Substance use disorders or drug addictions affect a person’s behavior and brain. It leads to the person becoming incapable of controlling their use of illegal or prescription drugs. Nicotine, marijuana, and alcohol are all considered drugs that can be abused. People with use disorders continue using the substance even when they know it harms them.
Substance abuse is a leading health concern in the United States with over 107,622 people dying from it in 2021. The majority of these deaths were the result of opioid overdose. In 2020, over 28.3 million adults reported suffering from alcohol use disorder. 50% of the adult population in the country has reported using illicit drugs at some time or the other.
Drug addiction might begin with experimental or recreational use of drugs and medications. It can begin in social situations but sometimes leads to more frequent usage. Patients addicted to opioids usually begin with prescribed medications. In some cases, they may receive the medication from relatives or friends that were prescribed it.
The risk of addiction and how quickly you become addicted depends on the drug. Opioid painkillers and other similar drugs have a higher risk of causing addiction than others. Here are a few signs that a friend or family member is struggling with substance use disorder, and needs drug addiction treatment.
Lack of Interest in Once Enjoyable Activities
Alcohol and substance use work by activating the reward center of the brain. They mimic the effects of the “feel good” hormone dopamine usually released during an activity that you enjoy. Dopamine is generally blamed for alcohol and drug addiction because the brain begins craving the idea of feeling good.
Some of the first signs of a problem are when things you used to enjoy stop having the same pleasurable effect. You may lose interest in your hobbies and activities. This can eventually become a core symptom of major depressive disorders. The feeling can arise from mental health struggles as well.
The important thing to remember is that it is never the fault of the person experiencing addiction. There are many people that start to crave the dopamine kick and get stuck in the cycle of substance abuse. However, there are treatments and support groups available to help substance users address their addiction and get back to feeling like themselves again.
Unexplained Decline in Mental and Physical Health
Drugs tend to take a toll on the body by creating oxidative stress. You would notice signs on your loved one’s face if they are consuming drugs regularly. Different substances have different physical effects. For instance, alcohol causes sallow skin due to damage to the liver, heart, nerves, and muscles. Many types of drugs result in malnourishment and severe weight loss.
Cocaine abuse may cause chest pain that feels similar to a heart attack. It may increase the risk of seizures as well. It is important to seek treatment if you know someone with consistent substance drug abuse issues complaining of deteriorating health. Substance abuse can cause mental health issues as well.
In general, people that struggle with mental disorders may turn to substances as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, restricted or banned drugs and substances often have a damaging effect on the brain. This type of substance use can cause a lot of problems if used during the mid-20s or earlier when the brain is still developing.
For instance, college students or young professionals that use substances for coping with depression and anxiety may eventually experience a downward spiral. Drugs deplete the ability of the body to release dopamine without them. There are specialized drug rehab programs as well as treatments from qualified mental health professionals for tackling mental illness and substance-related disorders.
Sudden and Conspicuous Mood Changes
A mood swing refers to an extreme and sudden change in an individual’s mood. It can be caused by a number of factors. In some cases, there may be no outward trigger for a mood swing. It is normal to experience the occasional mood swing. However, there is usually an underlying reason for mood swings to become a common occurrence. This can be substance use and/or a mental health condition.
Substance use creates chemical changes in the brain’s reward center that can cause mood swings. Someone with an addiction constantly wants to seek that emotional high. Certain drugs can cause major alterations in a loved one’s mood. Coming down from the drug use may trigger mood swings as well.
Seeking the Substance to Stop Withdrawal Symptoms
Many people remain addicted because their withdrawal symptoms makes them want to use again. Cocaine, alcohol, and opioids are highly addictive in nature. Over a period of time, the body gets used to the chemical. The brain begins craving the substance which can result in powerful physical symptoms when trying to quit.
These withdrawal symptoms can range from intense pain and vomiting to headaches and fatigue. Something as unassuming as coffee can cause major headaches when trying to quit. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms range from heart palpitations to sweaty palms and heavy breathing. It is natural for patients of substance use disorder to continue using the drug for fear of unpleasant symptoms.
However, withdrawal symptoms are a clear sign that it is time to get support and help. Some of these symptoms, especially if the drugs of choice were heroin or prescription painkiller, can be physically and mentally excruciating. This makes it very important to get proper emotional support and medical care to help get sober.
Academic or Professional Performance Is on the Decline
You should step in and help your loved one if you notice them prioritizing drug use over job responsibilities or homework. Many people begin shrugging off the things they are supposed to do to get high. They may stop doing hobbies or playing sports they once loved.
There is no time to waste when it takes over a person’s life and prevents them from doing anything else. Addiction can be particularly difficult to deal with all alone so it’s important to help substance use abusers as much as possible. There are several support networks and programs that can help in making lasting changes.
Negative Impact on Important Relationships
Addicts begin neglecting the relationships that were once important to them because their social life begins revolving around people who use and deal drugs. Some people become increasingly isolated following continued substance abuse.
Long-term friends and family find it difficult to support an addicted person during this phase. It is common for old friends and family members to pull back after getting hurt by an addicted person’s actions. Quality addiction programs can help someone struggling with addiction build meaningful relationships again. This accelerates the road to recovery. It is important for relatives to try and strengthen the family connection to be present in a more connected and supportive way in the future.
Remaining in a Denial Mode About Substance Use
If you notice your loved one lying to you about excessive drinking, smoking, or taking drugs, they may be feeling a deep sense of shame about their actions. In fact, many people who are addicted lie to themselves or make excuses for their behavior. The bottom line is if a person begins hiding their drug use, they are probably slipping into addiction. It is better for them to seek professional treatment soon.
Taking full responsibility for actions is the first step on the road to recovery. Being honest about substance use is a great way of dissolving shame. It leads to better mental health and prevents slipping into subsequent addictions.
Get Help for Substance Use Disorders at VNA Health Care
VNA Health Care is a leading healthcare organization that is equipped to help people deal with addiction right away. If your friend, family member, or any other loved one has the signs of substance use, we recommend you intervene and help them start on the road to recovery. Drug use is best tackled quickly before the brain and the body starts depending on the substance and timely care helps reduce the risk of relationships breaking down.
We serve the Chicago suburbs with 12 health center locations for accessible and affordable care. You can learn more about our Medication Assisted Treatment program by visiting https://www.vnahealth.com/service/medication-assisted-treatment/. Schedule an appointment by calling us at (630) 892-4355.