Addiction occurs when the need to use becomes greater than any negative consequences. It is the result of repeated consumption of a drug or substance. Researchers believe that repetition leads to a relapsing brain condition – a compulsion that festers into drug seeking behavior. These changes in the brain challenge a person’s self-control. Drug addiction goes beyond just trying something out to have fun or get high. It takes over and whether to use is no longer a matter of choice.
Addiction is not just about street drugs either. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that tobacco costs 193 billions dollars each year in healthcare expense, and misuse of alcohol around 235 billion dollars. Addiction has become a worldwide epidemic.
Signs of Addiction
Addiction is both psychological and physical. No two people are alike, but there are common symptoms that point to an abuse problem. The mental side of this disease is one of action and lack of control. A person may use to forget issues going on in their life, for instances. Taking a drink or a hit may be the only way to relax. Other key factors to watch for include:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Dropping out of activities such as sports or a school club
- Socially withdrawing at work or school – a vibrant person becomes a wallflower
- A new group of friends who like to party
- Finding different ways to buy drugs or alcohol
- Stealing or failing to pay bills
- Repeatedly quitting and then going back – a drinker that falls off the wagon several times, for example
- Enhanced anxiety or deep depression
- Sudden mood swings
Changes in personality as key indicators, but the body offers signs, as well. Physical symptoms of addiction include:
- Lack of sleep or oversleeping – any change in sleep habits
- Chronic illness – this may indicate withdrawal for someone trying to kick on his or her own
- Increasing quantity just to feel the effects – this person used to get drunk off one beer but now can drink a six-pack
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Change in hygiene
Any one thing on the list may be a sign, but meeting several of the criteria is a positive indicator that this person needs help.
Working Towards Recovery
The first step towards recovery is acceptance. That is not something family or friends can do for an addict. A person with an addiction must be willing to seek help. It is critical to show this person love and understanding but to know that the first step is not one you can take for them.
Overcoming a drug problem is challenging, and many of the people who make it there will relapse at some point in their lives. NIDA reports that of the 1.8 million admissions to treatment centers each year, 40 to 60 percent will go back to using. Addiction is a chronic illness like diabetes or hypertension. It takes management that continues throughout life.
A combination of medication therapy and psychiatric help puts the addict on the road to recovery. It is often the people around him that first recognize a problem exists, but prevention through education and training is the way to reduce this escalating problem.