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Addiction doesn’t mean you’re rolling around in the gutter, unable to stand. Nor does it mean you can’t hold down a job, relationship or have any responsibilities. You can have an addiction and still be successful and appear absolutely fine, but eventually, your dependence on drink and drugs will take its toll on your health, finances and mental well-being.
Many people with an addiction are in denial or believe they can give it all up ‘tomorrow’, if they choose. In some cases, they go to lengths to hide their substance use, as they know they have a problem but they don’t know how to deal with it.
You’re reading here because you’re concerned about a loved one and worried that they have a problem with drink and drugs. Maybe you’ve confronted them and they’ve assured you that isn’t the case. Sometimes you have to delve a little deeper. Here are the signs to look out for if you believe a loved one has an addiction.
1. They Show Physical Signs of Substance Abuse
You might have noticed that your loved one has let their normal standards of hygiene slip. Maybe they don’t smell fresh and clean or their clothes and hair are dirty. Men might not shave as often as they usually would. These are all signs that addiction is impacting their everyday lives.
Other signs to look out for are related to specific drugs. Alcohol abuse can lead to bloating while excessive cocaine or amphetamine abuse may damage the lining of the nostril, even causing the cartilage and bone between the nostrils (the septum) to deteriorate and collapse. This is difficult to hide although they may blame it on a bad cold or skin condition.
Bruises on the body can indicate the injection of heroin or other opioids. If they start undressing privately or appear unwilling to expose any part of their body (wearing long sleeves in summer for example), they could be trying to hide something.
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2. There Are Changes in Their Behaviour
Addiction is a chronic spiral of bingeing, withdrawing, and craving more and this plays havoc with emotions and behaviour. If you feel your loved one is depressed and agitated, they are probably undergoing withdrawal, and if they become irritable, angry and even aggressive, it could be because they are craving more drugs or drink.
You might notice that things that would have previously made your loved one happy – such as seeing family or friends, going on holiday or playing sports – don’t, and they just want to stay at home. They might be regularly absent from family events and if they do turn up, may embarrass you as they are no longer in control of their behaviour.
Being high or drunk means they’re more likely to indulge in risky behaviour such as having unsafe sex, which puts them – and others – at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as unwanted pregnancy. If they’re having sex with strangers there’s a high chance they might ruin their own relationship too.
3. Addiction Affects Their Work
Addiction can make you unreliable at work, and impact negatively on performance or productivity. If a loved one is often late for work, absent for various reasons and has missed a promotion, received a warning, has been demoted or even lost their job, it could be a sign they have an addiction.
On the flip side, work overload can lead you into addiction, as long working hours also raises the risk of abusing alcohol. This can be a devastating spiral where your job pushes you into substance abuse, which then has a detrimental effect on your work. This can lead to burnout and mental health issues such as depression.
Losing a job is serious – it can lead to homelessness, financial ruin and family breakdown, so if you’re concerned about a loved one, it is essential they get help now before addiction destroys their life. Castle Craig has treated thousands of people for addictions and many of our staff are in recovery themselves. We get it.
4. They’re Abusing Prescription Drugs
It can be difficult to understand that you can become addicted to medication that you’re taking under doctor’s orders. But all drugs have the potential to be harmful, even if you can buy them over the counter, and some can lead to addiction within weeks.
Opioids – such as codeine or morphine – which are prescribed as strong painkillers, and benzodiazepines – such as Valium – which help anxiety, depression and insomnia are commonly prescribed, and highly addictive drugs. For this reason, they are often only prescribed for a short time.
Her are the signs that a loved one is misusing or abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs:
- They take medicine before their next dose is due ‘just in case the pain or anxiety returns
- They ask their GP for more drugs once their prescription has ended
- They visit different doctors to ask for more drugs
- They ask family and friends if they have any spare drugs
- They start buying the drugs illicitly, on the street or on the internet
- They experience withdrawal symptoms if they can’t access their drugs
- They start trying other illicit drugs if they can’t get their hands on their medicine
There is a lot of stigma attached to a prescription drug addiction which is why your loved one may hide it from you and others. They may be too embarrassed to ask for help and may need your intervention and offer of support. Castle Craig is experienced in dealing with prescription drug addiction and treatment is discreet.
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5. They Get Into Trouble
Getting drunk or high makes you impulsive. Your loved one might be an adventurer – the first on the dancefloor, the one who keeps the party going long after closing time, the person who surprises you with impromptu trips – but this devil-may-care attitude can lead to accident and injury, or they may get into trouble with the police.
If they’re coming back with cuts and bruises that they can’t explain, or their excuses don’t sound credible, it is a sign of an addiction. Drinking alcohol makes you five times more likely to injure yourself and if you drive and drink you are 15 times more likely to hurt yourself.
Not taking action can be dangerous and it can be fatal. Explain that you’re worried about them and that you’re here to support them. They need help before it’s too late.
6. They’re in Denial
Denial is a common feature of addiction. The person you love may downplay the amount of drugs or drink they’ve had, how long they’ve been abusing substances, how much it is costing and the impact it is having on them, and others. They may overestimate their abilities to control their addiction, believing they can stop ‘any time’, but they choose not to.
Denial means they’re keeping secrets from you and this means they’re telling lies. Whether they’re lying about their whereabouts, how much money they’re spending or the causes of a recent injury or illness, these lies become harder to maintain and this can cause problems.
Sometimes it takes a disaster for them to face the facts – maybe their partner leaves them, they lose their job or they have an accident. In other cases, nothing will stop them from feeding their addiction – the only thing to save them is professional help. They might not be able to make that call themselves and need your help. If you contact Castle Craig on their behalf, we can take care of everything.
7. They’re Clubbing All Weekend Every Weekend
Club drugs – be it coke, Ecstasy, speed, or poppers (amyl nitrate) – have always been a fixture on the rave scene and the key to being able to dance all night or party in a field all weekend. But there’s a big difference between the occasional ‘all-nighter’ or ‘bender’ and this being a lifestyle.
Club drug use is a global problem with almost two-thirds of users admitting to being dependent on these drugs. This means not only could they not envisage going out without any of these pick-me-ups, but they need larger and larger amounts to achieve the same high. Then there’s the comedown, which tends to last longer every time and comes with various unpleasant side effects such as depression and paranoia.
If someone you love is a hedonist – always out partying and relying on drugs to give them the energy to stay awake – they are likely to have an addiction. Whereas they might call you a party pooper and tell you they’re just having fun, they need help.
8. They’re in Debt
Drink and drugs cost money and if your loved one is going into debt, borrowing money or not keeping up with essential bills such as mortgages or rent in order to feed their addiction, they are heading for disaster.
If you have an addiction, you are no longer in control of the substance you’re abusing, it is in control of you. Spending money you don’t have on feeding this monster is an obvious sign that it is in charge.
Debt can lead to financial ruin for the person with the addiction and those around them. For some people, this pushes them further into their addiction and sometimes to suicide, as the future looks bleak and the addiction is still demanding money. The only way out of this is expert treatment.
9. They Have Obsessive Thoughts and Actions
If you have an addiction, getting hold of drugs becomes an all-consuming obsession – in the same way, you’d be desperately trying to get hold of water in a desert. You feel compelled to drink or take drugs – you feel you don’t have a choice any more.
If your loved one is constantly talking about how to get drugs, where to get drugs, putting themselves in dangerous situations to acquire drugs, and making getting high their number one priority, they have a problem. The same applies if it’s alcohol or prescription drugs.
They might not notice their obsession and need you to point it out. They might dismiss your concerns, but this is because they’re in denial. Part of the addiction treatment at Castle Craig is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT helps identify the thought processes that drive addiction and works on developing strategies to change or avoid these negative thoughts.
10. Their Sleep Is Disrupted
Drink and drugs disrupt sleep patterns, and disrupted sleep is one of the reasons people self-medicate with drink and drugs, be it a glass of wine to ‘relax’ before bed, or a Valium to make them drowsy. Disturbed sleep is also a common withdrawal symptom when trying to come off substances, and one of the triggers that encourages you to start using again.
If your loved one comes to bed late at night, struggles with insomnia then is tired during the day, it could be a sign that their substance use has destroyed their routine. After all, if you’re partying all weekend, it’s not easy for the body to fall back into a normal sleep pattern in the week. Alcoholism can destroy sleep patterns for years.
Poor sleep impacts health, work performance and happiness, and it’s a sure sign that addiction is taking its toll.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Risk Factors of Addiction?
The risks of addiction include a family history of addiction, mental health issues, peer pressure and starting at a young age.
What Are the Signs of Addiction?
Change in appearance and behaviour, denial and secrecy, debt and poor health.
What Is the Treatment for Addiction?
Detox, safe management of withdrawal symptoms and therapy.
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