If you were to ask someone who has battled drug or alcohol addiction how they were first introduced to alcohol and/or drugs, they would most likely tell you that they were curious about what it would feel like to try it, or that they wanted to “fit in” with the social setting, or perhaps both. None of them would ever tell you that they thought there was a chance they would ever become addicted. Once introduced to these substances, some of us may continue using them “casually” in social settings, while other’s will feel the need to increase their usage and may soon find themselves addicted. The same is also true regarding certain prescription medications. While they are helpful to numerous individuals, use can easily become a dangerous problem for others. There is research currently going on in order to understand why some individuals become addicted to substances, while others do not.
How does one know when casual drug or alcohol use has turned into addiction? This can be very difficult for users to determine on their own since most individuals struggling with addiction are not able to recognize when they have crossed that line from use to addiction. Many individuals won’t recognize how serious their own addiction has become until others intervene in the form of an arrest, job loss, lost relationships or hospitalization.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction:
- Intense urges: You have strong urges for the drug that blocks out any other thoughts.
- You have built up a tolerance: You find yourself using a larger amount in order to feel the same effects felt when using less. You start using more often for longer periods of time than you intended. You rationalize and minimize your usage to others and to yourself.
- You always make sure that you maintain a supply even if you can’t afford it: You may do things you normally wouldn’t do to get the substance such as stealing.
- It becomes harder or impossible to cut down or stop: When you try to cut down or stop using you feel anxious, depressed and uncomfortable, perhaps experiencing nausea, insomnia, sweating and shaking (common withdrawal symptoms). You continue to use to avoid these feelings.
- You continue to use even though you know it’s causing problems in your life and causing physical and psychological help.
- Relationship problems: You may be fighting with your family members and friends and relationships are in jeopardy. You may become secluded and lonely due to loss of relationships.
- Lack of responsibility: You may be having trouble getting to work or school on time, or perhaps you are not showing up at all and are in danger of losing your job or flunking out of school. You may be neglecting your children or other family members and household duties.
- No longer taking part in activities you enjoyed in the past: You may have lost interest in recreation, social functions, hobbies, sports or other favorite past times.
- Life disruptions: You may have experienced legal issues, financial issues, and job loss related to your drug and alcohol use.
- Taking part in risky behaviors: Driving while intoxicated, substance use while at work or other unsafe behaviors putting yourself and others in danger.
- Spending most of your time getting the substance, using it and recovering from the effects if it: You find it impossible to live a normal life when almost every waking minute is spent feeding and dealing with your addiction
It is no secret that addiction can be life altering and life ending. If you, a loved one or a friend is struggling with substance use disorder, it is important to reach out for help. Fortunately, there are numerous services available. For a list of helpful resources go to here.
Author: Caryn Goldberg, MA, LPC – Footprints to Recovery – Senior Outreach Specialist