Drug Abuse: How to Identify It

Drug abuse is something that can affect people from all backgrounds. Drug abuse and addiction do not discriminate, and anyone can be affected, regardless of gender, age, race, education, wealth, and religion. While taking drugs for the first time is generally down to choice, nobody does so with the intent of becoming addicted. Most are of the opinion that they will just ‘try it once’ to see what all the fuss is about. Some people are able to experiment out of curiosity and then never touch drugs again, but others like the feelings they get and become hooked after their very first try. Unlike other types of addiction such as gambling or sex addiction, there are some very obvious signs of drug abuse that are typically noticeable to those closest to the individual.

Recognising the Signs of Drug Abuse

Because drug abuse tends to lead to addiction, which is classed as an illness of the brain, there are usually behavioural symptoms that lead others to believe something is not quite right with the affected individual. After a while, certain physical symptoms may become more apparent.

Although the signs of drug abuse vary depending on the drug being abused, there are some common symptoms that indicate a problem may exist. These can include:

  • Severe mood swings where the person is depressed one minute and then suddenly becomes happy and carefree
  • Becoming increasingly isolated and withdrawn and spending more and more time alone
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and grooming
  • Losing interest in activities and hobbies that he or she previously enjoyed
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • Glassy or watery eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny nose.

If You Are Worried About Your Drug Use

If you have been using drugs for a while, then you may be worried that you have a problem. Many people are unaware they have crossed the line from habitual use to addiction and believe that they can quit any time they like. However, it is only when they actually try to cut down or quit that they find they are unable to.

If you have unsuccessfully tried to cut back on your drug use, you may have developed a physical dependence on the drug you have been abusing. Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and crystal meth are very addictive, but so too are many prescription medications. Just because you have been prescribed a particular medication by a doctor does not mean that you cannot develop an addiction, especially if you have been abusing this drug.

While not everyone who uses drugs will develop a problem, those who abuse drugs are more likely to be affected. It is also more likely that a person will become addicted to drugs if he or she is using them as a means to escape from problems or painful memories in their lives.

If you have concerns about your drug use, you need to examine your drug-taking behaviour carefully and be alert to the signs of drug abuse and addiction. Think about how often you take drugs and whether or not you have begun taking more than you used to in order to achieve the desired effect.

Do you find that you are neglecting other responsibilities in your life in favour of taking drugs? Have your family members and friends expressed concerns about your behaviour? Do you continue to take drugs even though you know that to do so will cause negative consequences for you and the people you love? If so, maybe it is time to accept the fact that you have a problem that needs to be addressed.

If You Are Worried About a Loved One

Drug use tends to begin with experimentation. If the person likes the way the drugs make him or her feel, they will be tempted to use again. This repeated behaviour increases the body’s tolerance to the effects of the drugs meaning that the individual will need to take larger quantities or more frequent doses in order to get the desired effect. This is when addiction becomes a problem.

It’s hard to spot the earliest signs of drug abuse in a loved one; it is mostly when the addiction has taken hold that others start to notice something is not quite right. Those who are affected by drug addiction tend to spend quite a lot of time by themselves so that their loved ones will not realise what they are doing. They will become secretive and isolated from family members and friends who ‘wouldn’t understand why they need to take drugs’.

If you are worried about the changing behaviour of a loved one and suspect that he or she may be taking drugs, it is important to look out for the obvious signs. A person who is abusing drugs may lose interest in things he or she previously took pleasure in such as sports or hobbies. They may want to be on their own or start hanging out with a new group of friends. They may stop taking any pride in their appearance and neglect oral hygiene.

You may notice that they have lost their appetite, or are suddenly ravenous. They may have trouble sleeping and be very irritable. Sometimes, they will be very moody before disappearing for a few minutes and then return in an entirely different mood.

Understanding the Need for Treatment

It is easy to say that someone with a drug addiction should ‘stop taking the drugs’. Nevertheless, it is never that simple. Those with addiction have no control over their behaviour. They will take drugs even when they do not want to. Once they feel the urge to take drugs, everything else pales into insignificance. It does not matter how many promises they have made to loved ones or how genuine they were when they made the promises. The addict has lost control over his or her ability to make good judgements, and this is often their downfall.

Addiction is a progressive illness, and without professional treatment, it will not go away. It is essential that those affected by addiction get the help they need as soon as possible if they want to live a clean and healthy life. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, then be alert to the signs of drug abuse as early intervention offers the best chance for a successful recovery.

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