We rarely see what we’re not looking for. And addiction can be the same for family members, loved ones, and even the addict themselves. But as with many afflictions, addiction has a set of patterns that begin to emerge as recreational use shifts to dependency. You may have noticed some odd changes in behavior, or a string of bad luck potentially tied to drug or alcohol use. You may not be being paranoid, in fact, you are more than likely seeing addiction manifest itself. If you are concerned that you or your loved one are addicted to drugs or alcohol, read the following warning signs and behaviors that may confirm your suspicions.
Hiding ones Drinking or Using
If you find yourself sneaking drinks, taking a sip of hard liquor when no one is looking, or even taking medication without wanting anyone to know, you might be having an addiction problem. One of the first signs of a problem is surreptitious using. Normally, this is done to avoid controversy, often from a partner or loved one. In this case, the user may hide their drug of choice in a secret location, or “sneak” a fix when no one is looking. If you find obviously hidden medications or alcohol, then you should be concerned that usage is already “out of control”.
Can’t “Stay Stopped”
If you’re wondering if you have an addiction problem, try to abstain for a month. People who do not have a dependency on drugs or alcohol can “stay stopped” for any amount of time. But those who have manifested an addiction cannot, despite every effort to “stay stopped”. This is not because they are “broken”, rather, the dependency phase has taken over. After using for a while, and building a tolerance, the body becomes adapted to having the user’s drug of choice in their system. Abstaining can trigger both physical and psychological withdrawals, which cannot be satisfied without another fix of their drug of choice, or a monitored detoxification protocol.
Lying may come easy to some as it is an easy way to avoid controversy. However, if you begin to notice patterns of dishonesty, mainly about where your loved one is going or has been, it’s probably a sign that something nefarious is happening. While this alone does not confirm that they are struggling with addiction, it’s often layered along with the other categories mentioned in this article. Lying is common in order to protect the whereabout of the individual, especially if they plan to hang out with a crowd known for drinking or using, or perhaps to hide that they were visiting a dealer.
If you notice that your loved one appears intoxicated or “high” when otherwise they would be expected to be sober, it’s a huge red flag that there is a problem. Some timeframes include the morning, mid-week, during work hours, when they’re alone or at a non-drinking function, for instance. Be aware of the signs of intoxication during these times as it is a sign that they are in the dependency phase, and may be using just to avoid the sickening feelings of withdrawal.
Arrests or Jail time
Drinking has become a very socially acceptable pastime. To that end, many people are also on medications to help with chronic pain, with trouble sleeping, anxiety and so on. At times, this can result in an arbitrary DUI, altercation or other singular event leading to arrest. While rare, this does happen, even to people who are not considered full-blown addicts. But that is the exception. Most often, if you or a loved one has a history of DUI, fights or arrests, it’s a telltale sign that your drinking or drug use is “out of control”. In addition, using illicit street drugs, like heroin or cocaine, is also a sign that there is an addiction problem. Being arrested for possession of a schedule 1 drug (without a prescription) is an indication of addiction and often precedes the need to consider formal addiction treatment.
If a disagreement, argument or stressful event leads you or a loved one to drink excessively or revert to medication, this is a sign of dependency. Drugs and alcohol are just a symptom of a larger underlying issue. Many people use drugs or alcohol to mask their feelings. Even if you don’t find yourself dependent on drugs or alcohol all the time, reaching for them in response to your emotional state is a sign that you would benefit from formal therapy rather than “self-medicating”.
Loss of Control
In the rooms of recovery, the first step states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable”. What that really means is, once we take our drug of choice (i.e. alcohol, medication, cocaine, heroin, etc.) that we lose all control and can no longer make clear decisions or stop ourselves from continuing to use. This happens for several reasons: either the drug takes over our body at the onset, like with heroin or opiates, or the drug progressively begins to control us through more and more uncontrollable use, like alcohol. If you or your loved one becomes “uncontrollable” after using, they likely are suffering from addiction.
Forgetting or “Blacking Out”
Most people have experienced a “blackout” after drinking. But if you or a loved one “blackout” on a regular basis, then it is an addiction problem. People who do not have an addiction have an “off” button. They may have blacked out before, but don’t allow it to happen on a regular basis. If you are blacking out every time you drink, or several times per month, then this is a sign of an addiction problem.
Drug and alcohol addiction usually manifest into introverted behavior. At some point, people cannot “use” in front of others who they used to hang out with. This may be because their using has become destructive or out of control. They may also have such a high tolerance that “partying” with friends or loved ones is not suitable to the level with which they want to use. In either case, noticing anti-social behaviors with increased usage is a sign that dependence is in a potentially destructive phase.
Missing Important Obligations
Many of us have experienced a hangover that prevents us from going into work. But missing many days of work due to “sickness” may be a sign that you or an employee is having addiction issues. Addiction often causes a lack of control, and can turn an after-work drink into a night of partying. Or perhaps a family member has missed important occasions, like birthday parties or get togethers. Addicts tend to want to show up, but often times they either feel guilty for showing up “high” or miss the gathering altogether as they have lost control of their ability to drive or remain coherent.
Lack of Care or Concern
People in active addiction rarely take a “day off”, and their usage tends to change their level of care for the things that they used to care about, like the health of their personal relationships, personal hygiene, goals, responsibilities and so on. This can be due to many factors, such as being actively high or intoxicated, being in a “blackout”, or being hungover. It’s rare that the addict can string several sober days together in order to begin to reclaim attention for the world around them. If you have noticed you or your loved one begin to lack concern or care for things that they once cherished, they may be suffering from addiction or depression.
Ignoring Risky Behavior
When addiction takes over the mind, the level of risk one is willing to take catapults. Mostly this is due to the fact that they need their “fix”. This can also be due to the fact that they are intoxicated and no longer care about normal consequences. You man notice this in the form of intoxicated driving, performing risky stunts or coping illegal drugs.
Sudden Changes In Mood
In the absence of a diagnosed mood disorder, sudden changes in mood can be a sign of addiction. Things like aggressive behavior, irritability, depression, apathy and suicidal thoughts may manifest from using drugs or cycling through the pattern of addiction. If you or your loved one are experiencing sudden mood changes, they deserve the insight of a team of clinicians to help diagnose their issues or possible addiction problem.
Change in Sleeping Patterns
Many of us have slept in after a long night out, but did you know that fatigue and sleeping during the day may be a sign of opiate abuse? Opiates suppress the central nervous system, depressing cardiac functioning. This is also what leads to overdose death in opiate users. Sleeping for 5-10 hours outside of normal sleep cycles may be a sign that someone is struggling with an opiate dependency.
Have you noticed that jewelry has gone missing? Or money has disappeared from your wallet? Another telltale sign of addiction is stealing. This happens most often for those addicted to street drugs or medications, simply because the cost is much greater. Especially for opiate and heroin addicts, stealing may be the only way they can get their fix, especially if family members have cut them off or if they have lost their job.
Other Signs to Watch For:
- Bloodshot or glazed eyes
- Constant illness
- Unexplained injuries
- Abrupt change in weight
- Bad skin, hair, teeth, and nails (especially when substance abuse involves illicit drugs like methamphetamines or cocaine)
- Increased tolerance to drugs
- Physical withdrawal symptoms like sweating, trembling, or vomiting
- Memory loss or problems with recall
- Change in speech like slurred words or rapid rambling
If you or a loved one are experiencing several of the symptoms listed above, you may be dealing with an addiction problem. Addiction overtakes not just the body but also the mind. Hundreds of thousands of people have overcome addiction through a formal recovery program, built upon medical recommendations and actionable lifestyle changes to promote a sober and sustainable way of life. To learn more about the recovery services we have at Lumiere Healing Centers of Ohio, please call us at 513-909-2225.