Alcohol and drug abuse are prevalent across all demographics. It is not uncommon for addictions to develop out of casual use or experimentation with drugs or alcohol. It does not take long for the line between casual drinking or using to become blurry. For some drugs, one use or first-time experimentation can lead to dependency and addiction. Before long, using or drinking becomes a part of one’s daily life, and in many cases, it becomes the “most important” part of the day.
Drinking or substance abuse often starts as recreational or casual. Over time, an occasional social drinker starts to binge drink regularly. Or someone who occasionally uses prescription pain medication for pain control begins to take more than the prescribed dosage or progresses to harder drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine when they can no longer access their prescription medications. If this sounds familiar to you (or this progression into addiction has occurred for someone you love), it may be time to reassess your dependency and your use.
It is not easy to recognize whether you or someone you know is experiencing problems with substance abuse. It is essential to learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction. Knowing what to look for can help you determine if it is time to reach out for support or help someone else seek the help they need. It is also valuable to assess how substance abuse can negatively impact your mental and physical health.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) data, nearly 22 million youths and adults in the United States have a substance use disorder. The term substance use disorder or SUD is the term often used in place of “addiction.” But what is addiction?
Addiction is a complex mental health condition. When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they experience an unrelenting, overwhelming urge to obtain and use their substance of choice. Typically, this urge is so powerful that it is impossible to stop regardless of the known harms of drinking or using. Drinking or using quickly becomes more important than daily obligations, responsibilities, and functions outside of substance-seeking activities. When someone is addicted, their brain changes. Substances like drugs and alcohol cause the brain to work differently. Long-term use even leads to changes in the structure of the brain and the brain’s chemistry. Unfortunately, some of these changes can be permanent without treatment to overcome addiction.
5 Common Signs and Symptoms of Drug and Alcohol Addiction
People can become addicted to many things, including alcohol, marijuana, opioid painkillers, stimulants, sedatives, and tobacco, among others. Each substance has unique effects on the brain and body of the individual who uses it. Because the symptoms of addiction are unique to the person and to the substance, it can be difficult to recognize “what addiction looks like” in a friend or loved one. Although symptoms of substance abuse may appear different from person to person, there are several common symptoms of drug and alcohol addiction. We have listed five below.
With ongoing drug and alcohol use, tolerance will develop. Depending on the person or their substance of choice, tolerance may develop quickly, or it may take several weeks or months. Regardless, someone who struggles with ongoing drug or alcohol abuse problems will experience increasing tolerance meaning, it will take higher and more frequent doses to achieve the desired result from using. When someone develops a tolerance, they will notice their prescribed dose of a mediation or a “couple of drinks” no longer produce the same effects. Another indication of increased tolerance is how the person presents after drinking or using. Someone with a high tolerance will not appear drunk or high after using.
Loss of control when drinking or using
Loss of control can mean different things. First, someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol may drink or use far more than intended, leading to potentially dangerous consequences. While they may only intend to have a drink with friends, one drink may turn into many leading to intoxication or worse. Also, a friend or loved one who is addicted may not be able to stop even if they want to. This may mean they cannot slow down the speed at which they consume alcohol or cannot quit using a particular drug, even if they truly desire to. The inability to reduce how much or how often they use or stop using drugs or alcohol altogether is a warning sign of addiction, and it means you or a loved one should seek help at a treatment center like The Hills.
Experiencing withdrawal effects when not using or drinking
A key symptom of addiction is experiencing withdrawal effects when not using or drinking. Depending on the person and the type of substance, these effects may be physical, emotional, behavioral, or a combination. Someone who struggles with an addiction to alcohol, opiates, or benzodiazepines may experience severe, overwhelming physical effects when they begin to withdraw. Other substances often produce emotional symptoms rather than physical ones. Regardless of the type of substance, though, there are several common withdrawal symptoms that occur in most cases. These may include headaches, difficulties sleeping, anxiety, trembling, nausea, changes to appetite, vomiting, depression, mood change, and fatigue. Although all physical withdrawal symptoms are generally unpleasant, it is essential to note that withdrawal from benzodiazepines or alcohol can lead to dangerous, potentially fatal medical difficulties. If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to these substances, it is vital to seek help at a medically supervised detox program like The Hills to ensure detox is safe and successful.
Increasing (voluntary) isolation and loss of interest
This may also look different from person to person. You may notice your friend or loved one is less inclined to attend family functions or attend to work or personal obligations. Instead, they may spend more time on the activities involved with seeking or using drugs and alcohol. You may also notice they participate far less in hobbies or other activities they once found enjoyable. They will often voluntarily isolate themselves from friends and loved ones so that those closest to them do not see the depth of their substance use. Instead of spending time with those people they once cared for or participating in social activities, they will turn to substance use and spend time with others who engage in similar behaviors.
Continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite known harms
Addiction is a disease. When someone develops a substance use disorder, their mind and body “depend” on using substances to function “normally .”Unfortunately, this means that someone struggling with addiction will use it even though they know ongoing substance abuse can lead to too many physical, emotional, and behavioral problems. They will continue to use it even if friends or family point out their concerns. Often, if loved ones confront them about their substance use, they will become angry, resentful, and withdrawn. The consequences of ongoing substance use can include legal problems, medical problems, strained relationships, job losses, medical problems, and mental health problems. However, despite knowing these consequences will inevitably occur, the addict or alcoholic will continue to use because they believe they cannot stop.
Getting Help to Overcome Addiction
Every year, millions of Americans struggle with the harmful consequences of addiction. Unfortunately, very few who could benefit from treatment at a luxury Los Angeles treatment center like The Hills will ever seek or receive the help they need. Recent studies indicate that fewer than 10% of the 22 million Americans who struggle with addiction go to rehab. There are many reasons why people may choose not to seek help, including finances, family responsibilities, and the unfortunate stigma that still follows the conversation about mental health and addiction treatment.
Today’s understanding of addiction differs from decades past. Now we understand addiction is a disease, not a personal choice or moral failing. While personal choice is sometimes an initial reason people start drinking or using drugs, once brain function changes due to chronic abuse, the choice is no longer an option. Experts define addiction as “a compulsive use of substances despite known negative consequences.” The thought processes that accompany addiction lead a person to seek drugs or alcohol, no matter the consequences. In the absence of treatment, addiction’s medical and mental health consequences often worsen.
Comprehensive addiction treatment programs use a holistic approach to treatment that addresses issues of the mind, body, and spirit. These issues may include legal or financial troubles, medical problems, mental illness, and family and relationship problems. Treatment is designed to address all of the needs of the person, not their addiction. Therapy is at the core of most current treatment programs. Psychotherapy models such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and other traditional (and alternative) therapies teach patients to evaluate their negative thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes. They learn to replace negative practices with healthier and more effective practices. Treatment is also designed to help people develop new and valuable skills and strategies for coping with triggers such as stress, cravings, and high-risk situations. Through comprehensive and individually tailored therapy, patients improve self-esteem and make meaningful lifestyle changes that promote long-term success and recovery.
If you are struggling with addiction and are ready to put the struggle behind you, contact The Hills in Los Angeles, California, today. Our individualized treatment plans are created with your specific needs and addiction in mind. Overcoming addiction is not easy, and choosing to enter treatment is only the first (yet most challenging) step. Let us help you take that first step towards a substance-free life.