An addiction problem doesn’t happen all at once. On the contrary, this type of problem is something that builds up over an extended use of a substance or activity.
Typically, most individuals that suffer from an addiction problem often start using or engaging in an activity for recreational purposes. However, continual use of the substance or repetition of a certain behavior can slowly develop into addiction. According to northpointrecovery.com, addiction can be defined as a progressive disease that starts out simple, but then progresses into abuse, over-dependence and addiction.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction can be defined as a chronic disease that tends to affect three particular functions of the brain. They include the reward, memory and motivation functions of the brain. Individuals with an addiction problem tend to battle and succumb to cravings for a particular substance or behavior.
Addiction is typically a psychological and physical need to use a substance or engage in a certain behavioral habit. Addiction often influences the ability to make sound judgements and takes away the will to stop. Hence, an individual suffering from this disease will find it hard to stop even if they want to.
The person’s entire life is ruled by the substance or behavioral habit he or she is addicted to and is unable to stay away from.
This type of problem tends to affect major areas in their lives. From their profession or education to even their relationships, addiction tends to destroy vital aspects of an individual’s life. Needless to say, even such consequences are not enough motivation for the addict to stop using or engaging in the destructive habits.
Statistics On Addiction
On one hand, drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are stigmatized and on the other, it is glamorized. Certain cultural factors such as the numerous Reality TV shows that turn celebrity interventions for their addiction problem into a show do not help at all.
Young individuals and children, while watching this, misinterpret the magnitude of an addiction problem. Hence, addiction is a slowly increasing epidemic that is affecting both the young and old on a global scale.
Drug/ alcohol addiction or any other type of addiction should neither be glamorized nor stigmatized It should, however; be dealt with appropriately through proper enlightenment that showcases and reveals the reality of an addiction. That said, how many people within the American continent suffer from addiction? Let us take a look.
In the year 2014, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that approximately 21.5 million Americans struggled with substance use. Please note, that the above-mentioned statistics (21.5 million) represent Americans of age 12 years and older.
According to them, 80% of the 21.5 million Americans suffered from Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcohol Use Disorder can generally be defined as a severe drinking problem. This is where the person finds it hard to stop drinking and often experiences withdrawal symptoms if he/she tries to stop.
In 2015, 27.1 million Americans were recorded to be using illicit drugs. Approximately 7.7 million were found to be suffering from an illicit drug use disorder, while 15.7 million were found to be suffering from an alcohol use disorder. Please note that these statistics are based on a survey conducted by the Drug Use and Health in the year 2015. The data were then published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The above-mentioned statistics are a clear picture of the prevalence of addiction on the American continent. It also shows and reveals the possibility that a loved one or family member may be suffering from an addiction. Hence, for the purposes of this article, we shall be looking at how one can tell if a loved one is suffering from an addiction.
However, before we begin, let us first take a look at the various types/ forms of addiction.
Types of Addiction
When you hear the term addiction, what normally comes to mind? For most, if not all, they often associate addiction with drug and alcohol abuse and dependence. However, addiction also involves certain behavioral habits that are destructive.
Hence, addiction can generally be categorized into two. They include:
It can either be drug or/ and alcohol addiction. As previously mentioned, a good number of Americans suffer from substance addiction. Below, are a few of the substances that are often abused and people are likely to get addicted to. They include:
- Pain Relievers
- Stimulants such as amphetamines and methylphenidate
- They are often categorized into two: sedatives such as barbiturates and tranquilizers such as benzodiazepines
- Anabolic Steroids
- Hallucinogens such as methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and LSD
They include behavioral habits such as sex, Pornography, the internet, gambling, video games, food and shopping just to name a few.
Addictions, since they tend to involve a person’s motivation and reward system, they often give a person a certain high. In other words, the person engaging in the addictive activity often seeks a feeling of euphoria. As recent research confirms, not only substances can reap such a feeling for an individual.
Even certain habits that often involve the increase of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine can be numbered as addictions. If the individual often compulsively seeks them out regardless of the consequences, those habits are an addiction.
Now, what are the consequences of an addiction, be it substance or behavioral? Let us take a look.
Consequences of Addictions
Addictions can be characterized as the person’s continual need and dependence on a certain substance of behavior. Of course, the activities involved are often destructive and lead to numerous consequences. Regardless, the addict is unable to stop using the substance or engaging in the particular habit.
Below, are a few of the consequences that often involve addiction.
- A weakened immune system from the prolonged use of drugs or alcohol
- Liver damage
- Digestive problems: Drugs an alcohol has the ability to destroy and damage the cells that are present in your digestive tracts. Such cells often aid in proper digestion.
- Prolonged use and abuse of substances can lead to a considerable decrease in red blood cells, Of course, this will hence leave your body unable to fight off any pathogens that could lead to life-threatening diseases.
- Lead to lung damage, lung cancer as well as other respiratory diseases
- The development of a number of heart diseases
- Cognitive damage
- Inhibition of the proper development of the brain: This is especially true among teenagers that may be using illicit substances. This is because the brain of a teenager is still developing. However, drug and alcohol substances tend to interfere and prohibit the normal development of certain parts of the brain.
- Kidney damage
- Loss of parental rights
- Job loss
- Legal problems or jail time
- Financial instability and debt
- Loss of vital or damaged friendships and relations
- Loss of property
- Dropping out of school
- Poor academic performance
- Memory loss
There are other numerous consequences that are caused by an addiction problem, which we shall discuss further. Once a person gets addicted to a substance or behavior, he or she not only hurt himself but others around him. The family and friends often get hurt and tremendously affected once a loved one becomes addicted to something.
Few things can be compared to the emotional roller coaster and trauma that a family goes through once a loved one becomes addicted. Most try to help the loved one, but more often than not, they get pulled down in the bog as well.
If you suspect that a loved one is addicted to a substance or a certain behavior, it is best to deal with it immediately. First and foremost, it is essential that you determine whether or not the loved one is addicted or not. Then, the next viable course of action would be to confront the individual, before seeking professional help.
That said, how can one tell if someone they love is an addict? Are there signs that can prove or disprove a person’s apparent addiction problem? Indeed, there are telltale signs of addiction that everyone should keep a look out for. Let us take a look.
Tell- Tale Signs of Addiction
The signs of addiction can be categorized into various sections. They include:
A person with an addiction problem will be affected in numerous ways. One major aspect that will be affected and also change will be his or her personality. If the person has been acting strange or differently over an extended period of time, then he or she is more than likely addicted to something. Below, are some of the personality changes to look out for.
An addict will always try to conceal or hide the truth from his or her loved ones. It could be out of embarrassment or to avoid getting forced to stop or deal with his addiction.
You’ll notice that the person tends to keep certain things, such as his whereabouts secret. Examples of secrecy include:
- Locking their rooms
- Leaving the house and coming back unannounced
- Never lets you meet his or her friends
- Avoids answering your questions
Addicts often lie or deceive people to avoid a confrontation or getting caught. Hence, they tend to cover up their activities with lies that, more often than not, rarely make any sense.
- Trying to pick a fight by placing the blame on you
- Denies the truth
- Comes up with stories that do not make sense
- Blames his or her friends or certain circumstances
- Tells half-truths
c) Mood swings:
Drugs and alcohol have the ability to influence a person’s mood greatly. This is because drugs and alcohol are chemical substances that tend to interfere with chemical substances that are produced by the brain. These chemical substances often referred to as hormones, are neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
These neurotransmitters are also referred to as happy hormones because they have the ability to influence a person’s mood. The more dopamine is produced, the happier a person feels. This is what drugs and alcohol do, as well as food, sex and other behavioral habits.
Once a person engages in the activity, the production and release of dopamine increases, leading to a feeling of euphoria. Hence, the reason so many individuals quickly get addicted to such substances or behavioral habits.
Once dopamine decreases, the person is likely to crush and get irritable. This is characterized by unstable mood swings. Examples include:
- Extremely happy
- Very hyperactive
- Tremendously talkative
d) Lack of Interest in hobbies and other activities:
Individuals that are addicted often forfeit the favorite hobbies or activities for what they are addicted to. What used to take priority in their lives is now replaced by a substance or behavioral habit. Hence, they will have no interest in their hobbies anymore.
- Lack of interest in school
- Poor academic performance
- Does not get involved in co-curricular activities
- Seems disinterested towards most activities
e) Seclusion and avoiding friends and other types of relationships:
The addict will not only lose interest in their hobbies but social interactions as well. Instead, they prefer staying or spending time alone, or with friends, you have never met. Examples include:
- Locks themselves in their rooms
- Is rarely home
- Always has earphones on
- Avoids any family events
- His old friends ask for him or his whereabouts
f) Financial Debt and neglect:
Addicts also often neglect their career or professional goals, and instead, focus all their attention on their addiction. Drug and alcohol addiction is expensive, as well as other behavioral addictions. The individual, having no job to sustain his addictions, is likely to drive himself into financial debt. Examples include:
- Doesn’t show up to work
- Feigns illnesses to avoid going to work
- Borrows money from loved ones and other people
- Cannot explain how he spends his money
- Doesn’t pay rent or any of his other bills
- Dropping out of school
As previously stated, an addiction is something that manifests itself as a physical and psychological need. The individual finds it hard to stop taking/ using the substance or engaging in a certain activity. It is almost as if the substance or habit has taken over and has impaired their ability to make sound decisions.
Hence, after using up all their money to fund their activities, they often resort to stealing. Do not be surprised if the addict ends up stealing from you, or other family members. The individual may also resort to stealing things from the house. Things to look out for include:
- Money goes missing all the time
- The addict keeps borrowing money
- Things in the house go missing. Anything that can be sold at a certain fee, such as gadgets and furniture is a clear sign that the loved one is stealing to fund his addictions.
- Gets angry when you refuse to give them money
B) Changes In Health
Drug substances and alcohol often causes changes in the brain first, before they can affect other systems of the body. However, addictions tend to tear down and weaken a person’s immune system, leaving the body defenseless against foreign pathogens. Hence, the addict is more susceptible to diseases.
Also, an addict often involves himself in risky behavior and activities that may compromise his health and safety. Since drugs and alcohol tend to inhibit a person’s ability to make sound decisions, they end up engaging in unhealthy habits and activities. For instance, they may end up cheating on their spouse or getting into physical fights with others.
Examples of changes in health include:
- Insomnia or other changes in the person’s normal sleep pattern
- Respiratory problems such as problems with breathing
- Lung cancer
- Kidney problems
- Liver damage
- Abdominal pain
- Seizures or involuntary shaking
- Lack of appetite
- Constant suicidal thoughts and tendencies
- Constant fatigue and lack of energy
- Memory problems
C) Physical Signs and Changes
A person that is addicted and clearly hooked to a substance or harmful behavior will change physically as well. Below, are a few changes that are signs of addiction. They include:
a)Neglect of personal hygiene:
An addict will neglect their personal appearance and hygiene. This is because all their money and time is directed towards their addiction(s). Examples include:
- Doesn’t shower or bathe. If he or she does, it will be rare or it will be because you asked them to
- Repeats dirty clothes
- Doesn’t brush their teeth
- Fails to use deodorant
- Has unkempt hair that may be greasy and smelly
- Long and dirty nails
- Dirty and smelly room
b) Physical appearance:
There are certain physical changes that are clear signs of an addiction. They include:
- Rapid weight loss or weight gain
- Physical injuries
- Discolored teeth and nails
- Slurred or slow speech
- Slow to react and slow physical movements
- Trembling and itchiness
- Glazed or bloodshot eyes
If your loved one(s) exhibits any of the above signs and symptoms, it is imperative that you seek professional intervention. You can do this by finding out how to best confront the issue, before deciding on how to deal with it.
When confronting the individual, it is best if you use a soft approach. Avoid sounding angry or using an accusatory tone with the individual. Instead, ensure that you mention how much you love them while approaching the topic with care.
The end goal is to ensure that they do not feel stigmatized in any way. Also, you also want to help them see how much they need help and intervention. They might not react accordingly the first or second time, but ensure that you don’t give up. Don’t force them either.
If the person agrees to get help, the next step is to find a rehabilitation center that can help. Ensure that you choose one that comes highly recommended. Some rehabilitation centers charge more than others, but avoid comparing prices. Instead, focus on the effectiveness of their treatments.
During the course of treatment, ensure that you offer your support to your loved one as much as possible. This will mean a lot to them and could aid in their recovery.
In conclusion, addiction is a serious problem that can disrupt a person’s life, as well as the lives of others around them. A person can be addicted to either or both substances or behavioral habits. Addictions tend to overtake a person’s life to the point that they neglect everything else. From professional and academic responsibilities to their health, an addict ends up neglecting vital aspects of his or her life.
If not dealt with immediately, the addicts could end up contracting a life-threatening disease or even dying. To avoid this from happening, keep a lookout for the above-mentioned signs that indicate addiction.