Signs of addiction: how to recognise the addictive personality and when it is becoming a problem.
Addiction can be a crippling illness, one from which many never recover. To recognise the signs in someone early on can be an important factor in helping them to find solutions, relevant treatment or prevent a more serious problem from developing. Addiction is not a simple term; first of all there are many types whether substance-based or behavioural, with a range of harmful conditions and behaviours, but also people present differently within a physical, mental and psychological bracket, so it can be problematic when it comes to diagnosis. Also due to the nature of some addictions denial is often a major factor in them going unnoticed.
Types of addiction
The following are the most common substance addictions:
- Amphetamine or similarly acting sympathomimetics – e.g. speed or crystal meth
- Benzodiazepines – e.g., Xanax, Valium or Klonopin
- Hallucinogens – e.g., acid or ecstasy
- Inhalants – e.g., poppers or aerosols
- Nicotine – e.g., cigarettes, cigars or nicotine patches
- Opioids – e.g., heroin, morphine or painkillers
- Phencyclidine (PCP) or similarly acting agents – e.g., or ketamine
- Sedatives, hypnotics or anxiolytics – e.g., sleeping pills or downers.
The most common behavioural addictions include:
- Computer – e.g., internet, video games, social media, cybersex or online gambling
- Eating – e.g., overeating, bingeing or purging
- Exercise – e.g., weight loss or sports
- Gambling – e.g., VLTs, casinos or slot machines
- Gaming – e.g., computer games
- Sex – e.g., porn, cybersex or multiple partners
- Shopping – e.g., spending or stealing
- Work – e.g., overwork, money or power
Symptoms and signs:
It is very difficult to pinpoint a specific addiction, or that there is one in the first place, due to the personal nature of it, not only this but symptoms can often overlap causing even further problems when trying to identify a potential sufferer. The main symptom of an addiction is a problematic pattern of use, which leads to clinically significant impairment or distress. An obvious sign of addiction is how much time of a person’s life it takes up, in consuming, seeking to consume or recovering from consumption. However there are some basic guidelines that can help to raise awareness and provide a path to diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms and signs of addiction can include any of the following:
• Withdrawal symptoms: These can range from mild to severe depending on the intensity of the addiction, and include cravings, constipation, diarrhoea, shaking, insomnia, seizures, sweats, and uncharacteristic behaviour, including violence.
• Change in appetite or eating behaviour: some substances alter a person’s appetite. Marijuana consumption, for example, might greatly increase their appetite while cocaine may reduce it. Alcoholics tend to eat less as the addiction worsens.
• Substance health damage: smoking can obviously lead to respiratory illnesses, including cancer, asthma, emphysema. The injecting of drugs can lead to damage of the arteries and diseases can be contracted from the use of shared needles; hepatitis, HIV, for example. Vein and artery collapse can also be caused by continued use, in some cases leading to the development of infection and possible loss of a limb. Alcoholism can chronically affect the liver and kidneys. The heart suffers greatly from any substance abuse, the more pressure put on the heart, the weaker it becomes.
• Sleeplessness: insomnia is a common symptom of withdrawal. Stimulant drugs can keep a user up all night and disrupt their natural sleep pattern.
• Appearance: an addict will often start to look different, more withdrawn, disheveled, tired, frail, pale, thinner, older looking skin, etc.
• Higher tolerance level: the body experiences reduced effects of the substance over time, so a person feels the need to take more to achieve the same effect.
• Sacrifices: a person with substance dependence might give up some activities that previously brought them joy. For example, a person with alcohol use disorder may turn down an invitation to go camping or spend a day on a boat if no alcohol is available. A person with nicotine dependence may decide not to meet up with friends if they plan to go to a smoke-free pub or restaurant.
• Life changes: as an addiction becomes a bigger part of a person’s life they may start to make life changes such as neglecting their responsibilities, quitting hobbies, taking less care of themselves. This may be due to lack of funds, lack of motivation, feeling incapable, or that they have become less able due to the effects of abuse.
• Availability: an addict will always need to ensure they can maintain their addiction and fund it whether they can afford it or not. The substance or equipment needed will always be priority over eating well, taking care of themselves physically, personal possessions, family and friends will even take second place.
• Relationship changes: due to a desire to keep their problem a secret many people will carry out their addiction in solitude or with other addicts, therefore a change in friendships and relationships may be apparent.
• Denial: very often people with addiction disorders are not aware that they have a problem or will argue against the possibility even if they are. Often addicts assume they could drop the habit at any time and refuse to believe or accept that they need treatment or help.
• Overdose: some types of substance use disorders, such as alcohol or opiate use disorders, can lead an individual to consume unsafe amounts of a substance. The physical effects of abusing a substance can be severe and include overdosing. However, for a person with substance use disorder, these effects will not be enough to prevent future overuse.
• Hidden contraband: in an attempt to, for one hand always have their chosen substance or addiction to hand at all times, and secondly to try to disguise and hide their issue, an addict may keep them in a variety of stash zones in their home, car, work, etc.
• Lying: an addict will often cover their tracks with a string of lies which, if executed effectively, will mask the situation and make it all the more difficult to detect.
• Law breaking: some addictions are against the law in terms of their classification such as heroin or other class-A drugs, however behaviour of addicts may also become non law abiding citizens due to side effects or simply trying to get their chosen substance or pay for their addiction. Theft being one of the major issues for addicts.
• Money problems: addiction can be expensive, gambling for example can render a person in heavy debt, as can a substance addiction.
It is a very difficult thing to outline and often changes in behaviour or social situations can be down to a whole host of reasons that aren’t addiction-based. Therefore it is really important to ensure that we do not jump to any conclusions until certainty is reached, it is very possible there is another explanation. However, if that certainty arises then it could possibly save someone’s life to alert them to the reality of their situation. Addiction is a disorder and it is treatable as long as nothing life-threatening happens prior. These disorders can develop a wide range of physical, psychological and social defects and can drastically reduce quality of life and even cause death.
Online Diploma Course in Drug & Alcohol Counselling
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences we offer a distance learning diploma course of 6 lessons in Drug & Alcohol Counselling. This course lays out in simple form the essentials for understanding alcohol and drug problems, for making an assessment of the patient, for giving appropriate help and for making decisions on when to make a referral.