Top Ways to Identify Substance Use Disorders
One of the most challenging things about addiction is simply identifying it. Since substance use is so normalized in modern media, it can be hard to tell if a behavior is harmless partying or dangerous substance abuse. Furthermore, people with addiction often take steps to hide their substance use, so it can be tricky for their friends and family to notice that there is a problem.
Being able to recognize a substance use disorder is the first step to being able to treat it. To see if you or a loved one is dealing with addiction, you need to keep an eye out for these warning signs.
Physical Signs of a Substance Use Disorder
Regularly taking drugs causes some drastic physical changes. Due to the way drugs interact with the brain, they can impact the body’s ability to fight off illness, sleep, or process nutrients. Symptoms tend to vary depending on what drugs a person is taking, but generally speaking, addiction ends up harming a person’s physical health.
One of the main signs of addiction is withdrawal. All addictive substances change the way your brain functions. When you continue taking them repeatedly, your brain starts producing less of certain chemicals because it’s trying to stabilize your system. Then when you quit taking the drug, you find that your whole body feels out of balance.
Generally, withdrawal starts somewhere between a few hours to a few days after you take the drug. You begin to get intense cravings, and you also start to feel physically unwell. These symptoms go away if you take more of the drug, but otherwise, they can persist for at least a few weeks. Depending on the drug you take, you might experience one or more of these health problems.
• Aches and pains
• Fever or chills
• Runny nose
• Rapid breathing
• Nausea and vomiting
• Rapid heart rate
General Physical Unwellness
When a person is dealing with substance use issues, they typically find it hard to maintain their physical health. At first, this can just express itself through bloodshot eyes, rough skin, or foul-smelling breath. However, as the addiction progresses, people often tend to drastically gain or lose weight. Some types of drug use make it easy to lose teeth or develop scabs and sores on the skin. Since drugs impair your ability to absorb certain nutrients, people with substance use issues also get sick easily and take longer to heal from injuries or illnesses.
People who have been chronically using substances for years are also more at risk for major health problems. For example, decades of drinking can cause liver failure. Liver and kidney issues are common in a lot of long-term users, and certain drugs also tend to increase risks for various types of cancer. Those who regularly abuse certain drugs are also at risk for overdoses that can end up being fatal.
Health Problems Caused by Certain Consumption Methods
Depending on the method of drug consumption, there may be some fairly obvious signs of drug use. This is most common among people who inject drugs like heroin or cocaine. The injections themselves just look like small pinprick marks in the skin. However, repeated injections in the same spot tend to cause even more noticeable physical trauma. People might have bruising or collapsed veins in spots along the wrist, elbow, or foot.
If the drug is smoked or snorted, other health problems may arise. Since most drugs are toxic when your skin comes into contact with concentrated amounts, you can get sores around the nose or mouth. Repeated usage of some drugs like cocaine can even eat away at tissue, collapsing parts of the nose. Being incautious while smoking drugs may also result in frequent burns around the mouth or hands.
Social Issues Associated With Substance Use Disorders
When people are dealing with addiction, one of their first instincts is often to say, “I’m not hurting anyone, so why does it matter?” However, it is important to recognize that addiction is socially damaging. It causes drastic changes to the way a person interacts with others. And since humans are naturally social creatures who need a strong support network to stay healthy, the effects of addiction can be devastating. Addiction can damage your social life in multiple ways.
Changes in Friends and Hobbies
Once a person develops an addiction, they often lose interest in their former friends or hobbies. This often happens because nothing seems as appealing as using drugs. Even things people were passionate about, like making music or playing video games, may no longer seem to interest them. They often end up neglecting friendships to pursue drugs instead.
Often, people who are dealing with substance use issues also make new, unsavory friends. They may suddenly begin to hang out with people they apparently have nothing in common with because these new friends use drugs with them. Some people may also take up new hobbies as an attempt to justify their addiction. For example, someone with alcohol addiction might start going to bar trivia simply because it’s a socially acceptable excuse to drink.
Unexplained Financial Issues
Addiction can put a major strain on a person’s finances. Even if the person can hold down a reliable job, they can end up spending excessive amounts on purchasing substances. Unfortunately, these sorts of money problems cause major strain on social connections.
Financial issues frequently go beyond a person who suddenly cannot spend money on concerts or go out to eat at nice restaurants. It can turn into issues like a person borrowing money they never pay back or stealing money from friends and family. Some people with substance use issues may find it difficult to pay for housing, medical care, or other essentials.
Problems in Relationships
A hallmark sign of addiction is that a person continues to use the substance even after it begins causing problems in their important relationships. People who are addicted do more than just ignore their friends and family members. Mood swings can cause them to become overly paranoid, critical, jealous, or controlling. Especially when under the influence, a person with an addiction can be very hurtful to their loved ones.
This sign of addiction is especially apparent in romantic relationships. It is typically very hard for a person to maintain a happy relationship while dealing with addiction. Their partner may struggle because they feel like they are forced to take care of the addicted person all the time, and couples may struggle to stay connected. Overall, addiction is cited as the third most common reason for divorce.
Behavioral Changes That Occur in Substance Use Disorders
Addiction is often classified as a type of behavioral disorder. This means that substance use involves harmful behavioral patterns that impair a person’s ability to function. Typically, people who are dealing with addiction tend to develop some very unusual behaviors. Whether a person is addicted to drugs, alcohol, or something like gambling, they tend to have some noticeable changes to the way they act.
An Inability to Control Drug Usage
One of the key things that separate a casual user from a person with addiction is the ability to control drug usage. When a person is addicted, they have little ability to regulate how much of a substance they take or how often they take a substance. This happens because addiction causes the brain to crave more and more of the drug. Here are some of the signs a person is struggling to regulate their intake.
• Not being able to stop using the drug for a few weeks
• Accidentally taking a higher dose than you meant to take
• Taking the drug for longer periods than you originally planned to
• Finding yourself needing more and more of the drug to get the same effect
• Feeling unable to resist impulses to take the drug even at inappropriate times
Extreme Mood Shifts
Another behavioral change that happens with substance abuse is abnormal moods. People who have substance use issues may seem inappropriately happy, angry, or sad at various times. They often act on these moods, making odd choices or performing bizarre activities. In addition to being more extreme, moods can also change rapidly. Some people may have mood swings that make them suddenly switch moods for no reason.
There are a few different reasons these mood shifts can happen. In some cases, it is a result of the drug itself. For example, cocaine often causes aggression while a person is under the influence. Sometimes, it is due to long-term drug usage. When a person is constantly using drugs, their brain can undergo some structural changes. This can make it hard to regulate emotions, control impulses, and exercise wise judgment. For example, long-term meth use makes a person more paranoid and more easily distracted.
Disregard for Negative Consequences
Addiction is associated with all sorts of negative consequences, ranging from losing jobs to becoming homeless. Unfortunately, encountering these challenges is not enough to help a person break a cycle of addiction. Due to the intense cravings, a person may not quit using drugs even when it is having a clearly negative effect on their life.
Even if the substance is causing major health or relationship problems, a person with substance use issues will continue to take the drug. They may try to ignore minor consequences, and if they are directly confronted with the damaging effects of the drug, they might keep using it anyway. In many cases, people with an addiction will feel that the effects of the drug are worth any difficulties they encounter.
What to Do If You Recognize Signs of Substance Abuse
If you suspect that you or a loved one are dealing with a substance use disorder, it is important to seek professional help. Many people are afraid to talk to an expert because they feel ashamed to talk about the subject. However, it’s important to realize that there’s no reason to feel awkward. Addiction specialists provide a comfortable, non-judgemental environment where you can discuss your issues. They will ask about symptoms you’ve noticed, so they can make a diagnosis and recommend treatment options.
Blue Crest Recovery Center provides valuable support throughout the recovery process. Our team of experts is dedicated to providing a compassionate, evidence-based approach to substance abuse. We create personalized treatment programs that address each patient’s physical needs. Some of our many treatment options include:
• Intensive outpatient programs
• Outpatient programs
• Partial care programs
• Intervention services
• Post-rehab support
• 12-step programs
Give us a call today if you would like to learn more about our services. We offer free consultations, so you can meet with our team and decide if Blue Crest Recovery Center is right for you.