Are you wondering whether someone in your life has a problem with drugs and alcohol? Watching someone you care about progress deeper into substance use is a painful process. Addiction is a powerful disease that steals people away from the loved ones who care about them. Thankfully, addiction is a treatable condition with professional help.
Not everyone who uses substances is addicted to them, though. But how can you tell where the line between recreational and problematic use lies? Learning more about addiction is the first step toward finding out the truth about your loved one. The more you know about addiction and addiction recovery, the better equipped you are to help when they ask for it.
What is Addiction?
Addiction, or substance use disorder, is a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug or alcohol use. The person loses control of their use over time and continues using despite any harm it causes or negative consequences that occur.
Most people don’t get addicted to drugs the first time they use them. Addiction usually starts with recreational drug use in social situations. In some circumstances, especially with opioids, addiction starts through prescription medications.
Some people notice they enjoy the effects of the substances they use and start chasing the high beyond the point of recreation or prescription. They begin needing more of the drug to feel the same effects as when they started using (this is called developing a tolerance). Eventually, they’re unable to go for long periods without using their drug of choice.
As their use progresses to this point, the consequences usually begin. Productivity at work or school declines, unexplained absences pile up, and they’re less interested in hobbies, activities, or socializing. They may start having problems with money or running into trouble with the law. But even as the consequences get worse, they continue to use drugs.
The time it takes for addiction to advance to this point varies depending on the types of drugs used. For example, heroin addiction develops much faster than marijuana addiction. They may try to stop at certain points but find they can’t stay clean and sober for very long. Once they reach this point, the problem has settled in and it’s time for them to get help.
Signs of Substance Addiction
If this sounds like your loved one, it may be time to start looking for the specific signs of substance addiction. Addiction is actually recognized by medical professionals as a legitimate condition called substance use disorder. According to experts, substance use disorder is a progressive condition characterized by use that gets worse over time.
Some of the signs that a person has a problem with their drug use include:
- Taking larger amounts of drugs or using drugs for a longer period than initially planned
- Struggling to control, cut back on, or quit using drugs despite multiple attempted efforts
- Spending excessive amounts of time trying to obtain drugs, use drugs, or recover from their effects
- Craving, meaning a strong, overwhelming desire or urge to use drugs
- Failing to fulfill responsibilities or obligations at work, school, or home as a result of drug use
- Continuing to use drugs despite the problems they cause or exacerbate with personal relationships
- Limiting or giving up on social or recreational activities that were once important to use drugs instead
- Ending up in risky or dangerous situations as a result of drug use, often repeatedly
- Developing or exacerbating physical or mental health conditions due to drug use but continuing to use anyway
- Forming a tolerance, meaning diminished effects when using the same amount, or needing to use more to achieve the desired effects
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using drugs, or using drugs to relieve or eliminate withdrawal symptoms
Experts separate substance use disorders into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. The severity of your loved one’s condition depends on how closely their behavior aligns with the signs above.
Quickly assess your loved one’s behavior and determine whether their use meets these criteria. How many symptoms do they show in their drug use? The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends seeking help for even mild cases of substance use disorder – is it time for your loved one to get help?
Getting Help and Finding Recovery
Thankfully, treatment for drug addiction and successful recovery is possible. With the right tools and support, your loved one can get sober and stay sober. Whether it’s their first time trying to stop using substances or they’ve been stuck in the relapse cycle for years, we can help.
The Emerge Center for Addiction Recovery’s unique recovery system provides your family and your loved one with a path to recovery that works. We work with your family to outline a Recovery Navigation plan that charts your course back to wellness.
Ready to learn more? Schedule an introductory call today and let us know how we can help.