deal with the effects of withdrawal. This process can be emotionally taxing and needs to be managed carefully. At Miracles Asia, we provide the necessary safe and professional support through the withdrawal process.

We also provide support groups that encourage participation in treatment and which we know can lead to higher success rates.

A program of treatment at Miracles Asia typically lasts a minimum of three months. However, we know that every person is different and the length of time spent in an addiction treatment program must be altered to fit with the observed progress of the participant.

Treatments usually center around teaching the participant to break away from their old behaviors and ways of thinking so that they are able to learn how to avoid finding themselves on the slippery slope to relapse.

At Miracles Asia, we know that without the right help, addiction can lead to many long-term physical and psychological issues. So, it’s vital to realize that you don’t need to suffer alone. There is hope. We offer a comprehensive and personalised addiction treatment at our rehab in Thailand.

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