When you see someone in a full-blown addiction, it’s easy to disassociate. On your drive home from work, you pass by a homeless man sleeping on the dirty street corner in ragged clothes next to a crumpled brown bag. Maybe he’s in his 50s. Maybe it’s just years of meth use that aged him. Either way, it’s easy to turn your eyes back to the road in a matter of seconds and think, “I could never get to that point.”
But that’s the thing with addiction. No one picks up a bottle, swallows one pill, or takes that first hit expecting to become addicted. Substance use can easily spiral into addiction, sometimes without the user even realizing there’s a problem until their addiction has wreaked havoc throughout every aspect of their life.
The fact that addiction is primarily a self-diagnosed disease has its pros and cons. On one hand, addicts are often blind to their own struggle as their drug of choice clouds any rational perception. On the other hand, being able to look for addiction symptoms and signs can unlock the door for someone to get help before it’s too late.
While each person’s experience with substance abuse is unique, there are a few common addiction symptoms and signs that can act as indicators. Common addiction symptoms include:
Beware of Tolerance Increase
Especially when drinking alcohol, many people see an increase in tolerance as a good thing. A sign of maturation, if you will. “Gone are the days of getting sick after one game of beer pong… I’m an adult. I can down a six pack without a problem.”
However, needing to drink (or use) more to feel the same effects is indicative of a problem, even if the increase progressed slowly and subtly.
When a person drinks or uses drugs regularly, they’ll experience reduced effects of that substance over time. Their tolerance has increased. They’ll need to use more in order to feel the same effects as someone else would feel with a much smaller dose. See the problem?
Physical Dependence: The Biggest Red Flag
Physical dependence is one of the most telltale addiction symptoms. It’s the holy grail difference between someone who drinks to get a buzz and someone who drinks in order to function.
Sounds strange, right? If you haven’t experienced addiction first-hand, it’s probably hard to comprehend why someone might not be able to function without drinking or using drugs. Many substances take a chemical hold on a person’s brain and body when abused regularly. For example, alcohol and opioids have huge capacities for physical dependence. The body becomes so used to having those substances in its system that it struggles severely to function during any significant period of cessation. That struggle manifests in the form of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms are very uncomfortable at best and lethal at worst.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Rapid heart rate
To stave off these symptoms, a person will use more of the substance they’re dependent on. There you have it: drinking (or using) in order to function.
Withdrawal can be incredibly dangerous and even lethal if not managed safely. New Start Recovery offers supervised and personalized detox to help our clients through the withdrawal process as safely and comfortably as possible.
Behavioral Addiction Symptoms
While it is a significant indicator, physical dependency is not exactly an ideal way to assess if you have a problem. I mean, no one wants to stop drinking and sit and wait to see if they start feeling nauseous, feverish, and dizzy.
Behavioral and emotional addiction symptoms are quite a bit more nuanced but they can also be assessed as warning signs. This includes:
- Neglecting responsibilities (personal, professional, and familial)
- Isolating and/or secretive behaviors
- Bad decision making
- Rationalizing, excusing, or justifying behavior
- Loss of interest in other activities
- Legal problems
- Financial problems
While these signs will almost always accompany more physical, telltale addiction symptoms, alone, they’re more indicative of a substance abuse problem than full-fledged addiction. Regardless, they can be used to determine if you or someone you know has a problem.
Caution: Cold Turkey Can Kill
The biggest hindrance to recovery is denial.
We’ve all heard the saying, “The first step to getting help is admitting you have a problem.” The knowledge of addiction symptoms and ability to see them in yourself or a loved one can be the difference between recovery and overdose.
That said, if you do realize you have a problem, quitting cold turkey (without a taper, that is) can be incredibly dangerous. That fact cannot be stressed enough. People have literally died from withdrawal symptoms. In cases where a chemical dependency has developed, detox is necessary.
New Start offers detox as well as residential treatment. During detox, we help our clients taper off of all drugs and alcohol slowly over several days to make the process as safe as possible. We also offer detox medications on a case-by-case basis to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.
If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction, our counselors offer free assessments 24/7 by phone: 855-737-7363