Ask any horse racing fan to list their favorite horses and they can probably rattle off half a dozen before catching a breath. Ask that same fan to list people in the game dealing with substance abuse issues and the names would undoubtedly come just as quickly.
So, with September designated “National Recovery Month” by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), I reached out to Ryan Jackson of Landmark Recovery of Louisville, Kentucky, to help people identify the signs of addiction in the ones they love and to suggest ways to help them.
Does Someone You Love Have an Addiction?
By Ryan Jackson
Substance addiction is a critical condition that’s often looked down upon. The common belief is that addiction is a choice and not a disease. The truth is: addiction is a disease and it ruins people, families and relationships.
The worst part is there’s no control.
How do I know if my loved one is addicted to a substance? Many people ask themselves this question, so please don’t feel alone. Addiction is like a dark spirit possessing the body — it may seem like one is in control, but they’re not.
Depending on the rate of drug use and seriousness of the drug, the damage truly tells how significant these signs may be.
You’ll face deception firsthand, even when you know the truth. Despite the lies and failed attempts, knowing the signs can save their life.
Dual Diagnosis describes this as a psychiatric disorder that, according to the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), afflicts 10 percent of Americans and often leads to substance abuse.
Addiction occurs as a chemical imbalance. It’s generally caused by a brain trauma or a traumatic event which happened in someone’s life. In addition to depression, you may experience your loved one not being their original self.
Some signs of common depression are:
- Weight loss or gain.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Trouble making decisions or communicating.
Addicts tend to not care what they look like and this can be for many reasons. Some suggest it’s because an addict can’t look themselves in the mirror, others say the substance has a hold on them and they prefer to spend their time and money on getting more of the substance than their appearance.
It ranges from not caring about their clothes to being poorly groomed. Depending on the power of the substance, this lack of caring can be mild or extreme.
Problems at Work
Addicts tend to not care about their work environment or job assignments. Frequently missing shifts at work is a very common sign of addiction and you’ll notice a significant decline in performance.
Drug and alcohol users will do anything they can to not partake in social settings. Besides problems at work, you’ll notice tardiness and not showing up to events. They tend to not have structure or any plan in their current state of mind.
Pay attention to their levels of interest in things, because oftentimes they will not show much interest in participating in things they used to love doing.
Less Attention to Basic Needs
Related to the above, addicts tend to pay less attention to basic needs. Things that used to matter to them — relationships, hobbies, etc.—no longer hold their interest.
When the addiction takes over they stop doing things that they like. They don’t have the willpower nor do they derive pleasure in participating in things they once enjoyed.
The most important basic necessity in life is relationships. When your loved one neglects relationships, you should see a bright red flag go up.
As you might assume, financial problem often arise. It’s important to remember addiction is not a choice, it’s a disease. Abusers will spend all their money on the drug of their choice. It’s not their decision. The chemical imbalance urges them to run off the substance like it’s gasoline in a car.
If you notice money spent here or there in odd amounts it’s time to ask some questions in a non-confrontational fashion. Addicts will spend whatever money they can to get their poison… which leads to the next sign.
Other Behavioral Issues
As they become more attached to the substance, the behavior and habits of the addict tend to change. The brain focuses on the impulsive thoughts of constantly craving the substance, so try to notice the changing behavioral patterns.
These may include:
- Loss of appetite.
- Increased agitation.
- Social changes.
The obsession with drugs and alcohol grasp the person’s life and makes them behave in a certain way.
Weird sleep patterns contribute to how addiction takes over someone’s life. The drug makes them feel sick, nauseous and lethargic after taking the substance. Depending on the type, it may give them energy to stay up later at night and sleep during the day. Pay attention to the bags underneath their eyes.
Too little or too much sleep is a core factor in detecting the signs of addiction.
How Can You Help?
Make a list of all the things you love and know about this person. Traits, hobbies and interests you once fell in love with them for, or noticed them falling in love with. Take notes and journal entries of how their behavior is changing.
Consider calling an intervention specialist. Many rehab facilities offer interventions by professionals who do it on a daily basis and will know how to get the best results.
Most importantly, do your research on facilities that can help. Look into the benefits of inpatient drug rehab and other types of programs which give you the ability to help the substance abuser.
By noticing these signs of addiction, you may be able to save your loved one’s life.