An estimated 22 million Americans struggle with various abuse of substances. Drug abuse and alcohol addiction is not a topic to be taken lightly. As with any substance abuse, it can be hard to watch a loved one go down a dark path. If you suspect that your family member or loved one is abusing substances, watch out for these 10 signs or symptoms of substance abuse that may clue you in. Early treatment is key to a successful recovery. Feinberg Consulting offers intervention services to help your loved one through this difficult time.
10 Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse
You’ve noticed in a family member or friend:
1: Neglecting responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting children).
2: Drug or alcohol use is having legal ramifications, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support a drug or alcohol habit.
3: Drug or alcohol use is causing problems in relationships, such as fights with partners or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of old friends.
4: Abandoning activities that used to be enjoyed, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing.
5: Increased agitation or irritability when engaging in common social interactions.
You’ve noticed in yourself:
6: Needing to use more of a drug or alcohol to experience the same effects that used to be attained with smaller amounts.
7: Using drugs or alcohol under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high, such as driving while under the influence, using dirty needles, or having unprotected sex.
8: If gone too long without drugs or alcohol, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
9: You often use drugs or alcohol beyond the limit you had planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.
10: Drug or alcohol use is causing major problems in your life—blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you use anyway.
5 Myths about Substance Abuse and Alcohol Addiction
MYTH 1: Overcoming addiction is simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using drugs or alcohol if you really want to. Prolonged exposure to drugs or alcohol alters the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer force of will.
MYTH 2: Addiction is a disease; there’s nothing you can do about it. Most experts agree that addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn’t mean you’re a helpless victim. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.
MYTH 3: Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better. Addiction recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process—and the earlier, the better. The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes, and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait to intervene until the addict has lost it all.
MYTH 4: You can’t force someone into treatment; they have to want help. Treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to be successful. People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who choose to enter treatment on their own. As they sober up and their thinking clears, many formerly resistant addicts decide they want to change.
MYTH 5: Treatment didn’t work before, so there’s no point trying again. Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is a long process that often involves setbacks. Relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed or that you’re a lost cause. Rather, it’s a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach.