Addiction is a chronic disease that affects many Americans. It’s different for everyone, but the one thing all addicts have in common is that they are powerless over their addiction. If you have a family member struggling with addiction, or an addicted loved one, learning the signs of active use is an important tool to have.
What Does it Mean to be Addicted?
Typically addiction is classified as a condition where someone uses drugs or alcohol habitually, and can’t stop even though they are experiencing negative side effects. A person suffering from an alcohol, or substance use disorder is completely powerless over their desire to use. They put everything on the back burner and put their addiction as the top priority.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
There are many symptoms and signs your loved one is on drugs or suffering from an addiction. Trying to determine if someone is suffering from a substance or alcohol use disorder can be challenging. It’s nerve-wracking trying to decide what is addiction, and what is just recreational use. There are a few sure-fire ways of recognizing the signs of addiction, though.
Behavioral Signs and Symptoms
Behavioral changes usually occur before any physical changes. So paying attention to the attitude and daily life of someone you suspect may be addicted can help notice these changes.
A few addictive behaviors you could look for are:
- A loss of interest
- Reclusive behavior
- Missing work or other commitments
- Unexplainable financial issues
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Wearing longer sleeves or gloves to cover needle marks on their veins
Physical Signs and Symptoms
Physical changes are what happened next. It can be drastic such as an enormous weight loss, or it can be subtle like darker circles around the eyes. Some other physical signs of addiction could be:
- Voice changes
- Scarring from needles
- Deep scratches on body or face
- Sunken eyes or cheeks
- Pale complexion
- Bloodshot eyes
- Bloody noses
Noticing a few of these changes should be a concern, and brought up carefully as to show support, not accusation.
What is the Addiction Cycle?
The normal addiction cycle includes binging/intoxication, negative effects/withdrawal, preoccupation/anticipation, and repeat. This isn’t to say it is impossible to get out of the cycle, it is just vicious and difficult to get out of once someone is in it.
Binging/Intoxication Stage: reward, incentive attraction, and pathological habits
During this stage, a person experiences the gratifying effects of a substance, such as peace, less stress or anxiety, and a jovial feeling. Habitual activation of the basal ganglia’s reward system reinforces substance use. This makes the person want to continue their use. This part of the brain controls motivation and the forming of habits.
Habitual use can also change the way a person processes stimuli from drinking alcohol or using drugs. This is when triggers can form, such as people, places, and things that remind them of using. After a while, these triggers can make it hard to control their urge to use.
Negative Effects/Withdrawal Stage: reward deficits and stress increase
When someone stops using a substance they became a habitual user of, they experience the opposite of what the substance made them experience during active use. These symptoms are physical, as well as emotional.
The negative feelings from withdrawal are thought to come from two sources. First, a reward deficit happens. It’s when the brain doesn’t process pleasure the same way which makes it difficult for everyday life to feel fulfilling. Second, stress increases. This makes anxiety and irritability higher. At this stage, a person doesn’t use substances for pleasurable effects, but rather to keep the negative effects at bay.
Preoccupation/Anticipation Stage: craving, impulsivity, and executive function
This is the stage where someone would use a drug or alcohol again after a period of abstinence. This is often when obsession kicks in. Becoming preoccupied with finding the drug or alcohol, and looking forward to the next time they can consume it.
The part of the brain that is responsible for executive functions like the ability to organize thoughts and activities, manage time, or prioritize tasks is compromised in people experiencing addiction. During this stage, the person suffering from a use disorder will experience a lack in these areas.
Because this is a cycle, it gets repeated until the person suffering from a use disorder decides they need help, get the help they need, and follow a path of recovery. This can be done in many ways, but the help of loved ones is necessary for success.
What Can Be Done to Help an Addict?
If you notice that a loved one is suffering from an addiction, the natural reaction is to want to help them. There are several things you can do to help, but it should be done with love, and kindness, instead of accusations and anger.
You could stage an intervention to show the addict they are loved, and their loved ones have noticed they need help. Keeping the addict’s mental health in mind is also important. Damaging their self-worth in the process of an intervention is a risk, but it can be mitigated if it is planned carefully, and done in a neutral location.
Gentle nudging to admit there is a problem
Addiction affects the family, and loved ones so, gently reminding someone that you are there for them, and can help them when they are ready is a start to healing. Step 1 (admitting they are powerless over their addiction) is the very first part of receiving the help they need.
Contact Agape Detox to ask questions you may have
Contacting a facility can be a great way to get your questions answered. They have highly trained admissions counselors that can help you plan what to say to your loved one, and how to get them to treatment.
Addiction Treatment Options
There are many treatment programs at Agape Detox Center in Port St. Lucie, FL. They provide medical detox, dual diagnosis options, and holistic treatment. Everyone’s road to recovery is different so creating an individualized plan is paramount for success.