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10 Signs of Addiction

Users go to great lengths to hide a substance abuse problem. Knowing the most common signs of an addict could be all it takes to save a loved one.

Do you know all the signs of an addict? Addiction can strike anyone at any time. It doesn’t discriminate. Most people assume it’s easy to recognize substance abuse, but users will do anything possible to keep it a secret. Many get away with it for a long time before loved ones notice.

Substance abuse is more widespread than people realize. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that 21 million Americans suffer from addiction. Of those, only around 11% actually seek professional help.  Worried that someone you care about might have a drug or alcohol problem?

Signs of an Addict – Drug Addiction and More

Here are the top warning signs of addiction:

1) Sudden Mood or Personality Changes

Mood swings aren’t uncommon. Most people deal with them at some point. A bad day at work or hormone fluctuations may be to blame for a fleeting change in mood. But when these changes begin to affect a person’s personality or become long-lasting, something else may be the culprit.

Addicts often struggle with emotional health and well-being. Many illegal substances alter chemical balances in the brain, which control how a person thinks and feels. As a result, users may struggle with uncontrollable mood swings. Changes in their personality may also become apparent. For example, a typically happy person may lash out for no reason. Addicts may also become snarky or defensive as a way to hide their problems.

2) Unexplained Anxiety or Depression

Anxiety and depression are perhaps the two most well-known mental health issues, and they often present together. The World Health Organization reports that 280 million people globally have depression. Genetics, adverse life events, and trauma are common causes. However, these disorders may also point towards addiction.

Many addicts start using drugs or alcohol as a way to deal with depression. They may begin to self-medicate as a coping mechanism. While they may get temporary relief, it’s short-lived. The results only last until the high fades. The effects of drugs also get weaker as the user’s body grows more accustomed to the substance. Addicts then use more and more to help mask their depression.

Sometimes, depression or anxiety develops as a result of addiction. Certain drugs reduce the amount of serotonin in the brain. This hormone is a mood stabilizer—it helps people feel relaxed and happy, but low levels may lead to anxious or depressed feelings. Sudden depression or anxiety without an explainable cause is a substance abuse red flag.

3) Changes in Physical Appearance

Although not everyone can be a supermodel, most people still take pride in how they look. They shower regularly, comb their hair, and put on clean clothes. It doesn’t take much effort to look presentable unless you’re an addict. Poor grooming habits are typical. Users are more worried about scoring their next fix than looking nice. They may forego showering for days and wear the same outfit over and over. Body odor may also become more noticeable and pungent.

Some illegal substances even cause physical changes. For example, methamphetamine users often pick at their skin, leaving behind large open wounds. Flushed, red cheeks and bloating are both symptoms of alcoholism. Bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, and sudden weight fluctuations are also prevalent in addicts. Sobriety is the only way to reverse the physical signs of drug use.

4) Isolation or Withdrawing from Normal Socialization

Has a social butterfly suddenly become a reclusive hermit? Withdrawing from regular socialization goes hand-in-hand with addiction. Those who were once extroverted might opt to stay at home instead of attending a gathering. Sure, sometimes people just want time alone. But addicts choose isolation more often than socialization.

Why is that? Users tend to disconnect from others. Addiction makes people feel ashamed, and they don’t want friends or loved ones to see their problems. Others withdraw to avoid conflict. They don’t want to answer tough questions or get into an augment over their life choices. However, shutting out everyone could send the user into a downward spiral of substance abuse.

5) New Circle of Friends

Everyone needs friends, but addicts tend to gravitate towards the wrong crowd. Users seek out other users who can help them get their next fix. It’s a relationship of convenience and not one built on love or trust. And many addicts drop or abandon their old friends in the process.

How can you tell if these new friends are a bad influence? Addicts may be hesitant to introduce their mates to others. For instance, they’ll avoid bringing their new companions home and only hang out at undisclosed locations. These so-called friends may also justify an addict’s bad behavior or discourage sobriety. If a loved one begins to hang out with an unfamiliar, secretive circle of friends, they may have an addiction problem.

6) Dangerous, Bizarre, or Erratic Behavior

A sudden increase in erratic behavior is a prime sign of addiction. Everyone makes bad choices from time to time, but users act out more than sober individuals. They may begin to engage in dangerous actives, such as unprotected sex or online exhibitionism. Some start to experiment with harder street drugs in hopes of finding the “perfect” high. And a high percentage of users make impulsive decisions without weighing the pros and cons first.

Illicit substances often cause people to think irrationally. Damage to the prefrontal cortex of the brain inhibits self-control and impulse control. Stimulant-induced psychosis is another reason for bizarre behavior. Addicts may hallucinate or even talk to imaginary beings. Since these are also signs of other mental disturbances, like schizophrenia, medical help is crucial.

7) Relationship Issues Related to Substance

Relationships come and go. Everyone experiences a breakup at least once, and losing a few friends is normal. But those dealing with addiction tend to have more relationship problems than others. There is a greater likelihood of divorce. And if the couple does stay together, it could enable the user even more.

Substance abuse puts a considerable strain on romantic relationships. Some would even argue that an addict’s partner pays the highest price for their addiction. Users are often secretive and try to distance themselves. They may even lie to their partner to avoid conflict. But without trust, a relationship won’t last. Anger and rage may also increase. A simple argument could turn into a yelling and fighting match. Domestic violence incidents are more common if one partner is an addict.

8) Changes in Daily Routines and Schedules

Humans are creatures of habit and thrive on routines. That’s why most people follow a similar schedule each day. They wake up at the same time every morning, attend work or school, engage in a hobby, and go to sleep. It’s a cycle that repeats with very few alternations. An abrupt change in a person’s daily routine, however, may indicate some type of addiction.

Sure, changing up a routine isn’t always a bad thing. But users don’t make wise decisions. For instance, they may sleep too much or not at all. Some drugs, like marijuana, cause drowsiness. An addict may want to spend more time in bed and skip work as a result.

Conversely, uppers may cause insomnia or sleep deprivation. Cocaine and meth users often stay awake for several days at a time. Over time, lack of sleep can cause other health problems, including high blood pressure, tachycardia, heart attack, or stroke.

9) Dangerous, Bizarre, or Erratic Behavior

Legal issues are costly and can affect a person for the rest of their life. However, addicts don’t think about the consequences of their actions until it’s too late. There are many reasons a user may get into legal trouble. Some get arrested for possession or intent to sell. Others may end up with a DUI. Robbery, burglary, domestic violence, and assault are other common drug-related crimes.

What should you do if a user is in hot water with the law? While it may sound harsh, let them serve time for their actions. Bailing out an addict doesn’t teach them any lessons, and there’s a good chance they’ll make the same mistakes again. Making a loved one sit in jail is a difficult decision, but it may help put them on the road to recovery. Besides, incarceration will force them to get sober—even if just for a short time. They may be more open to treatment after getting out.

10) Financial Problems or Stealing from Loved Ones

Apostle Paul once said that money is the root of all evil. In an addict’s life, this statement is one-hundred percent the truth. Users need a constant flow of cash to fund their habits. Drugs and alcohol are expensive. Even those dealing with a sex or porn addiction need money for their next fix. They may max out their credit cards, fall behind on bills, or write a hot check. It’s not uncommon for addicts to get evicted from their homes or have a vehicle repossessed because of their financial problems.

Addicts don’t have the same moral compass as sober people. Unfortunately, many addicts go to illegal measures, such as theft, to obtain a few more dollars. They will even steal from friends or family without so much as a second thought. Is someone always asking you for money without telling you why they need it? They may be hiding an addiction. While it may tempt you to give them cash, bailing out an addict only encourages their behavior.

Compassionate and Confidential Treatment for Addicts

The reasons why people get addicted to drugs can vary.  No one tries drugs or alcohol thinking they’ll become addicted. But all it takes is a single hit of an illicit substance or one too many prescription pills to land someone on the wrong track. Addiction ruins lives every day. When the disorder strikes close to home, loved ones often don’t know how to handle it.

If you’re a parent, be sure to read everything a parent should know about teen substance abuse.

Those struggling with substance abuse may be reluctant to seek help. Some users assume they’ll get in trouble for admitting their problem. Others worry a professional will judge their choices. That’s why it’s essential to find a safe, caring place with a reputation for helping addicts understand their illness and beat their vices.

New Life 360° understands the challenges addicts face. Our compassionate counselors use a holistic approach to help addicts reclaim their lives. We treat a variety of mental health issues, ranging from addiction to depression, and everything you tell us remains confidential.

During your first meeting, we’ll develop a personalized treatment plan. Our services include one-on-one counseling, group sessions, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Together, we can help either you or a loved one overcome addiction.

Recognize these signs of an addict in yourself or someone you care about? Schedule a consultation and take the first step towards recovery.