Substance abuse affects people of all ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic status. For whatever reason a person begins taking drugs, and dependency and tolerance can develop quickly. Often, addictions take hold before someone even realizes they’ve developed dependence. When tolerance turns into addiction, patterns of abuse can be especially difficult to stop. Drug abuse damages both the mind and body with devastating effects if abusive behaviors aren’t mediated.
If you or a loved one seems to be struggling with addiction, it’s essential to seek help immediately. Many people don’t realize their drug use has turned into an addiction, so recognizing the signs and symptoms of addiction is important. Most substance abuse develops noticeable signs of addiction. Let’s take a look at some common signs of drug use, from behaviors to physical symptoms.
Physical Symptoms of Drug Use
Drug abuse affects both body and the mind with the most noticeable symptoms typically being physical. The body develops a tolerance as drug use continues over time, which increases both the quantity and strength needed to achieve previous highs. The desire for an equally intense high often leads users to ingest increasing and dangerous amounts of drugs, which has serious physical consequences and may lead to overdose.
While various drugs produce different physical effects, all drugs share one thing in common: repeated abuse alters the way the brain functions. This is true for both recreational and prescription drugs. When ingested, drugs induce a rush of the hormone, dopamine, in the brain, which then triggers feelings of pleasure. The brain will remember and desire a repeat of such feelings. This desire eventually produces feelings of uncontrollable cravings, which can interfere with the brain’s ability to think clearly, exercise good judgement and control behavior. Most addicts can’t feel normal without drugs, and cravings eventually become more important than anything else, including friends, family, career or health.
Changes in appearance may be the first clue to possible drug use. Because drug abuse disrupts normal brain function, changes in personality and heart and organ malfunction can be signs of long-term drug use. Other physical symptoms of addiction may include:
- Dilated or constricted pupils
- Sudden weight changes
- Bloodshot eyes or a clouded look
- Bruises, infections, physical signs at the drug’s entrance site on the body
Behavioral Symptoms of Drug Use
Drug abuse will almost always negatively affect a user’s behavior and habits as they develop stronger dependencies. Most drugs alter the brain’s ability to focus and form coherent streams of thought, although this depends on the substance. Some of the more common behaviors changes associated with drug abuse include:
- Changes in personality
- Increased irritability or aggressive behaviors
- Dramatic changes in habits or priorities
Other lifestyle changes may signal addiction. Often users will begin to experience difficulties at school or work, showing a disinterest in performance or duties. They may also have a noticeable lack of energy, with changes to their appetite and diet. Some users express an unusual desire for privacy and may even make drastic changes to relationships that were previously important to them. Most users will display a defensive attitude when asked about their substance abuse. Learning to recognize both the physical and behavioral signs of drug abuse is an important step in preventing a dangerous progression into irreversible addiction.
When Does Drug Use Become Addiction?
There are many reasons why people begin using drugs. Some may begin using recreational drugs as an experiment or out of curiosity. Others begin because friends are doing it or to ease anxiety, stress or depression. However, it’s not only illicit drugs, such as cocaine, meth or heroin, which lead to addiction and abuse. Prescription medications, like painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquilizers, can also lead to addictive behaviors. In fact, the risk factors for developing addictions to prescription meds is just as high as recreational drugs.
Drug use, however—either illicit or prescription— doesn’t necessarily lead to abuse. There is no specific point at which use moves from casual to abusive. There is truly a fine line between drug use and abuse. Most addicts do not realize they have crossed that line. Drug abuse is less related to type, amount or frequency of the drug, although these can signal problems. Abuse is more commonly associated with the consequences of drug use. If your drug use or the use of someone you love is becoming problematic in life—at work, home, school or in relationships— a drug abuse or addiction problem may be to blame.
Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step to recovery. Facing the problem takes exceptional courage and strength. With the right treatment and support, you or your loved one can counteract the devastating effects of drug use and regain control over life. To learn more about getting control over drug addictions or on dealing with family members who have a drug addiction, contact Blu By the Sea today.