The signs of addiction aren’t always obvious. Here’s how to tell when you need treatment, and how to find the road to addiction recovery.
Can you be an addict and not even know it? For many who suffer from addiction, the signs of a problem rarely appear overnight. More often, the process is gradual, starting with what feels like a harmless recreational vice or even a prescription. Some addicts remain functional in their daily lives, holding down jobs and taking care of families, which can make diagnosing addiction particularly challenging. Others may not feel obvious symptoms, outside of withdrawal. To further complicate the picture, not everyone who regularly uses alcohol or drugs will become dependent. Not everyone who asks, “Am I an addict?” has a problem. So when does “normal” use cross the line into addiction?
The answer lies in how a substance or behavior affects your health, happiness, relationships and daily life. Below, we’ll look at how to recognize when you have an addiction, where to seek help, and what to expect in recovery.
Am I an Addict?
Although you should always seek professional help if you suspect you have an addiction, here are some of the most common signs of a substance abuse problem:
- Strong cravings, or irritability without access to a drug
- Inability to control or limit your use, even when you try to stop
- Needing more and more of a substance to feel an effect (increased tolerance)
- Seeking prescription drugs after they’re no longer medically necessary
- Experiencing obsessive thoughts about a drug
- Restructuring your daily life around use
- Going to extreme measures to obtain a drug, such as lying or stealing
- Hiding drug use from friends and family
- A sudden feeling of listlessness or depression
Withdrawal symptoms are also a sign of addiction. These may include headache, elevated heart rate, clammy skin, anxiety, irritability or trouble sleeping. Some substances, such as alcohol and opioids, can cause even more serious withdrawal symptoms, such as severe nausea, vomiting or seizures. It’s important to seek immediate professional help if you experience any of these symptoms.
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Addiction and Your Health
Beyond behavioral and withdrawal symptoms, paying close attention to your physical health can help you recognize an addiction problem, particularly if you’re concerned about a commonly used substance, such as alcohol or marijuana. Although different substances affect users in different ways, here are common health impacts of a few popular recreational drugs:
Long before you see an impact on your liver, alcohol causes a number of other health issues. These include elevated blood pressure, stomach ulcers, depression, and of course, alcohol poisoning — what we think of as a hangover. Experienced once in a while, these symptoms don’t always indicate an addiction; but if you find yourself regularly nursing a hangover, feeling depressed, or explaining away high blood pressure at the doctor’s office, these may be signs that you need help.
With one in seven adults recreationally using marijuana, according to Reuters, cannabis is quickly losing its taboo as an illegal drug. Regular use, however, can cause a number of physical health effects, including irritated lungs, nausea, and elevated heart rate. Some users can even develop a condition called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, which causes severe nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Long-term marijuana use has also been linked to mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and paranoia. If you start to notice these signs, but can’t seem to stop your habit, it’s time to see a professional.
While cocaine can certainly wreak havoc on your body during use, the drug can cause even more alarming symptoms for regular users, including frequent nosebleeds, high blood pressure, and an irregular heartbeat. Paying attention to these signs can help you recognize when recreational use has become a dangerous habit.
Other physical signs to watch for, whether in yourself or a loved one, include weight loss, muscle tremors, low energy, blood-shot eyes and dilated pupils. Becoming more in tune to these physical health effects, including any withdrawal symptoms, can help you recognize a need for addiction treatment before even more serious problems arise.
Addiction and Everyday Life
Although monitoring your health is a great way to recognize addiction, sometimes you won’t notice physical symptoms right away. Paying attention to how drug use affects your ability to manage life and responsibilities can also help you know when you need help. Signs to watch out for include:
- Regularly calling in sick to work or school
- Neglecting home responsibilities
- Giving up former hobbies or interests
- Neglecting fitness or hygiene
- No longer caring about consequences
Addiction can be a powerful force that takes over before you even recognize it has control of your life. Taking an honest look at how your drug use may be affecting your responsibilities can help you assess whether or not you need help for addiction.
Addiction and Your Relationships
Finally, your relationships with others can help you recognize when you may have a problem with addiction. Consider the following signs:
- Frequent arguments about your substance use. If you find yourself defending your behavior to more than one loved one, or that you’re playing defense more and more often, it may be time to listen to your friends and family.
- Isolation. If you have started avoiding loved ones or friends who don’t use drugs, this can be a particularly big red flag.
- Behavior that doesn’t align with your “sober self.” If you find that you become a different person under the influence of drugs, particularly if your behavior includes aggression or violence, it’s time to seek help.
You can also look to close relationships for honest advice. Although it can be difficult to recognize signs of addiction in yourself, your friends and family can give you a more honest assessment. If you think you have a problem, start by asking your loved ones for their feedback and support. When you’re ready, having a “team” in your corner can help you through your journey toward recovery.
Although watching for signs of addiction can certainly help you recognize a problem, seeking professional help is the single best way of diagnosing addiction and getting the help you need. With the guidance of experienced professionals, you can also start a path toward a healthier, happier life, regardless of whether you feel that your current drug use or behavior can be considered an “addiction.” At Sprout, we understand that no two people experience addiction in the same way. That’s why we create a personalized program for every client, based not both your medical needs and your personal goals.
When you enter treatment, we start with a personalized assessment that helps your medical team better understand your history of addiction or mental illness, trauma, and any other factors that will help to develop the best treatment plan for you. We also diagnose any co-occurring disorders that may affect your recovery.
Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders
Addiction often goes hand-in-hand with behavioral or mental health disorders, such as depression, which can make addiction particularly difficult. When you are diagnosed with an underlying condition, this is called a co-occurring disorder. You can also experience co-occurring addictions, such as a dependence on both alcohol and marijuana. Common co-occurring disorders with substance abuse include depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders, and co-occurring addictions.
What to Expect in Treatment
Starting addiction treatment can be frightening, particularly when you’re still coming to grips with needing help. However, the right treatment program will give you the nurturing support, resources and guidance you need to take those first crucial steps toward addiction recovery. When starting addiction treatment, here are a few things you can expect:
- To safely overcome physical drug dependence, you will likely start your recovery with a 7- to 14-day inpatient detox program.
- During an inpatient program, you can expect 24-hour care, which includes medical supervision to ensure you don’t experience complications as you recover.
- Regardless of whether you start with inpatient or outpatient treatment, you can expect a structured schedule of activities and treatments. Activities might include group sessions, individual counseling sessions, or education specific to your addiction.
- During treatment, you can also expect to take a digital detox. You will not have access to the Internet or a cell phone during your recovery. Take the time to relax, rest and focus on healing.
- Finally, you can expect to be treated with respect and dignity by staff and others during your recovery program.
A Deeper Look at Detox
Detox is often the first, crucial step toward addiction recovery. Because of the dangers that can accompany withdrawal, particularly for alcohol, opioids and methamphetamines, it is important to seek professional assistance during this phase. An inpatient program with an experienced staff, low patient-to-clinician ratio, and quiet location that promotes healing and recovery will provide the best environment for recovery.
During detox, you will work directly with a medical team to safely and effectively reduce your drug or alcohol dependence, allowing you to start your next phase of treatment. Detox typically lasts 7 to 14 days, depending on your addiction, but it’s important to recognize that this is just the first step toward lifelong recovery.
Long-Term Addiction Recovery
Recognizing and accepting a problem with substance abuse is a courageous step and a major leap toward a life free from the grip of addiction. As you progress through each phase of treatment, it’s important to think of your recovery as an ongoing journey. Once you overcome physical dependence, you’ll need to develop strategies to maintain sobriety as you face the challenges of everyday life. This is especially true if you face a co-occurring disorder, such as depression. Behavioral therapy can help you learn coping mechanisms and build your support team as you rebuild an exciting and rewarding life in recovery.
To speak with someone about your treatment options if you think you may need help for an addiction, call us today. Our intake professionals can help you find the right path toward recovery.