Warning Signs of Drug Abuse
It is no secret that drug abuse is a widespread problem in the United States. Maintaining awareness of the warning signs of drug abuse is important. No one knows for sure exactly how many people use illicit drugs each year. However, some studies have estimated that nearly 1 in 10 Americans have misused drugs at some point. Early detection and treatment of substance use disorder (SUD) can mean a faster recovery. Sadly, most people living with SUD will not get the help they need. Loved ones of patients can be a positive influence in patients seeking help. However, sometimes it is hard to know when someone is actively using. The warning signs for drug abuse can be broken down into 5 main categories. They are:
- Physical changes
- Altered mental state
- Lifestyle issues
- Relational strain
- Behavioral problems
Addiction and Signs of Drug Use
When a person uses a substance for the first time, the brain is stimulated to send out pleasure/reward signals. This is the “rush” or “high” users refer to. Over time, however, the substance begins to hijack the brain. Instead of sending reward signals for use, the brain begins to send distress signals for lack of use. These signals are known as withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can vary based on the substance, but typically include:
- Severe headaches
Potential Signs of Drug Abuse
As patients develop SUD, they may begin to show unusual physical symptoms. These are some of the easiest signs of drug abuse to notice. Depending on the substance, you may notice bloodshot eyes, irregular sleep patterns, or changes in appetite. Signs of meth use can include dental problems and weight loss. For patients with opioid addiction, you may notice slowed overall motor functions or drowsiness. If you notice loved ones displaying these physical symptoms, you should not automatically assume they are drug-related. It is best to consider these symptoms along with the other categories we will explore. You should know there are effective treatments for opioid addiction along with all other types of drug dependence.
Altered Mental State
Drug addiction interferes with the neuropathways of the human brain, essentially rewiring the brain’s “circuits.” Because addiction is primarily a brain disease, patients will often show noticeable changes in their mental clarity. Becoming more forgetful or “zoned out” can be a sign of drug use. Stimulants like meth can cause severe mood swings or an agitated state. Opioids such as heroin can cause euphoria when being used, or severe anxiety if the patient is not using. Be particularly aware if any of these patterns develop in someone without a history of these mental states.
Simply put, SUD can cause a patient’s life to fall apart. As dependence develops, patients can begin to revolve their life around using or getting more substances. Patients often begin to see work performance slip, or may even lose their job. Often, patients with SUD experience financial distress. Bills may go unpaid or credit cards may be suddenly maxed out. Family and friends may get requests for financial assistance for odd-sounding reasons. Patients also tend to lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed. Have you noticed your loved one forgoing hobbies or routine events for no apparent reason? These could be signs of a more serious problem.
It may come as no surprise that patients with SUD often experience severe relational strain. They may begin to treat family and loved ones disrespectfully or show less interest in others. Sadly, some patients with SUD resort to stealing or manipulation to continue using. Sometimes, loved ones of the patient may develop codependent behavior. In other cases, the family may cease contact or force out a patient who lives in the same house. That is why treatment programs like ours offer family therapy as part of a comprehensive treatment program. Our trained therapists can help your family process and heal while your loved one is in treatment.
SUD can cause patients to engage in ill-advised or risky behavior. These behavioral changes may not necessarily be dramatic at first. You may notice your loved one spending time in unusual places or staying out unusually late on a work night. Impaired driving is sadly common with SUD patients. More extreme forms of this behavior could be illegal or violent acts. If you have reason to fear for your or your loved one’s imminent safety, please call 911. Involving authorities is a last resort. However, such intervention can sometimes be the “rock bottom” that leads a patient to seek help. If your loved one is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please have them contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.
There is Hope, We Can Help
If you or a loved one is showing signs of drug abuse, please contact Harmony Healing Center today. You can reach us through our website or by phone at (848) 253-6065. At Harmony Healing Center, we understand that addiction is a medical condition, not a moral failure. Our team of experts provides compassionate treatment, free of guilt or judgement.