Some individuals are able to use prescription or recreation drugs and alcohol without experiencing negative addiction or consequences. However, there are those individuals whose substance abuse can cause problems at school, home, work and in relationships, leaving you feeling ashamed, helpless or isolated.
If you are worried about your own self, your family or your friend’s drug and alcohol use, it is important to know what help is available. For this reason, you need to learn more about the nature of drug abuse and alcohol addiction, what it looks like, some of the symptoms associated with it, how it develops and how it can be such a powerful hold. With such information, you will have a better understanding of the problem at hand and have the mechanism to deal with the problem.
Understanding drug and alcohol abuse
Different individuals experiment with drugs and alcohol for various reasons. Many use drugs out of curiosity, because friends are doing it, to have a good time or to ease another problem such as stress, depression and anxiety. There is no specific level at which drug and alcohol use moves from normal to problematic. It is less to do with the amount of substance consumed. No matter how little you are consuming at a given time, if the given drug or alcohol is causing a problem in your life, in your relationship, home, school or at work you are likely to have substance abuse or addiction problems.
As with many other health conditions, vulnerability to substance addiction differ from individual to individual. Your mental health, genes, social environment and family all play a role in addition. Some of the risks factors that increase your vulnerability to addiction include:
- Methods of administration such as injection, drinking or smoking
- Early use of drugs
- Mental disorders such as anxiety and depression
- Abuse, neglect or other traumatic experience especially in childhood
- Family history of addiction
Common signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol addiction
Addiction is a complex disorder that is characterized by compulsive alcohol and drug use. Individuals who experiment drugs usually continue to use them since the substance make them feel good. Although alcohol and drugs have different physical effects, the underlying symptoms associated with addiction are similar. Some of the common signs and symptoms include:
- Your substance use is causing relationship problems such as constant fights with your partner
- Your substance use is getting you into legal problems
- You are abusing substance under dangerous conditions such as driving under the influence of alcohol, having unprotected sex or using unsterilized needles.
- You are neglecting your responsibilities at work, home and at school
- You continue using drugs and alcohol despite causing major problems in your life such as infections, blackouts, depression, paranoia and mood swings
- You have completely abandoned activities which you used to enjoy such as sports, socializing, profession and hobbies due to drug abuse
- Your life revolve around drug abuse
- You have lost control over your drug. You use more than you plan and you are powerless to control
- You take drugs and alcohol to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, insomnia, nausea, sweating, shaking, anxiety and depression
- You have built up a drug tolerance. This means you need to use more alcohol or drugs to experience your desirable effect.
Warning signs that indicate a family member or friend is abusing drugs or alcohol
Drug and alcohol abusers try as much as possible to conceal their symptoms of abuse and downplay their problem. Some of the signs and symptoms that indicate your friend or family member is abusing drugs include:
Physical warning signs of substance abuse
- Tremors, slurred speech or impaired coordination
- Unusual smells on his or her breath, clothing or body
- Deterioration of personal grooming habits and physical appearance
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Bloodshot eyes
- Frequently getting into trouble for example illegal activities, accidents or fights
- Sudden changes in hobbies, favorite hangouts and friends
- Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
- Unexplained need for money. May borrow or steal to get it
- Drop in performance at school or at work
- Appears paranoid, anxious or fearful with no good reason
- Lack of motivation
- Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation
- Sudden mood swings, angry outbursts or irritability
- Unexplained change in attitude or personality
When struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, sobriety may be an impossible goal to achieve. However, no matter how hopeless you are, recovering from substance abuse is never out of reach. Change is always possible with the right support and treatment and by addressing the root cause of addiction. Even if you have tried and fail before, don’t give up. The road to recovery usually involves pitfalls, setbacks and bumps.
Steps to follow on the way to recovery
1. Decide to make a change
This is the toughest step towards recovery. Change is never easy and requires total commitment and changing many things including how you think about yourself, what you do in your free time, who you allow in your life and the way you deal with stress.
2. Explore your treatment options
After making a decision to stop substance abuse, it is important to explore the available treatment options. The best treatment for substance abuse should also address relationship, health, career and psychological well being. The level of care usually depends with drug use history, your age and other medical conditions. After establishing the best treatment, you should remain committed and follow all the process involved.
3. Reach out for support
Although the process of detoxing and recovering from alcohol can be completed at home, whatever treatment approach you choose, you should not try to do it alone. For this reason, you should have a solid support from close friends, relative or support group that will encourage you, listen to you and provide you with counseling.
4. Keep triggers and cravings in check
When recovering from addiction, you need to avoid common triggers that can cause relapse. Since during recovery drug craving can become intense, you need to take a break from old drug buddies, avoid bars and clubs, and take caution when using prescription drugs.
5. Build a meaningful drug-free life
To support your substance abuse treatment and protect yourself from relapse, you need to adopt activities that add value to your life. This can be achieved by picking up a new hobby, setting meaningful goals, get involved in community activities and look after your health through adequate sleep, exercise and healthy eating habits.