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Recognizing Substance Abuse and Addiction

It’s not always easy to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug abuse – even if the person in question is very close to you. The disease of addiction comes with a built-in self preservation mechanism known as Denial that can be quite effective at convincing others – as well as the addict – that there isn’t a problem. Addicts and alcoholics can become very effective at masking their condition even if they are heavy users. However, with a little education on the issue a well-informed observer can recognize the signs and symptoms of drug abuse and addiction and take steps to get the afflicted individual help.

The Physical Signs of Drug Abuse

The physical signs of drug use range from classic symptoms such as bloodshot eyes, track marks from needles, “meth mouth,” vomiting, loss of control of bodily functions and other symptoms. According to the Ohio State University Medical Center;

“Clinical findings often depend on the substance abused, the frequency of use, and the length of time since last used, and may include the following: weight loss, constant fatigue, red eyes little concern for hygiene.” (1)

Symptoms associated with overdose or allergic reactions will generally be more acute – such as heart attack and breathing difficulties – and may warrant emergency treatment.

The Psychological Signs of Substance Abuse

People who are abusing drugs or alcohol are often tormented emotionally by their problems. They may be moody or even aggressive, their responses to events and people can be either over or under-reactions and they may feel (and become) withdrawn and isolated. In fact, some of these psychological symptoms can lead to misdiagnoses and semi-permanent psychological disorders:

“Drug abuse, including alcohol and prescription drugs can induce symptomatology which resembles mental illness. This can occur both in the intoxicated state and also during the withdrawal state. In some cases these substance induced psychiatric disorders can persist long after detoxification, such as prolonged psychosis or depression after amphetamine or cocaine abuse.” (2)

Experts in the field of addiction have often pondered the possibility that drug abuse might exacerbate existing psychological and emotional disorders and even cause disorders to occur in users without previous conditions.

The Behavioral Signs of Addiction and Alcoholism

When it comes to recognizing substance abuse and addiction, the most noticeable signs are generally behavioral. In fact, addiction is often categorized according to the three main behaviors displayed by addicts:

  1. Loss of control of their drug use or drinking – unable to regulate amounts, frequency, types, etc
  2. Obsession over drug use or drinking – constantly talking about it, planning when and how to use, hiding it, etc
  3. Continuation despite severe consequences – the threat of incarceration, loss of employment and even loss of family and basic housing generally does not deter active drug addicts

If you recognize any of these symptoms in you or someone you care about, then please pick up the phone now for a free, confidential consultation. We offer what are widely considered among the country’s most successful inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment and day/night treatment programs available. Call us now.

(1) Ohio State University Medical Center Substance Abuse/Chemical Dependency
(2) Wikipedia Substance Abuse

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More