In 2018, over 2400 deaths in California were caused by opioid overdoses. These deaths only accounted for 45% of the total deaths caused by drug overdoses that year.
When a loved one is showing signs of drug abuse, it’s not always easy to know what steps to take. At times, you may question whether or not their drug use really has escalated to the point of abuse or addiction.
Identifying and discussing drug abuse is often the first step toward helping your loved one seek treatment for drug abuse.
We’re here to help. Read on for 15 of the most common warning signs of drug abuse that you shouldn’t ignore.
1. Taking Prescriptions After the Problem Is Treated
For many Americans, drug dependency begins with a prescription. Patients may be prescribed opioids such as codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone to treat temporary pain.
Continuing to seek out and use these prescriptions after the pain has been successfully treated is often an early sign of drug abuse.
2. Requiring Larger Doses to Feel the Effects of a Drug
When we regularly use substances with mind and body-altering effects, we can begin to build up a “tolerance” to them. What this means is that we no longer feel the same effects from a substance without increasing our intake.
The presence of a building tolerance indicates continued or long-term substance use. When the desire to feel those effects outweighs safety or health concerns, your loved one may have a dependency issue.
3. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms After the Drug Wears Off
Addiction does impact mental processing but it also affects people on a physical level. Once a physical dependency is present, individuals will exhibit withdrawal symptoms when the substance starts to wear off.
Common withdrawal symptoms of opiates and opioids include:
- trouble sleeping
- shaking or tremors
- restlessness and anxiety
- muscle aches
Some symptoms of withdrawal can pose serious health risks. Medical treatment is advised if your loved one is experiencing severe withdrawal. It is also important that full detoxing occurs with medical supervision.
4. Difficulty With Daily Activities
The effects of many common drugs (as well as withdrawal) are not always conducive to daily life. Mental and physical impairments can make activities like driving and cooking difficult, if not dangerous.
Impairments aside, drug abuse can also lead to shifting priorities, which we’ll discuss further below. Daily activities that were once considered an important or necessary part of one’s day may fall by the wayside. This can include things like bathing and eating, cleaning one’s home, and taking care of one’s health.
5. Loss of Interest in Previous Hobbies
Drugs and other mind-altering substances impact the brain’s pleasure center, causing the brain to release things like dopamine upon use.
Without substances (or limited use of substances), we often experience pleasure when we perform certain activities. For example, a person might experience great joy when gardening, cooking, or painting. (We also tend to experience joy when we spend time with loved ones.)
When someone is abusing a drug, the release of pleasurable neurochemicals can become tied to that drug. This can interfere with the natural rhythms of our brains and previously enjoyable activities may not trigger positive responses in the brain. As a result, you may notice that your loved one stops turning to old hobbies and activities altogether.
6. Continued Drug Use In Spite of Relationship Effects
Perhaps one of the most painful signs of drug abuse is the negative impact it can have on interpersonal relationships. Maybe you or others express that your loved one’s drug use is causing you harm. Maybe it hasn’t been expressed but the negative effects are clear.
When an individual continues to use a drug despite the way it is damaging important relationships, this is a clear indicator of drug abuse.
7. Continued Drug Use In Spite of Interference With Responsibilities
The same notion applies to an individual’s responsibilities. If your loved one is choosing drug use (or drug-related habits) over their responsibilities, consider it a red flag. This may include work, parenting or caregiving, legal obligations, and so forth.
8. “Doctor Shopping”
Both “street drugs” and certain prescription drugs can lead to drug abuse. Individuals who are addicted to prescription drugs may look for continued access through the medical field. In other words, they may seek renewed prescriptions again and again.
Medical professionals understand the addictive potential that certain prescription drugs have. As a result, they will limit the amount or dosage that they prescribe their patients.
Pay attention to where your loved one is seeking medical treatment. Are they visiting multiple doctors in order to gain access to prescription medications? If so, they may be “doctor shopping,” the process of finding new or multiple sources to access a prescription drug.
9. Erratic or Dangerous Behavior
As we mentioned earlier, excessive drug use will impair normal mental or physical functions. Some people who suffer from drug abuse or addiction may exhibit behavioral shifts. At times, they may behave in ways that are erratic or dangerous to themselves or others.
10. Theft of Money or Valuables to Acquire More Drugs
The nature of drug dependency can put individuals in compromising positions. In order to avoid withdrawal and produce those “positive” effects, they need continued access to the drug. This will cost money which they may not have.
Theft of money or valuables, alone, is not a sign of drug abuse. However, if this behavior is paired with other drug abuse signs, it is more reasonable to believe that the theft and drug abuse are linked.
11. Drastic Changes to Appearance and Health
Over time, continued drug abuse will lead to changes in a person’s appearance and health. Common symptoms include:
- rapid weight loss
- marks, rashes, or blisters on the skin
- bloodshot or watery eyes
- increased sinus problems
- changes in sleeping habits
- poor hygiene
- tremors or seizures
Long-term drug abuse can also increase the risk of certain heart conditions.
12. Reckless Substance Mixing
Many prescriptions come with advisories against substance mixing. For example, it is common for doctors to warn against taking certain prescriptions while drinking alcohol.
Mixing substances can increase the effects of drugs. It can also increase health hazards. If your loved one is mixing substances, it may indicate that they have a high tolerance to a drug–and that their safety is no longer their biggest priority.
13. Shifting Social Circles
Drug abuse often isolates individuals from the people who care about them. In some instances, you may notice that your loved one is “shutting out” everyone around them.
In others, you may notice that your loved one’s social circle has shifted. They may begin to replace old relationships with new ones that center on drug use. They may also develop a pattern of establishing and ending new relationships frequently.
(The same can go for places. You may notice that your loved one is spending more time in a place they never used to go.)
14. Irritation or Secretive Behavior
If your loved one is suffering from drug abuse, you may start to notice a shift in the way they act around you and others. They may exhibit signs of irritation or irritability. This could indicate that they are experiencing minor withdrawal symptoms but it could also indicate feelings of guilt.
Deep down, your loved one may try to hide their drug abuse from you because they don’t want it to affect you. They may worry about repercussions such as being cut off or causing you harm. This can lead to secretive and even combative behavior.
15. Increased Mental Health Problems
Research shows both short-term and long-term links between drug abuse and increased mental health problems. This can include increased signs of paranoia, depression, anxiety, and anger. It can also cause or contribute to a rise in auditory or visual hallucinations.
It is also noteworthy that many people who suffer from drug abuse already dealt with mental health problems. Drug abuse has a high comorbidity rate with mental illness.
This is why addressing mental and cognitive health is an integral part of drug abuse treatment. Drug abuse is often a coping mechanism for other mental or life problems. Treatment such as therapy can have long-lasting effects by introducing new, healthy tools to cope with a variety of hardships.
Is Your Loved One Showing Signs of Drug Abuse? Treatment May Be the Next Step
Do these signs of drug abuse sound familiar? If so, it may be time for an intervention. Drug addiction is a serious disease and those who suffer from it need help to achieve full recovery.
Find a gentle and supportive way to talk to your loved one about treatment options. Then, consider Recovery Beach, the best drug abuse treatment center in California.
To find out more about our treatment programs, availability, and pricing, contact us today.