Signs of Substance Abuse

Addiction is a disease just like diabetes or cancer, however, it is not accepted in the same way. This is mostly because of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that both the user and his or her loved ones experience. For many users and their families, it is commonplace to feel resentful, angry, frustrated, distraught, sad, and even hopeless.

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What to Watch For

Despite endless amounts of research that prove that addiction is a disease, there is still a stigma that resonates with millions of people that addiction is a choice. For some, especially those who are watching a loved one use, it is unfathomable why those who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol cannot just stop using. Unfortunately, overcoming active addiction cannot be done by stopping use cold turkey. Instead, it often requires professional addiction treatment and continual follow-up care to maintain a lifetime of recovery.

Prior to getting to the point of receiving professional addiction treatment, most individuals struggle with several effects of their substance abuse. And, for those looking on, the signs of that substance abuse can become clear as day as the use continues.

Substance use disorder is a condition that is unique to each person, as the signs, symptoms, and effects that he or she will experience will be based on several factors, including what type of substance is being abused, how much is being consumed, what the user’s mental health status is, and what type of environment he or she is living in. For example, someone who is homeless and who is an intravenous heroin user might lose consciousness in public places, while someone who is addicted to cocaine might go from being lethargic to extremely energetic within a matter of minutes. Signs of substance abuse are typically tied to the type of addictive substance being abused, such as ecstasy users experiencing hallucinations and Xanax users feeling detached from their surroundings. However, there are a large variety of signs of substance abuse that span all types of addiction. Consider the following:

Behavioral Signs

One of the first behaviors that someone who is suffering from substance use disorder displays is a decrease in participation in responsibilities. As the use becomes more central to his or her life, upholding duties at work and home can take a back seat to the use. As a result, an individual can experience problems at work that can include termination as well as issues at home that can lead to familial conflict and strained relationships with spouses, siblings, children, etc. Additionally, other behavioral signs of substance abuse can include:

  • Operating in a deceitful manner and/or being dishonest about whereabouts
  • Withdrawing from previously enjoyed hobbies or activities
  • Socially isolating oneself
  • Stealing money or items that can be sold in an attempt to get more cash for the desired substances
  • Experiencing an increase in conflict with friends, family members, co-workers, and so on

Behavioral signs of substance abuse are usually the first signs of addiction. Those who are actively using can quickly go from operating as he or she normally does to behaving in ways that are far from his or her usual behaviors.

Physical Signs

Similar to as previously discussed, the physical signs of substance abuse often coincide with the type of substance that is being abused. However, there are a number of physical signs of substance abuse that any substance user can experience, such as changes to his or her physical appearance. People addicted to drugs and/or alcohol can begin to slack in keeping up with their outward appearance, including taking care of basic hygiene like brushing teeth, combing hair, or showering. Also, depending on the substance, an individual’s weight might suddenly fluctuate. Other physical signs of substance abuse include:

  • Tremors in the hands
  • Inflamed face that can either be flushed or pale
  • Frequent nose rubbing
  • Poor coordination
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Watery, bloodshot eyes
  • Marks on the body (such as needle marks on the arms, legs, or feet)

When physical symptoms begin to occur, the user is no longer just putting him or herself in harm’s way but is also putting other’s wellbeing at risk due to the physical impacts of being under the influence.

Mental Signs

It is extremely common for those who are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol to seem disconnected from his or her surroundings. That is because the brain is either slowing down or working overtime. It is usually difficult to connect with someone who is under the influence because of how his or her brain is functioning. Other mental signs of substance abuse include:

  • Seeming anxious or paranoid without reason
  • Experiencing drastic and unpredictable mood swings
  • Lacking motivation
  • Appearing nervous

Some addictive substances, such as meth, can cause users to suffer from psychosis, severe depression, and excessive anxiety.

Emotional Signs

The emotional toll that someone who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol can experience can be too much to bear. Addiction is extremely complex, and it impacts all aspects of one’s wellbeing, including his or her emotional health. Several individuals addicted to drugs and/or alcohol suffer from feeling hopeless on a regular basis. Being trapped in a cycle of substance abuse can make it seem like there is no way out. In addition, other emotional signs of substance abuse can include:

  • Pervasive feelings of loneliness
  • Feeling severely misunderstood
  • Being unable to cope with stress
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Struggling to feel emotionally stable in between mood swings

When someone is riddled with emotional signs of addiction like these, they can begin to erode away at one’s spiritual wellbeing, often making the addiction more intense. However, despite all of these signs of substance abuse, there is hope and there is a way to overcome the challenges that have developed in conjunction with the abuse.

At JourneyPure, we have adopted a comprehensive approach to addiction treatment so that all patients can heal their physical, psychological, behavioral, emotional, and spiritual health. With the appropriate support and guidance, we at JourneyPure can help those ready to recover.

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