Some Do, Most Don’t
Most people will experiment with drugs at one time or another. Most don’t become addicted.
Curiosity, to have a good time, because peers are doing it, a way to reduce stress or anxiety or to help cope with emotional or psychological issues can be some of the reasons why people do it.
Use doesn’t automatically lead to abuse. The reasons for addiction can be complicated. Everyone’s brain and body are different. While there can be many factors in one’s history and background that make addiction more likely, there are no guarantees. Addiction can affect people of all ages, intelligence levels, and environments – or not.
What Are the Factors that Puts a Person at Risk for Addiction?
- A family history of addiction; children of drug abusers
- Trauma, including abuse, neglect, troubles in the home, PTSD, or other experiences
- Mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder
- Early use of drugs
- Using drugs in a way that can increase their addictiveness such as smoking or injecting
- People with higher IQs, especially women
- Those with a higher sensitivity to the effects of alcohol and other drugs
The line between “regular” use and drug abuse and addiction can be a fine one. It can be rare for an addict to realize they have crossed that line. Frequency or amount of drugs used are not exactly clear indicators of an addiction, but they can often be signs that there is a problem.
Drug abuse can begin simply as a way to socially connect or as a mechanism for coping or dealing with an emotional problem. In the process, addiction can sneak up on you. Eventually, the abuse can grow to consume your life and reinforce feelings of social isolation – often the reason you began using in the first place.
What Drug Abuse Isn’t
Overcoming addiction is not simply a matter of willpower. It is a compulsion of the brain, a biological change in the way the brain functions. It is not just a matter of wanting to stop that makes the addict end their addiction. These brain changes don’t have to be permanent. They can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.
Addicts don’t have to hit rock bottom before they get better. In fact, the longer the drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes. This, in turn, can make it more work to treat. Relapse can also often be a part of the recovery process. But relapse does not necessarily mean failure. It can be a signal to go back to treatment or for adjusting the treatment approach.
How to Spot an Addict: The Signs and Symptoms
- A neglecting of responsibilities: As a result of drug use, school, work, or home life will suffer.
- Drugs are used in high-risk conditions: Driving while high, using dirty needs, having unprotected sex, or other dangerous behaviors.
- Drugs use leads to legal troubles: Problems for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support their habit may happen.
- Substance abuse causes problems in relationships: This can include problems with partners, spouses, bosses, and friends.
- The user builds up a tolerance: They will need to use more and more of the drug to experience the same effects.
- Drugs are used to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms: Without frequent use of the drugs, withdrawal symptoms like nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety can occur.
- Drugs use is out of control: Drugs are used more often, even when the user told themselves that they wouldn’t. They can feel powerless to stop.
- Drug use becomes central to their lives: Much time is spent using and thinking about using drugs, planning on how to get them, and then recovering from their effects.
- The user no longer engages in activities they used to find enjoyable: Activities like hobbies, sports, and even socializing can change or stop due to drug use.
- At the risk of health consequences, drug use continues: Even as they experience things like blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, and paranoia, the drug use continues.
Physical and Behavioral Signs
- Eyes are bloodshot; pupils are larger or smaller than usual
- Appetite or sleep patterns change
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain occurs
- Concern over physical appearance and grooming habits diminishes
- Changes in the way the breath, body, or clothing smells
- Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination can occur
- Getting into trouble frequently
- Changes in friends or places to hangout
- Unexplained financial problems
- Personality or attitude changes
- Manic periods of hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
- Lack of motivation and lethargy, a “spaced out” appearance
- Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid without reason
- Missing money or valuables – yours or theirs
- Demanding more privacy – locking doors, avoiding eye contact, or sneaking around
What Can a Loved One Do?
If you sense there is a problem, speak up. Talk to the person about your concerns. Most importantly, offer your help and support without being judgmental. Your objective is to help your loved one into treatment, the earlier the better. Don’t wait for the problem to get worse.
Remember: Don’t allow your loved one’s condition interfere with your own needs – take care of yourself. Make sure you maintain a support group or people you can lean on if you need them. Don’t compromise yourself by putting yourself into dangerous situations.
And don’t blame yourself for your loved one’s addiction.
What You Shouldn’t Do
- Threats of punishment, preaching, bribes, and preaching often only drives the addict away.
- Making yourself into a martyr or ratcheting up the guilt on the user don’t help either.
- Taking over their responsibilities, covering up their mistakes, or shielding them from the negative consequences of their behavior only enables and exacerbates the problem.
- Hide or throw out their drugs: This will only make them work harder to hide their problem from you and make it more difficult for you to help them.
- Argue with them when they are high: They lie, they manipulate, they will tell you they don’t have a problem – or at least one that isn’t in their control. Or they will blame you or someone else. Too often it can get ugly.
- Feel guilt or responsibility for their behavior.
- This may be obvious, but: Don’t use drugs with them.
How Parents Can Help
You can begin by laying down rules and consequences. Stand up and stand behind what you say: Don’t make hollow threats or set rules you can’t or won’t enforce. Make yourself a united front with both parents being involved. Follow through and monitor their behavior: Know where they go and who they are with.
Check them for drugs even if this means routinely checking potential hiding places for drugs – backpacks, drawers, under beds, between books on a shelf, in DVD cases or make-up cases. You will need to explain to your child that a loss of their privilege for privacy came as a consequence of their use of drugs.
And talk: Discuss with them about possible underlying issues – this can be a challenge but it will pay dividends. Are they having trouble fitting in? Are there issues at school or with friends? Has there been a recent life change like a move or a divorce? If so, counseling can be valuable resource. As teenagers will often rebel or be uncommunicative with their parents, another figure of authority, like a counselor or psychologist, can often make them more inclined to listen and to share. Even a sports coach, family doctor, or other relative can be of help.
Remember this: Whether a friend, parent, spouse, or other loved one, you are a vital resource.
You can make a difference.
If you or a loved one feels a need to overcome an addiction, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout Southern California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.