One of the most dangerous aspects of drug addiction is simply the mental gymnastics that addicts go through as a regular part of their daily life. The denial, the justification, the entitlement; these thoughts and feelings are the ways that drug addiction protects itself, tricking the user into using more and more drugs for as long as possible. This illusion of free will plagues all addicts and keeps them trapped in the self-destructive cycle. It is something that contributes to their addiction just as much as the drugs themselves. It is also the greatest factor contributing to relapse, with countless recovering addicts thinking that they have become cured or that they somehow “got this”.
This mentality can be easily seen in other aspects of their lives, but only from the outside. Addiction is a progressive disease and as such, subtly takes root and begins to grow more severe over time. Most people who become addicted to drugs do not experience any negative consequences after their first time getting high, making it very difficult to tell if somebody is developing a problem with drugs at all. However, there are some clear-cut signs that can be detected, even in the earliest stages of drug addiction.
1. PERSONALITY CHANGE: LACK OF INTEREST, WITHDRAWING, AND AGGRESSION
We may not even know that somebody we care about is using drugs, but there are signs and can be right under our noses. As addicts begin to prioritize drug use above all else, there also begins to be subtle changes attitude and behavior. Painters stop painting, dancers stop dancing, athletes stop playing; the importance of drug use supersedes all other aspects of their lives.
This can also take the form of isolation. Seemingly overnight, we might notice that our friend or loved one doesn’t seem to have an interest in being social anymore. Drugs take away our desire for human interaction, often viewing the maintaining of relationships as a chore that gets in the way of them getting high. As the withdraw from the world, they begin to become lost and consequently, more difficult to reach out to.
When confronted, people who normally would never have had an aggressive inclination in their body, become defensive, argumentative, or even violent. If an addict feels that something is a threat to them getting their next high, they will fight against in the same way a normal person would if they felt their life was a risk. This sounds drastic, but it is important to remember that when an addict is using drugs, they are not the same person anymore. To them, getting high is as serious and necessary as air is to a drowning person.
2. PHYSICAL CHANGE: FLUCTUATION IN WEIGHT AND OTHER SIGNS
Drug use makes an extraordinary impact on the functioning of the human body, to the point that it can often be seen with our own eyes. The most obvious change that many experience is a dramatic loss of weight. Drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and meth also act as appetite suppressants, tricking the drug user into not realizing they are hungry. Other times, addicts simply lose interest in eating, choosing instead to devote their time and energy into finding and using drugs. It is not uncommon for drug addicts just entering detox to be extremely malnourished, needing immediate medical intervention in the event of other consequential conditions.
On the other end, it is also possible for some drug users to gain exorbitant amounts of weight depending on what drugs are being used. This is especially common with alcoholics and marijuana users. Excessive users of these drugs tend to ingest a massive number of calories and remain sedentary, leading to weight gain and other health issues. Often times, the behaviors that led to this can take many years of therapy to completely overcome.
Many of the other more obvious signs reflect the lack of self-care that addicts engage in. A disheveled appearance and poor hygiene are just as representative of the problem as any other symptom and are some of the signs that many observers witness first. These are reflections of the state-of-mind of the addict, showing little regard for their own appearance or well-being in a very tangible way.
3. EMOTIONAL CHANGE: LOOKING INWARD FOR THE PROBLEM AND SOLUTION
The hardest change for outsiders to see, emotional change takes place on a deep level, affecting addicts’ opinion of both themselves and life. As they begin to use more drugs, they begin to lose hope that there is a better life possible. They descend into a spiral of self-loathing that only grows more severe as addiction progresses. Many addicts take their own life, becoming convinced that a life without drugs is either impossible or not worth it. They’ve become used accustomed to taking drugs that the idea of living without them is horrifying. The reach a point where they can quite literally not live with or without drugs.
SEEING THE SIGNS AND TAKING ACTION
Seeing people struggle with addiction is a harrowing experience, no matter how close they are to you. It’s never easy to help people who don’t want to be helped, let alone those who don’t realize they even have a problem. If we want to help, the most important thing we can possibly do is come from a place of understanding. Talk to them. Express your concerns in a compassionate and loving way that isn’t confrontational or argumentative. Most importantly, talking to them with humility and respect. If somebody is in the process of becoming addicted to drugs, your revelation may not be taken well and it is important that you remain supportive and understanding. It is through love and unity that addiction can be eliminated for good.