Spotting the signs that your loved one could be using could help save their lives
Addiction can be defined as self-induced changes in the neurochemistry of the brain that result in negative consequences and unhealthy behavior. Many individuals employ various methods to change their neurochemistry in healthy ways such as meditation, exercise, certain forms of therapy, and others. Most people will even engage in some activities that cause changes in neurochemistry and are neutral such as, social consumption of alcohol, social gambling,eating, and many others. It can be challenging to identify when a loved one’s behavior has progressed from health behavior into addictive behavior.
Addiction to a substance differs from social usage in important ways. First, addictive behavior results in negative consequences and unhealthy behavior. Second, addiction (when it is chemically based) is typically accompanied by increased tolerance for and dependence on a substance or substances. Further, addicts typically express feelings of being out of control running parallel with a feeling that they don’t know how to stop. It is worth noting here that in the early stages of addiction it is often the case that the addict is suffering from high acuity levels of delusion and cognitive dissonance that inhibit their ability to properly self-diagnose and take personal responsibility for their actions. Addiction is a lethal disease and the earlier it can be identified and addressed the better, as the likelihood of recovery is then increased. It is never too early to begin addressing a loved one’s behavior. Honest conversation with friends and family is indispensable.
In this article I will present three early warning signs that can help identify an addiction in a loved one. This list is not meant to be comprehensive. If you are concerned with a loved one consultation with a professional is advisable.
1. Behavioral Changes
The first category we will consider are changes in behavior. Be on the lookout for:
- Increased mood swings
- Increased secrecy or demands for privacy
- Dramatic changes in sleep patterns or energy levels
- Lying and other deceptive behaviors including stealing
- Dramatic change in disposition (introvert suddenly becomes an extrovert or the opposite)
You know your loved one well. If he or she is a family member you may have lived with him or her for many years. If you notice major deviation from the behavioral norms he or she has expressed over the years this is cause for concern. There are of course many potential causes in change in behavior, that said, at the very least you owe it to your loved one to investigate the possible causes of the change and will want to begin paying closer attention. If you observe that these changes in behavior are happening in concert with the sort of changes discussed below you have cause to be very concerned.
2. Social Changes
Social changes can take many forms but it is almost always the case that they are an escalation from behavioral changes. This is not to say that one will necessarily notice the behavioral manifestations first. Yet, if you do notice social changes in your loved one this ought to be considered as a progression in severity. Examples of these are:
- Absenteeism from work or school
- Loss of interest in hobbies and other pursuits
- Inability to meet family and social obligations
- Sudden change in friend group
Over time active addiction will consume increasing amounts of an individual's time and attention. This renders the individual unable to maintain involvement in and connection to the activities that used to provide meaning to his or her life. During this stage of active addiction the consequences of one’s actions begin to accumulate. Loss of job, poor grades, loss of friends, and others can be anticipated. Often early in this phase their will be stories and justifications the addict will express in an effort to explain the results to themselves and to others. Over time these stories will become less plausible. Often when questioned the addict will become angry and attempt to escalate the situation rather than address the issue head on.
3. Physical Changes
If your loved one’s addiction has progressed to the stage where there are obvious physical changes to their person he or she is in a serious condition which needs to be addressed immediately. Delay at this stage may prove catastrophic. Be wary if you observe any of the following:
- Rapid fluctuation in weight
- Skin has a grey or yellow hue
- Limited responsiveness to stimulation
- Persistent itchy skin, excessive scratching
- Trembling in hands
- Dilated or constricted pupils
- “Track marks” marks left by persistent injection
Any of the three above observable categories of change are a cause for concern and should be addressed. Two or more is highly suggestive of active addiction and all three is substantially conclusive. It is never too early to begin honest dialogue if you are concerned with a loved one, and it is never too late to intervene. It is always better to overreact to these warning signs than to under-react.
While addiction is a serious and deadly disease it is treatable and many people do recover and go on to lead fulfilling lives. If you are concerned that a loved one is struggling with addiction consult with a therapeutic professional, treatment center, intervention specialist, or all three. There are many tools at your disposal in trying to help a loved one into recovery.
If you are concerned and need help please reach out to us at Granite Mountain BHC through our website or by phone at (844)878-3221 we are here to help.
Until next time
Your friend in Service,
If yourself or somebody you love is struggling with substance use disorder please call us today! We understand what you are going through and are here to help.