Addiction is defined as an inability to stop using a certain substance despite negative consequences.
It can take many forms like illicit drugs, alcohol, prescription medication, gambling or sex.
Addiction is easy to spot when a person becomes highly dysfunctional.
However, many individuals with addiction issues are “functioning,” in that they are able to nearly meet their work, home, and social responsibilities.
Not only is addiction difficult to spot in these individuals, but it is also very hard to convince them that they have an issue with alcohol or drugs.
They are likely to brush it off as a recreational habit. An early sign of addiction is when a significant part of the day is spent planning, finding the resources and obtaining their substance of choice.
Some changes that may point to addiction include:
Changes in Behavior and Mood
An individual suffering from addiction may experience frequent changes in mood or behavior.
They may become irritable when they crave the substance they are abusing. But, when they ingest their substance of choice, they will likely be happy and calm.
Increase in Risk Taking Behavior
Obtaining illicit drugs involves taking risks, which they are willing to take in order to satisfy a craving or mitigate withdrawal symptoms.
So you might notice a few fender benders, dents or other damage to their car. Sometimes, they may have to steal to feed their addiction so you may find things missing around the home.
Individuals with addiction issues tend to withdraw from their old friends, as they do not share interests anymore and are pre-occupied with obtaining substances to abuse. They may be pre-occupied in obtaining and using their substance of choice. With teenagers, one may also notice that their circle of friends has changed.
Changes in Sleep Patter
The abuse of drugs or alcohol disturbs the sleep/wake cycle and you may notice that individuals with addiction issues asleep at odd times of the day and awake at odd times in the night.
Loss of Interest in Pleasurable Activities
Substance abuse takes over their lives and they derive satisfaction from obtaining and abusing their substance of choice. Hobbies they previously enjoyed are not pleasurable anymore.
Hygiene takes a back seat and individuals suffering from addiction neglect to groom and take care of their appearance. They are often in need of a shower and their clothes could be unwashed, dirty or stained. They may also look haggard due to excessive weight loss.
Apart from not caring about their clothes, individuals with addiction issues may wear long-sleeved attire in the summer. They may be doing this to hide track marks in their arms or hide illicit substances in their clothes.
If you see quite a few of these signs in someone you love, it is better to have a direct conversation with the person highlighting your concerns. Often, individuals suffering from addiction do not perceive these changes in themselves and may delude themselves into thinking that no one can detect what is going on with them. Let them know you are always available to talk and help. Remember, denial is always the first defense for an individual suffering from addiction.
Dr. Cidambi is a leading expert in addiction treatment and runs an excellent treatment program at the Center for network Therapy. If you are concerned about a loved one, please reach out to us here.