Addiction is an illness that affects individuals of all ages, race, religion, gender, and background. It is possible to become addicted to activities such as gambling, shopping or sex, but most people associate addiction with abuse of chemical substances such as alcohol and drugs.
While those with drug or alcohol addictions initially made the choice to take drugs or drink alcohol, they did not decide to become addicted. Those with addictions are not ‘bad’ or ‘weak’ people. They do not suffer from addiction because they have no willpower. The reality is that they have been affected by an illness of the brain and have no control over their behaviour. They cannot control their urge to take drugs or drink alcohol and, as such, they require treatment to get better.
There is no blood test to diagnose addiction, but there are a number of signs to look out for. Those who are worried that they may have an addiction to drugs or alcohol should see if any of the following questions apply to them:
• Have you asked more than one doctor for prescription medication for the same problem?
• Have you used prescription medication that was prescribed for someone else?
• Do you continue to take a prescription medication despite no longer needing it?
• Have you taken prescription medication with alcohol or illegal drugs?
• Are you taking a higher dose of prescription medication than prescribed?
• Have you ever used illegal drugs?
• Do you regularly get drunk?
• Do you need to take more drugs or drink more alcohol to get the same effects?
• Have you taken risks or engaged in illegal activity to ensure you can get drugs or alcohol?
• Have you tried to stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol but have been unable to do so?
• Do you regularly drink more than you intended to?
• Do you find that once you start drinking or taking drugs, you cannot stop?
• Have you suffered from blackouts while under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
• Do you spend most of your time drinking or taking drugs or thinking about doing so?
• Do you lie about taking drugs or the amount of alcohol you drink?
• Have you stopped taking part in activities in favour of drinking or taking drugs?
Answering yes to two or more of the above questions could indicate a risk of addiction. If you are in this situation, think carefully about the amount of alcohol you drink or the amount of drugs you use. Are your friends and family members worried about you?
There are many warning signs to look out for insofar as alcohol and drug addiction are concerned. The problem is that many addicts live in denial for a long time. They cannot see the harm they are inflicting on themselves and those around them and often believe that loved ones are over-reacting. If you are worried about a loved one and fear that he or she may have developed a drug or alcohol addiction, then be on the lookout for the following signs.
• Lack of motivation
• Slurred speech
• Frequent nosebleeds
• Bloodshot eyes
• Dilated pupils
• Change in appetite
• Sudden unexplained weight loss
• Loss of interest in personal hygiene
• Change in friends
• Neglecting activities or hobbies
• Needing more money – always borrowing
• Trouble sleeping
• Sudden need for privacy
• Mood swings
• Poor performance at work or school.
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, it is important to get help immediately. Many people are afraid to get the help they need for a drug or alcohol addiction because they are ashamed or embarrassed. There is still a certain stigma attached to addiction that prevents so many individuals from accessing the help they so desperately need.
It is important to remember that it is not a matter of just stopping drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Unfortunately, many people with no experience of addiction do not understand that it is an illness that changes the way the brain works.
If it were simply a matter of willpower, then there would not be any addicts in the world. Those who are affected by this illness cannot stop drinking alcohol or taking drugs. They have no control over the powerful cravings and compulsions, and they need to be treated by professionals. Thankfully, there are many organisations providing up-to-date treatments for all types of addiction.
The severity of the addiction and the type of chemical substance involved will determine the type of addiction treatment required. Needless to say, the longer a person has been abusing a particular substance, the harder it is to treat. Nonetheless, the good news is that treatment does work, and no addiction is so severe that it cannot be treated.
Nevertheless, the sooner treatment begins, the better. Addiction recovery takes time and patience but, once a person begins the journey, he or she will be on the road to a fulfilling sober life.