substance abuser

Behavioral Signs You or a Loved One May Have an Addiction

By Nicole Arzt is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in providing psychotherapy for individuals, families, and groups struggling with substance use disorders and psychiatric illnesses.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

substance abuser

Are you concerned about the possibility of addiction? Unfortunately, the statistics are harrowing. A staggering 20.4 million Americans over age 12 have a substance use disorder (SUD) related to their alcohol or drug use, according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

With that in mind, addiction is not always apparent. The shame and stigma are pervasive. As a result, many people withhold, lie, and manipulate their truth to avoid unwanted consequences.

Addiction isn't always apparent. The shame and stigma are pervasive. As a result, many withhold, lie, and manipulate their truth to avoid unwanted consequences.

However, there are a few telltale behavioral signs to look out for when considering the possibility of addiction.

Are Performance Problems a Sign of Addiction?

Whether at the workplace, in the classroom, or on the playing field, substance abuse often impacts one's behavioral performance.

That's because substance abuse can impair the parts of the brain associated with concentration, mood, motivation, and energy. Furthermore, compounded effects related to sleep and appetite changes can exacerbate these problems.

Substance abuse can be incredibly time-consuming. Getting, using, and recovering from various substances often results in tardiness and absences. As a result, to avoid a potential fallout, the individual may withdraw from particular tasks altogether.

Relationship Problems due to Substance Abuse

Anger. Blaming. Secrecy. Mistrust. These are all examples of the issues that can resurface in relationships where substance abuse occurs.

When an individual struggles with addiction, the substance becomes the primary focus. Although it's often unintentional, the efforts to maintain the drug use supersede effort to preserve the health of a relationship.

As a result, loved ones tend to struggle as well. They may not know how to identify and uphold the necessary boundaries. Perhaps, they feel responsible for the addiction, and they experience an overwhelming pressure to "get" the individual sober.

Can Financial Problems can be a Sign of Addiction?

Drug use can create tremendous money issues. Often, it's a spiraling effect that can creep before one even realizes it.

The individual starts to spend more and more money on the substance slowly. At the same time, their tolerance (how their body processes and absorbs the "high") is increasing. Increased tolerance means that the individual needs to take more of the substance to achieve the desired effect.

With time, progressive substance use can lead to severe financial consequences. People may resort to illegal tactics like theft or robbery to obtain money. Likewise, the majority of America's homeless population is correlated with addiction.

Legal Problems Resulting from Substance Abuse

Illicit drug use itself is illegal and can result in fines and arrests. However, there are indirect legal issues associated with substance use that may include:

  • driving while impaired
  • abuse or neglect of dependents
  • aggression and assault
  • petty theft
  • public intoxication
  • probation violations

Thus, even "legal" substances like alcohol or prescription opioids can result in problems.

Physical Health Problems Related to Addiction

Substance abuse takes an enormous toll on the body. Many people neglect grooming, hygiene, and overall physical health while using. Long-term, these can lead to life-threatening medical issues including:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stroke
  • Hepatitis C
  • Cancer
  • Cirrhosis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Overdose and death

Thoughts on Behavioral Signs of Addiction

Any combination of these problems could indicate a substance use disorder. However, all individuals are different, and addiction can be a silent and insidious force of destruction.

Bottom line? If you have the feeling that "something" is off, don't ignore that gut reaction! You know your loved ones best, and many times, investigating the problem starts with a small inkling.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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