Drug Addiction (Substance Abuse)

What is drug addiction?

Drug addiction is a disease that affects a person’s brain, their emotional state and general behaviour; as well as the physical harm it causes on their body. The initial stages of drug/ substance use and ultimately abuse often start with tobacco, alcohol and cannabis and also prescription drugs that can include opioids, anti-anxiety medication and sedatives. It leads to an inability to control the use of legal/illegal drugs and medication.

Addiction general starts with experimental use in a recreational/social setting and for some individuals becomes more and more frequent until they’re ‘hooked’ on their substance/s of choice. Studies show that children as young as 12 or 13 are involved in drug/substance abuse. How fast a person becomes addicted varies by drug and can also be influenced by an individual’s personality and mental/emotional state; as well as peer pressure.

As a person becomes more addicted, larger doses are required to get ‘high’ and they become dependent on the drug to ‘feel good’. They find it increasingly difficult to stop taking the drug and attempts to stop may cause overriding ‘cravings’ and make them feel physically ill – ‘withdrawal symptoms’.

Help from a Doctor, family/friends, support groups and admittance to medical ‘rehab’ to overcome the addiction and stay drug free; in most cases will be necessary.

Are you addicted to drugs?

These are some of the symptoms and behaviours that may indicate you’re addicted to drugs:

  • Having to use the drug on a regular basis – daily or even several times as day as dependence gets worse
  • Getting intense urges for the drug as it ‘blocks’ out other thoughts
  • Requiring more of the drug to get the same effect
  • Maintaining a supply of the drug
  • Spending all available money on the drug, even though you can’t afford it and you may be committing a crime to attain money for it
  • Shunning responsibilities – not attending work, withdrawing from social and recreational activities because of drug use
  • Taking part in risky activities whilst under the influence of drugs
  • Continued drug use, even though you know it’s causing problems in your everyday life – physical and psychological harm
  • Spending increasing amounts of time getting hold of the drug, taking it and recovering from its’ effects
  • Continually failing to stop taking the drug due to withdrawal symptoms

Is a young person, friend or family member taking drugs?

It can be very difficult to determine normal teenage moodiness and difficult behaviour from signs of drug use. The following indications may alert you to the fact that a teenager, friend or family member is using drugs:

  • Problems at school or work – frequently missing school or work, total disinterest in school activities or work. Drop in grades or performance at work.
  • Health issues – lack of energy, becoming lethargic and losing motivation. Conversely some drugs cause excess energy. Weight loss or gain. Watery or blood shot eyes. Pupils that are either larger or smaller than normal. Tremors and impaired coordination.
  • Changes in behaviour – efforts to bar family members from entering his/her room. Being secretive about where they’re going and with whom. Drastic changes in their general behaviour and relationships with family members. Moody, aggressive or exceedingly quiet and insular – sudden personality shifts. Dishonesty, a lack of motivation, paranoia, anxiety or nervousness and sudden outbursts.
  • Sleeping problems – such as difficulty falling to sleep, being awake at odd times or falling to sleep at strange times (not always in bed).
  • Personal hygiene – change in grooming habits or a decline in personal appearance. Strange smells emanating from their clothes/body.
  • Communication – from extreme talkativeness or hyperactivity to being totally speechless and withdrawn. May also start to clench their jaw.
  • Eating habits – changes such as loss of appetite or an increased appetite.
  • Social life – one of the most common signs of drug abuse is a complete change in the people they hang out with or hobbies/activities they participate in suddenly change. Lack of interest in social interactions tend to become prevalent; along with apathy and disinterest in friends and family activities

Whilst the above signs of drug abuse are some of the initial indicators to look out for; it must be acknowledged that these often become more severe and their behaviour will be entirely focused on obtaining their next dose of drugs, to maintain their high.