Addiction is a progressive disease that often begins with the recreational use of drugs or alcohol in social settings. As time passes, the user will develop a higher tolerance to the addictive substance and the frequency and quantity of consumption will increase.
When someone is addicted to something, they are unable to control their use of that substance and will continue to consume it, even if it causes them harm. Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult for addicts to simply quit what they are addicted to as a substance dependency can cause overwhelming cravings, making it almost impossible to get clean without proper rehabilitation.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
It is important to differentiate between signs and symptoms of addictive behaviour. A symptom is something that the addict experiences personally, while a sign is something that can be observed by other people.
Though signs and symptoms can vary depending on the individual addict, what substance they are abusing, genetics factors and personal circumstances, there are still certain cues that you can look out for if you believe a loved one may be suffering from a substance abuse problem.
- Problems at work or at school, often caused by prolonged or frequent absence
- Missing important appointments or social engagements
- Being secretive about activities
- A loss of interest in activities and people that used to be important
- Deteriorating personal relationships such as marital problems
- Legal and financial problems
- Unusual sleep patterns
- A change in eating habits
- Conversations largely dominated by drug or alcohol related topics
- Hyperactivity or sluggishness, depending on the substance being abused
- Dilated pupils or red eyes
- A runny nose or excessive sniffing that cannot be attributed to a cold or sinus
- Weight loss
- An undernourished and pale appearance
- An inability to deal with stress
- Irritability and argumentativeness
- A high degree of defensiveness and anger
When confronted with their addiction, an addict will often respond in one or more of the following ways:
Rationalisation – offering justifications or explanations for their substance use
Minimisation or denial – admitting to the use of the substance but insisting that it is under control and denying the seriousness of the problem
Diversion – changing the subject to avoid discussing the issue
Blaming and aggression – placing the blame on someone else or becoming aggressive to divert blame
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. With the right treatment programme, rehabilitation from addiction is possible.