Drug Addiction Signs & Risks
Are you being affected by the worry that someone in your life is falling into drug addiction? Drug addiction is a difficult reality for many people in the United States– a reality that can be trivial and bring a variety of unwanted consequences. A number of caring families and friends with drug-addicted loved ones suffer as they watch the progression of addiction take its toll.
Although there are a number of ways to find helpful support towards successful recovery, it can often feel like a hopeless situation at first. Especially if you don’t know the most significant signs of drug addiction, you might feel lost in the dark as to what to look out for or to expect from someone who could be starting to abuse drugs or alcohol.
What are the most common signs of drug addiction? First, let’s get to know the main risks behind drug abuse so we may be better equipped to take immediate action in case the signs show up in our personal lives.
What Are the Risks?
There are fewer risk-prone situations in life than the harrowing damage of long-term drug or alcohol addiction. Not only does substance addiction negatively affect the physical body and healthy state of the mind, but it also deeply impacts the well-being of interpersonal relationships, spiritual fulfillment, and the lens through which reality is perceived.
Sometimes, addicts and alcoholics experience some form of mental illness alongside their addiction struggle. It is not uncommon for an addiction to stem from a seemingly innocent act of “self-medicating” a mental health issue prior to forming a dependence on the drug. Having both a mental illness and a substance abuse disorder is called Dual Diagnosis, otherwise known as co-occurring disorders. According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), almost 8 million people in the United States are diagnosed with a mental disorder and drug addiction co-currently.
If you or someone you know experiences mental illness and, as a result, beginning signs of drug addiction, reach out for professional help as soon as possible. This will avoid any permanent risks involved, and potentially save someone’s life.
The most alarming physical danger of drug addiction is the possibility for accidental overdose. It’s been reported that nearly 72,000 deaths have been caused as a result of accidental opiate addiction alone within the past several years. That’s a staggering number. Can you imagine an average professional sports stadium at full audience capacity? That’s about how many people die each year of an overdose in the United States.
How Can I Tell if Someone is Using Drugs?
There can be quite a confusing difference between drug use symptoms and side effects. Red flags vary depending on the type of drugs being used, the unique individual, and their present situation. However, there are some clear tell-tale signs of drug addiction that can be viewed from any angle which exclaim the potential of drug addiction. There are a larger amount of resources available through our website if you need help identifying or getting help for addiction.
Note: The following list is not intended to diagnose someone or an addiction. A proper diagnosis must be done by a medical professional. These are simply tools to help you become aware of any possible indications people face when the time comes to take active steps in seeking treatment.
Signs of Drug Addiction
Obviously, finding drug-related material around the person’s living space is the most blatant sign of drug use. A lot of addicts become skilled at hiding their drug use as time goes on, but there are still clues as to how they go about using drugs. Examples of such paraphernalia include:
- Small baggies
- Pipes, bongs, rolling papers for smoking
- Needles or syringes
- Small spoons
- Razor blades
- White powder residue
- Compact mirrors, old CD cases, or other small flat surfaces to snort crushed drugs from
- Shortened straws, rolled up papers or dollar bills
- Unusual small bottles, boxes, or old pill containers (a stash jar)
- E-cigarettes or vapes
In an instance where, for example, you and your friends/family members occasionally or rarely experiment with recreational drugs together, you might notice one person starting to talk about or seek out a particular type of substance more often. They may become obsessed with the experience of that particular drug, take interest in trying to obtain it more frequently, and talk about it more than is necessary. This is an instant warning sign that an addiction is developing. Obsession with drugs or alcohol takes over at one of the advanced stages of addiction. The user will constantly think about when they will indulge next, where to get the next fix and make excuses about why they “need” or want their substance of choice.
For some people, drugs bring out an apparent social side to them, making them feel more interested in others in their social circles or at parties. However, as drug addiction develops, many people go through a period of isolation as a means to continue their addiction in secrecy. Sadly, isolation is a common theme among people struggling with the signs of drug addiction. You might notice him or her staying inside, losing interest in their peers, ignoring phone calls/texts, and avoiding going out in public.
Dependency & Tolerance
As a person continues to use drugs or alcohol more regularly, their tolerance increases, leading to a physical or maybe psychological dependency. What does this mean? Basically, when a substance is introduced into the body for the first time, the user of that substance experiences the most intense effects from it with just the lowest dose. From there, if he or she keeps using the substance, the brain will adjust accordingly, trying to sustain proper functioning throughout the system. If frequent substance use continues, the user will stop feeling as much of the effects as they did before. Therefore, he or she will increase the dose each time to still feel the desired effects.
A common theme of drug users is the “tolerance break”– a short, temporary break where they go several days without using the drug, in order to attempt getting back at the beginner dose with the same effects as before. This might seem like a good action to take, but it doesn’t break the cycle at all. Addiction is still addiction. Especially when it comes to hard drugs, taking a break often provokes painful withdrawal symptoms, leading the person to continue their habit.
Sketchy behavior is encouraged as something to look out for in teenagers according to many anti-drug campaigns. But what about adults, people we trust, elders, and close beloved relatives? We don’t often think to question their actions or to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior. However, when it comes to signs of drug addiction, don’t let any questionable behavior pass you by.
When forming a drug habit, many people partake in secretive actions. Hanging out with poor influences, staying out late, neglecting personal obligations, lying, cheating, stealing, and withholding information include some of the main examples.
Along with suspicious or risky behavior, drug addiction can bring a whole range of personal changes in all facets of someone’s action and lifestyle.
Drugs alter the normal way in which our bodies function. For someone with chronic drug use, this can include major changes in their physical appearance. Of course, as mentioned before, different drugs have specific effects. But some common examples of someone with a drug addiction might include:
- Major weight changes (often becoming underweight)
- Dark circles; eyes that look sunken, bloodshot, glassy, or lifeless
- Dilated or pinpoint pupils
- Needle marks on arms, legs, hands, or insides of fingers/toes (known as “track marks”)
- Lack of care for personal hygiene
- Breakouts and acne scars on the face, neck, back, or other parts of the body
- Chipped teeth, rotting teeth, “meth mouth”
- Clenched jaw, grinding of the mouth
- Disrupt in sleep patterns: oversleeping or hardly sleeping at all
Mental and emotional warning signs of drug addiction vary from discreetly subtle to extremely alarming. Again, it all depends on the type of drug and the person’s individual makeup. Some drugs disconnect the person from reality to the point of delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations (example: meth, LSD, PCP, ketamine, or a batch of poorly made street drugs). Other drugs, like opiates or painkiller pills, more affect the central nervous system causing drowsiness, slowness, and an overall “out of it” feeling.
Regardless, it’s wise to note the noticeable mental and emotional signs of drug addiction, such as:
- Fluctuation in awareness/alertness
- Increase in anxiety, depression, or other mental disorders
- Manic outbreaks
- Seeming disconnected from reality
- Paranoia, delusions, delirium
- Severe mood swings
- Drastic changes in personality or demeanor
- Self-destructive habits (such as self-injury)
- Memory issues
- A decrease in cognitive functions
- The person not seeming like their usual self
Dramatic shifts in one’s personal social circle is another huge sign of drug addiction. They might start neglecting daily tasks, like going to work or school, engaging in hobbies, cleaning, or caring about the things they used to love. One might also turn to criminal activity as a means to feel a rush of excitement, to illegally obtain what they cannot otherwise, or to get involved in selling and trading drugs. This isn’t always the case, although in the depths of addiction it’s always a possibility.
It’s often said you become like the top five people you hang out with the most. Therefore, an effective influence of drug addiction can involve the immediate social circle: friends and romantic partners especially. Peer pressure comes into play at the beginning of drug addiction. Even though it might seem like some innocent fun at first, certain drugs can spark addiction upon the first use, like cocaine, heroin, meth, and other hard drugs.
The last and most brutal sign of drug addiction is the withdrawal phase upon an individual attempting to quit their usual drug use. Withdrawal can be a painful, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous period.
For heroin or alcohol addiction, it’s advised to go through detox under the care of a medical professional, and the withdrawal symptoms can lead to stroke or heart issues. Other drugs, like cocaine or marijuana, have mildly uncomfortable withdrawal which can usually result in more of a psychological withdrawal than a dangerous physical one.
Withdrawal symptoms, ranging from least to most intense, include:
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep issues / insomnia
- Lack of focus and mental activity
- Muscle tension and pain
- Tingling sensations in limbs
- Racing heart rate; heart palpitations
- Vomiting, diarrhea
- Panic attacks
- Shaking and tremors
- Stomach pain, abdominal cramps
- Grand mal seizures
- Delerium Tremens (DTs)
- Heart attack
What Should I Do if I See the Signs of Drug Addiction?
If you notice any signs of drug addiction in your life or in someone you care about, the most important thing to do first is to seek help. Try not to overreact to the situation as that can lead to aggressive feelings, drama, and unwanted pain. However, with that said it’s still crucial that you talk to someone, find support, and look into treatment options.
There are professional interventionists who can step in and help you along the way of finding a treatment center, counselor, psychiatrist, or sponsor for the person needing to overcome drug addiction. Overcoming addiction is not an easy task. In fact, it is most often a lifelong journey. But it’s a journey that’s worth it.
If you have any questions or need help finding placement for someone in need of recovery, reach out to us today.