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Three Ways to Identify Addiction

Published On: October 25th, 2016Categories: Addiction

Identifying the Issue: Three Signs Commonly Found in Substance Use and Addiction

Addiction can happen to anyone. A next door neighbor, best friend’s son, cousin, or even mom and dad. Addiction knows no boundaries; it sees no race, gender, geography or economic status. Becoming addicted doesn’t always start with wandering down a dark alley with someone offering drugs. It’s as easy as going to the hospital for knee surgery, and without ever intending to, developing a dependency for pain killers that’s so powerful, no matter how hard an individual tries, is nearly impossible to stop without help.

Substance abuse is in most cases not a choice, but rather an insidious and slow process one never sees coming. It clouds judgment, convinces us we have control when we do not and ruins the lives of good people who never thought addiction could happen to them. Without the proper resources and help, substance abuse can turn into a lifelong struggle. This individual doesn’t recognize him or herself and wonders how was it possible they spiraled out of control. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that more than 20 million adults in the United States are suffering from a drug and/or alcohol addiction.

How does addiction start? How can I tell when it has taken over someone I love? While addiction can be easy to spot in some people, it can be difficult to spot in others. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that drug use can start as early as 12 or 13, and often their drug of choice starts with tobacco, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, and prescription drugs such as sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medicines.
Take a look at these five indicators to be on the watch for to help prevent substance abuse from taking another life down the long, dark journey that is addiction.


According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), drug and alcohol addictions can start with behavioral changes and withdrawal from friends, family and society. The tough pressures of everyday life can lead to a substance in order to relax and unwind after a long day.

Emotional Distance

Not always does the presence of friends and family deter someone from using their desired substance out in the open. Instead of hiding away in the confines of their bedroom or segregated space, this person will openly partake in their substance while emotionally withdrawing from the world. Hobbies become a thing of the past, school falls to the wayside, sports lose their luster and the once active member of the community begins to show disinterest for anything other than staying home.

Physical Distance

Others with an addiction are able to hide their use completely away from friends and family. They create secret spaces to use, they make long trips away from home, and they struggle to keep this double life away from the people they once confided in. A “quick” trip to the store for milk turns into an hours long excursion for drugs or alcohol. They may even run away for fear their families will find out.

Financial Strains

If someone is addicted – whether it be to alcohol or drugs – they may always seem to be short on cash. While certain drugs can be a cheap find in particular areas of the country, people with an addiction are willing to use their last dollar to feed their substance of choice.

It starts with the draining of checking and savings accounts, dips into the 401k and Roth IRA’s, using every last loose coin from the car and couch, and can ultimately turn into theft. Rent and other bills fall behind, groceries are scarce, clothes become worn and tattered and utilities get shut off. They get kicked out by their roommates or landlord for falling behind and can become homeless, for every last cent is claimed by their addiction.

Mental Illnesses

Mental illness and addiction go hand in hand, but it can be difficult to distinguish which one occurs prior to the other. A psychological diagnosis may not happen until the symptoms become more noticeable following drug or excessive alcohol use, according to the NIDA.

A seasoned user of drugs experiences a myriad of symptoms that turn into mental health issues. Withdrawal leads to mood swings, depression, irritability, paranoia and anxiety. The NCADD reports that a loss of control occurs in substance abuse, where a person has the mental inability to cease drinking or using. They may indicate that they will stop at a certain point, but that point can turn into a much longer unintended period of substance abuse.

The NIDA explains that substance use changes one’s brain in fundamental ways, such as replacing the normal needs and desires with the overwhelming need to take the substance. The person experiences the inability to override compulsive behaviors despite the impending consequences, which is a recurring theme in most mental illnesses.

Drastic mood swings are likely to occur with a person addicted to a substance. When someone’s mind and body rely on the substance of choice, their mood is not by choice. Data from the NIDA shows people struggling with mood or anxiety disorders are twice as likely to suffer from substance use, and vice versa. The simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases in a person can be a coping mechanism for one or the other; for example, one may start smoking marijuana to cope with anxiety attacks, or they self-medicate their long-term depression by turning to drugs and/or alcohol for temporary happiness.

Signs and signals of an addiction vary from person to person, but these few out of the many, are common themes found in the human behavior of addiction. If you or a loved one is suffering from this disease, consider looking into inpatient or outpatient treatment centers and rehabilitation facilities to get the help you or your loved one deserves. Spectrum Health Systems is here to help 24/7 – just give us a call at: 844-200-6372.

1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration: Mental and Substance Use Disorders. 8 March 2016
2 National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: For Parents: What to Look For. 26 April 2015
3 4 The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: Signs and Symptoms. 25 July 2015
5 National Institute on Drug Abuse: Is drug abuse a mental illness? September 2010
6 National Institute on Drug Abuse: Why do drug use disorders often co-occur with other mental illnesses? September 2010

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