There may come a time in the lives of many family members where they suspect a loved one of drug addiction. These fears could be unfounded due to miscommunication or the misreading of a situation. This could prove to be the case if family members are less able to keep their habits under control.
Either way, it is important that drug addiction is recognized correctly. This type of help from a secondary source is always helpful to drug users that struggle to help themselves. It can be difficult to take action if users can’t identify the problem within themselves.
Ideally, we need drug users to be able to ask a simple question with confidence and no fear of judgment. That question is – am I addicted to drugs.
The Difference between Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction
Users can only answer this question with confidence if they truly understand the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction.
There are different levels of drug use, which slide into each other with time and a lack of control. Controlled use of recreational drugs and prescriptions is a good starting point.
A pain prescription or a little marijuana with friends on the weekend seems pretty normal. Over time, this can expand into more frequent use that has an impact on other aspects of life as users try and maintain a high. Without awareness and control, this can lead to dependency.
Users and family members need to understand the difference between abuse and addiction, the physical, mental and behavioral signs, and the next step to take.
(Source: Biological Sciences Curriculum Study)
The best place to start is to look deeper at this divide between abuse and dependency. Drug abuse leads to a misuse of drugs beyond their purpose. This is where the pain prescription and weekend hit isn’t quite enough anymore.
Users see the beginning of a loss of self-control over the need for the drug, but not complete dependency. There will be some small signs of this problem with a performance at work, social problems and general attitudes. The difference largely stems from the choices that users make. How many of these actions are truly voluntary? Is there a conscious decision to choose another type of drug, a higher dosage or to skip work?
Addiction develops when the drug and dependency take over, and this is no longer voluntary. Rational choices fade as users feel compelled to give into a need for drugs on a more regular basis.
Why is it so important to tell the difference and seek help?
Drug abuse has its negative implications for mental and physical health. But, it also affects relationships, work, and studies along the way. There is the start of a spiral into difficult circumstances if users cannot break the habit. Those that can break away early have a better chance of rescuing their life as they knew it. Support and acceptance lead to compassion and second chances. Support sessions and treatment are manageable here when a dependency is yet to take hold.
It is harder to break free from the cycle when it is so self-consuming. The breakdown in relationships and employment also lead to bigger issues with the financial and social support to get clean. Of course, there is always the risk of death and overdose with addiction and misuse of drugs.
One example is the obvious risk of overdosing on a dangerous substance. This becomes likely in desperate situations where users are unable to get their normal fix. Some will cut the drugs with other chemicals and take more significant risks. They may also not be able to afford the “good stuff,” so go for cheaper gear from an unknown origin. The chemicals in this substance can easily kill the most tolerant user. Death can also come in a slower form from the health implications of addition.
The Signs and Implications of Drug Addiction
It helps if drug addicts can identify the problem within themselves, rather than hear that they have one. This makes it easier to seek help and plan a solution. There are changes to behavior, mental state, and physical health to watch out for.
Psychological Changes to Behavior and Mindset
The main aim with these drugs is to get high. But, many users soon find negative consequences like depression and paranoia. The comedown also lengthens, with a stronger desire to find a better, longer high. Eventually, this desire becomes overwhelming. This is when the drugs take hold and that sense of control waivers. These cravings take priority over other issues, like work, relationships, hobbies, and health. Many soon lose track of what they take and how much. Here addiction is in full effect. This is no longer a manageable form of drug abuse.
Then there are the physical changes to watch out for.
As the body struggles to maintain an acceptable high and craves more drugs, it becomes tolerant to the drugs. This is a problem it forces users to turn to stronger, more damaging drugs for a better hit. That short-term high comes with major health risks, but then there is the issue of the withdrawal. Withdrawal leads to further mental health issues, like anxiety and insomnia, but also physical ones, like restlessness, nausea, shaking and sweating.
Other warning signs to be aware of when abuse of drugs turns to drug addiction
Then users must consider their actions around drugs. Many perform actions that are more and more reckless to get what they want. The issue of an unsatisfactory high and tolerance leads to need to alter the drugs. Those that cut drugs with other chemicals or snort pills to speed up the process have a bigger problem. Then there are those that commit further crimes to pay for their fix. This includes stealing money to buy the drugs, forging signatures for pain prescriptions, or simply stealing the drugs themselves.
Problem Drug Use
Even if users say no to the question of their current level of addiction, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t problems here to overcome.
Problem drug use is the first step to bigger issues and users must manage it carefully. This is essentially the use of any illegal substance that poses a danger to health or well-being. For example, heroin use may be occasional and controlled in the mind of the user, but one hit from bad sources could be fatal.
A path into the world of drug users and could lead to illegal activity with possession and dealing. There are many social and financial implications here, with the cost of the drugs, the illegality of certain substances and employment issues that come with regular use.
Drug users can’t ignore the use of drugs testing for recreational drugs by many US employers. Those deemed unfit to work in the company will lose their job, which could be a catalyst on a spiral into drug abuse and then addiction. There may not be clear signs of addiction now in those with controlled, minor drug use, but it could be on the horizon.
Other factors that can increase the risk of addiction in drug users
Some people can use a little marijuana or MDMA on the weekend and never feel the need to take things further. Others are at greater risk of developing addictions. Our genes and family history can play a vital role here.
Some people are simply born with that addictive personality to all kinds of things in life. Still, the impact of addiction often has more to do with nurture than nature. Social and economic environments are highly influential in drug addiction, with the worst cases occurring in the poorest, underfunded areas.
Upbringing has its role too, especially for those born to addicts or in abusive situations. In addition to this, addiction is also more likely in those that started young, and those that inject into their veins. Although many will say that they are in control and won’t become addicted, the odds may not be in their favor.
Recognizing the problem in others
There will be many times when drug users cannot see the signs of addiction in themselves. Some will be blind to the changes within themselves, and their behavior. Others just won’t be able to take that leap and admit to a problem. This is where it is important that families learn to look for signs of drug abuse and addiction in loved ones. The quicker they see these signs, the easier it may be to help.
Physical signs to look for in family members
The physical signs may be difficult to miss or misinterpret, depending on the situation. Some look for weight loss, sleep problems and a deterioration in physical appearance. This can also be down to stress and other social or economic factors aside from drug use. Clearer signals come from physical tremors and coordination issues, the slurring of their speech and problems with their eyes. Bloodshot eyes and irregularities in the pupils are common.
Psychological signs to watch out for
In addition to a change in physical appearance, the family member in question may exhibit more mood swings than normal. This could range from a moment of anger and general discomfort to times when they seem hyper or joyful. This could be a sign of a high or a comedown. Others may seem more anxious or paranoid than normal. The main thing to note here is whether this is explainable. Are they dealing with mental health issues and stress, or has this come from nowhere?
Other behavioral signs in family members
Then there are the other signals in their daily behavior and habits. The first noticeable change could be in their social scene, with calls and visits from new friends. This could potentially lead to an increase in secretive or even illegal behavior. Some will go as far as to steal from family to finance their next hit. Some families will also see a drop in their attendance at work or school.
How to help family members in these situations of drug use and drug addiction
It is all about recognizing the condition and its severity. Families cannot ignore the idea that this is a dangerous disease that is treatable with the right support, steps and willpower. This may means some tough love and interventions to get the family member to go. The family should talk to them and offer help without judgment, which means no form of emotional blackmail to encourage them.
Loved ones are also advised to maintain a safe distance, emotionally and physically, and to stay away from dealers and other problems. No family member should be an enabler. They should offer support with rehabs and treatment programs where possible.
Drug addiction is a vicious illness, but there is a way out for those that understand the situation.
It is important that everyone understands the truth about addiction and its consequences. This means all those going through drug abuse issues and those with family members taking drugs. It is one thing to spot the signs of trouble in someone, but it is another altogether for that individual to step up and admit a problem. This is where we come back to that crucial distinction between abuse and addiction. Both have their dangers when it comes to the physical and mental well-being of all involved.
Those abusing drugs make bad choices when it comes to family, money, health and the drugs they take. They are generally in control of those choices. At some point, a switch will flick into dependency. They will lose control and exhibit more of the symptoms seen above. They will face tolerance and psychological issues that could end in a death spiral without help.
The simple act of asking this question is a good start: Am I addicted to drugs?
This question allows for that moment of clarity and appreciation of a situation where users know something isn’t right anymore.
The following problem is that many will struggle to see their drug addiction for what it is, or refuse to get out of the cycle. It takes courage and strength and answer in the affirmative and take action. This act is so much easier with the support of family and professional help.
All those experiencing drug abuses or addiction – whether personally or second hand – are encouraged to look deeper at issue and seek help before it is too late.