Substance abuse is a common and potentially fatal problem. People get addicted to prescription drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol, or nicotine. At Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA, we help patients to recognize their addictions and figure out the best way forward. Some need residential treatment, while others can be treated on an outpatient basis. Read on to find out about the signs of addiction.
What Are the Signs of Substance Abuse?
Most people can’t recover from addiction until they’ve acknowledged the problem and worked with a professional. Recognizing the signs of addiction is the first step. Not everyone reacts to illegal drugs and alcohol in the same way, but there are some common patterns. Most patients experience physical symptoms, psychological issues, and changes to their behavior and relationships.
Many of the psychological signs of drug use are similar to the symptoms of mental health conditions. Patients might have trouble concentrating and struggle to complete tasks they used to manage easily. They might experience mood swings and more unstable emotions. Many people are defensive about their addictions, so they become angry when someone brings up the issue.
Different drugs cause different symptoms, and it is often hard to tell whether a psychological issue is related to drug use, stress, or another lifestyle factor. Some substances like cocaine can cause paranoia, while certain prescription drugs cause memory loss when consumed in large doses. Existing mental health conditions are often exacerbated after a patient develops an addiction.
People’s appearance changes when they become addicted to harmful substances. They are no longer able to take care of themselves, so they might look unkempt and unwashed. Many drugs suppress appetite or change the function of the digestive system, so the patient loses weight and appears gaunt and pale. They might also have marks on their skin, slurred speech, and persistent itching.
Over time, many people develop medical conditions related to their addiction. Some common issues are lung disease, cancer, and stroke. Patients who inject drugs might contract HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis B and C if they share needles with other users. They might develop a skin infection due to exposure to bacteria on the shared equipment.
Behavioral and Social Symptoms
Family members and friends often notice a change in the behavior of the person struggling with addiction. They might become more secretive to hide their problem. They withdraw from socializing and stop participating in activities they used to enjoy. Often, the patient no longer performs well at school or work, and they might be more absent than before.
Once the person notices that their behavior is problematic, they might attempt to stop using drugs or drinking alcohol. However, getting rid of an addiction is extremely difficult, so it’s unlikely that they will succeed without professional help. Family and friends often become frustrated when their loved one continues to use the substance, despite the negative consequences.
If you suspect that your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, check for paraphernalia among their things. Some of the objects to look out for include cigarette wrappers, pipes, syringes, soiled cotton swabs, cut-up straws, empty wine or beer bottles, razor blades, bongs, burnt bottle caps or spoons, rolled-up banknotes, and lighters. Prescription drugs don’t require paraphernalia, but you might notice medicine bottles from more than one doctor.
After you’ve found objects related to drug or alcohol use, take some time to process your emotions before speaking to your loved one. It’s important to remain calm during discussions. Saying how you feel about the issue is a good starting point because it shows the person how their actions affect you. Tell them that you’re worried about their safety and that you’re here for them during the recovery period.
What To Do Next
Once you’ve recognized that you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it’s important to take action. If the problem is addressed within a few months, the likelihood of long-term physical and mental health consequences is lower. People who have been addicted for many years have a much harder time recovering and staying away from alcohol and drugs.
There are several treatment options. Many people start by going to a residential clinic, where they can recover without having to worry about temptation. When they go back home, they might still need outpatient therapy and medicine to manage their addiction. In Atlanta, there are many substance abuse self-help groups that help people to stay on track. Sometimes, alternative treatments can complement the traditional approach.
It’s often difficult for patients to beat their addiction while living in their familiar environment. They might be surrounded by other drug users, and it is too easy for them to access the substance they are struggling with. There are facilities where patients can spend a few weeks or months recovering from their addiction.
These clinics are drug-free, so patients don’t have to deal with temptation. The other residents are also trying to beat their addiction, and the environment is supportive. Patients receive counseling and professional care every day, and they are supervised.
After leaving the facility, patients continue to recover in their familiar environment. They are still supervised by an addiction counselor and a therapist. These professionals make sure that the patient doesn’t fall back into old habits.
It’s important to create a supportive environment, especially during the first year of recovery. In some cases, the family members of the person struggling with addiction also see a therapist. During their sessions, they learn how to help their loved one remain sober.
Several types of medications can help patients reduce the chance of a relapse. Two of the most common ones are Methadone and Naltrexone. Methadone is a replacement opiate, and it reduces the patient’s withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone reduces and suppresses opioid cravings by blocking opioid receptors.
If you’ve been struggling with addiction, speak to us about these drugs. We can prescribe them if you’re serious about your recovery and have made the necessary lifestyle changes. Typically, anti-addiction drugs are used for up to 12 weeks, but it depends on your situation. You might need to use them for longer if you’ve been addicted to drugs for many years.
It’s important to get professional help when trying to recover from an addiction. Counselors and therapists can keep patients on track, help them deal with a relapse, and prescribe medication when necessary. However, support from peers is just as important. If friends and family members have never struggled with addiction, they might not understand what the patient is going through.
As a result, a person struggling with addiction might feel alone and misunderstood. A local or online self-help group can provide relief. By connecting with others who are going through a similar situation, patients can stay on track more easily. There are also support groups for friends and family members.
Several alternative treatments can provide relief. Some people respond well to hypnotherapy, acupuncture, or biofeedback. These methods are considered holistic, so they don’t involve ingesting chemicals or undergoing an operation. Most alternative treatments aim to address the whole body and the underlying issues that caused the addiction.
They work particularly well on patients who are struggling with addiction due to excessive stress or childhood trauma. Alternative treatments are meant to supplement, not replace other methods like medication and therapy. They can be highly effective when used in combination with a comprehensive recovery plan.
What Are the Stages of Recovery?
When talking about recovery, we often distinguish between three stages. Early recovery is the time spent in a facility, during which the patient might experience physical withdrawal symptoms. Patients are treated by counselors and therapists, and they might attend self-help groups. Middle recovery is when the person makes significant lifestyle changes to prevent a relapse.
They might start new relationships, end unhealthy ones, and change their work environment. Late recovery lasts for the rest of the patient’s life. It involves focusing on positive relationships and goals, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and getting help whenever the cravings return.
Get Help with Your Addiction Now
Substance abuse isn’t always easy to recognize, especially in the early stages. Over time, patients might display psychological, physical, behavioral, and social symptoms. It’s important to seek help as soon as possible because it’s unlikely that the problem will resolve itself. Get in touch with us at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA to book an appointment with a specialist.