Are you or a loved one casually using drugs or alcohol? Or is it something more serious? No one sets out to become an addict; it happens before we can even process it. Furthermore, it may be quite some time before we are ready to accept that ourselves or someone close to us is officially addicted. If you’re unsure whether or not things have spun completely out of control, here are five ways to tell.
1. You can see it.
No matter what substance is being abused, it manifests in our physical appearance. With drugs like amphetamines, the user may experience dramatic weight loss. Other medicines and alcohol can prematurely age the face, or change the undertones of our complexion. Rashes and blemishes are another visible sign, as is poorer hygiene than usual. Usually, when we begin treating substance abuse, many of these physical attributes disappear.
2. Isolation and secrecy.
You and your friend used to tell each other everything. Or at least, you saw each other regularly. But now, in addition to their altered appearance, they don’t share as much. They don’t want to tell you where they were last night, and if they do, it sounds like a lie. They may also start hanging out with an entirely new set of people who bear physical symptoms just like theirs. Addicts do what is necessary to conceal the truth they’re avoiding – that their situation has become unmanageable.
3. Loss of money and assets.
Money and valuables slip right through an addict’s fingers because the only investment that’s truly important is their addiction. Someone with a house, a car, nice clothes, and the latest electronics can be rendered homeless and penniless before they even know what’s hit them. Addiction never stops asking for money.
4. Difficulty maintaining.
In addition to being more secretive, an addict may lose the ability to function appropriately in normal society. They might suddenly lose their job and do not explain. You yourself may have no idea how your addiction is impacting your work until you’re let go. It’s also common for an addict with no prior record to suddenly have numerous negative encounters with law enforcement. If still in school, grades, attendance, or both will suffer.
5. Unstable moods.
Your sister has been in a terrible mood, yelling, complaining, and making accusations all morning. But after a short trip to the bathroom, she emerges relaxed, smiling, even friendly. This is a very common tale we hear all of the time from an addict’s family. If someone you love exhibits erratic behavior, there may be more to it than simple moodiness. While addiction is often comorbid with certain mental health disorders, an addict’s behavior will almost universally change as soon as they get a fix.
The signs are there. It’s just that we are predisposed to excusing those signs away. That’s normal; sometimes, the most challenging part of overcoming an addiction is admitting that it exists. If one or more of the above sounds like you or someone you know, it’s time to contact a healthcare professional to explore recovery options.