Drug Abuse and Addiction: Signs to Watch Out for and How to Get Help for a Loved One

Although some people are able to use recreational or prescription drugs without ever becoming addicted or experiencing adverse and negative consequence, for many others, substance use can become addictive and cause a number of problems at home, work, school or within relationships. The problems that can be caused by substance abuse can often leave the user feeling low, ashamed, isolated or even helpless, and if you suspect that a friend or loved one is suffering from drug abuse or addiction it’s important that you know how to react in order to best help them. We’ve put together some helpful tips and advice for how to recognize the signs of drug abuse and addiction, and things that you can do to aid a friend or loved one on the pathway to recovery.

Understanding Drug Use, Abuse and Addiction

There are a number of various reasons why people may experiment with drugs. For many, they try drugs simply out of curiosity, because they have heard about an experience that somebody else has had when using the drug and want to see what it is like for themselves. Other people try drugs as a way of enhancing their lives, for example to improve their athletic performance or to ease issues such as stress, worry and anxiety. Drug use does not always necessarily lead to drug abuse, and there is no specific level where drug use moves from casual to problematic. Abuse of and addiction to drugs is less about the amount taken or the frequency in which it is taken, and rather more regarding the issues caused by it. No matter how little or how infrequent a drug user is using drugs, if it is causing problems in their home, work, or personal lives then it’s likely that it has become a problem.

Drug Addiction and the Brain

Addiction itself is a complex disorder, which can be characterized by compulsive drug use. Whilst each various drug offers different physical effects, each have one thing in common – repeated use will effect and alter the way in which the brain looks and functions. Participating in recreational drug use can increase the levels of dopamine in the brain, triggering feelings of happiness and pleasure. The brain then remembers these feelings and wants to repeat them. Becoming addicted to a drug means that the substance takes on the same significance in the brain as other behaviors for survival such as eating and drinking. Changes in the brain interfere with the user’s ability to think clearly, exercise good judgement, control behavior and even function normally without drugs.

Common Signs and Symptoms

If you suspect that a friend or loved one is becoming addicted to or abusing drugs, there are a number of common signs and symptoms that you should look out for. Drug abuse and addiction more often than not causes issues at work or at home, so if your friend or loved one suddenly develops home issues or is having problems at work although they have never experienced anything like this in the past, it could be a red flag.

People who are addicted to or abusing drugs also often lose their enthusiasm or motivation to do things, so if you find that your loved one or friend is increasingly becoming more withdrawn and is less likely to want to do things together with you even if you have always done that, you may also have cause for concern. Your friend or loved one may be addicted to drugs if they have built up a drug tolerance and need more amounts of the drug to get the same effects as before, and if they continue to use the drug even though it is hurting them and others.

Getting Help

If you discover that a friend or loved one is addicted to or abusing drugs, the best thing that you can do for them is offer your support and be there for them when they need your help. Most people who abuse or are addicted to drugs do not like being in that situation, and it’s important that you have empathy and are non-judgmental in your approach. Allow your friend or loved one to confide in you, and let them know that help is available – suggest that they see a doctor and offer to attend the appointment with them, or even suggest residential rehab programs that they could attend in order to get them on the path to recovery.

Whatever you do, remember that your love and support is needed most.

Submitted by Guest Submitter

Photo by Alan Cleaver


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