Not many people are very aware of their own consumption habits, not realising that they’re fuelling an addiction that is slowly ruining their lives. They think nothing of it because they haven’t started experiencing the horrible side effects yet.
What they’re not aware of is that the symptoms of addiction still remain. So what are the early warning signs you should be looking out for?
Increased tolerance and withdrawal
As a person takes a drug over and over again, their body adjusts to it. This means that their tolerance goes up, and the body requires even more of the drug just to get the same high. The dosage continues to go up over time until they end up taking more than their body can handle. Be aware of certain drugs being taken over an extended period of time and if dosage intake increases.
Another symptom that falls under this category is withdrawal; those awful symptoms a person experiences once a drug has left their system. The combination of increased tolerance and withdrawal is a good sign that you should probably seek help at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.
Once, you may have only spent your time on the weekend looking for your fix. But if you notice that you’re spending more and more time, including days during the week when you should be working, then you definitely have a problem. Alternatively, if you start using drugs to escape stress or hardships, which can strengthen cravings when those stressful moments arise again.
Drugs simulate the parts of the brain that are responsible for an elevated feeling. But after you take a drug for a while your brain gets used to it and the effect is not the same that it used to be. Then you need to take stronger drugs to get the same good feeling. Soon, your brain and body gets used to the drug induced state and needs the dosage to feel normal. Drug addiction is a chronic disease, which means it stays with you for a long time, even if you stop using it for a while. It doesn’t go away like a cold. A person with an addiction can get treatment, but quitting for good can be very hard.
Even in small doses, drugs impair judgment in some respect. A person can become more reckless and take riskier decisions over time. In the late stages of addiction, the threshold for what is acceptable behaviour continues to decline, leading to increasingly unacceptable mannerisms that are solely focused on fuelling one’s addiction.
As addiction grows worse over time, the balance between using drugs and a person’s personal life begins to degrade. Drug use will start to take precedence over work, relationships, and important responsibilities. An addict will also change their friend group to those who have similar drug habits.
Physical signs and symptoms
The changes in an addict’s appearance are quite dramatic. The most common physical symptoms include dilated pupils, red eyes, tremors, a sickly pallor, dry mouth, and slurred speech. An addict will also appear more tired and skinnier, as an addict’s appetite for food is replaced with the cravings for drugs instead.
Withdrawal symptoms are also quite easy to spot: fever, constant sweating, nausea, and depression.
Not everyone is the same, so not all the signs mentions above are going to be visible at the same time. They may not even be visible at all, since withdrawal from personal relationships can make it more difficult for the physical symptoms to be noticed. However, it’s important to be vigilant if you have suspicions that a friend or family member might be an addict so that you can get them the help they deserve.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.