Is My Loved One’s Addiction Severe?

Addiction not only impacts the individual seeking the substance, but it also affects family members, friends, and acquaintances.

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Seeing A Loved One Struggle With Addiction

Addiction is the compulsive seeking, using, and obtaining of harmful chemicals despite their negative impact on the mind, spirit, and body. In the process of getting drugs or drinking large amounts of alcohol, someone with an addiction can have broken relationships, form relationships with the wrong people in pursuit of drugs, lose jobs, and risk death.

Family members may not understand why someone they love is developing an addiction. Roughly 20 million Americans suffer from an addiction, with 100 people dying each day as a result of addiction. Seeing a loved one change before one’s eyes can be extremely unsettling. Witnessing rapid weight loss, slurred speech, volatility, irritability, and depression would be extremely disheartening. Loved ones can determine the loved one’s addiction is severe even if they do not reveal dramatic changes in appearance or behavior. For example, high functioning alcoholics can mask their addiction to alcohol by maintaining a successful career and seeming sober but drinking in secret.

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Is My Loved One’s Addiction Severe?

A loved one will show signs of chemical dependency in either secretive ways, overt ways, or a combination. In cases where they abuse stimulants like Cocaine or Methamphetamines, your loved ones may act more hyper than usual, have insomnia, psychosis, and lose weight. These behavioral and psychical changes indicate a problematic level of addiction needing immediate treatment. Alternatively, someone who is able to control his or her consumption of drugs or alcohol may not have a severe addiction pattern. More serious cases of addiction typically include the following traits or behaviors:

  • An inability to stop or control use.
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when they stop using drugs or alcohol.
  • Becoming aggressive or combative when drugs are taken away.
  • Denying drug or alcohol use.
  • Craving drugs or alcohol.
  • Engaging in risky behavior to get drugs (stealing for drugs, exchanging sex for drugs, violent behavior in relationship to drugs).
  • Relationship instability.
  • Poor work or academic function.
  • Physical changes (bloodshot eyes, sunken in eyes, bloated stomach, rotting teeth, loss of appetite, needle tracks on arms).
  • Confusion or hallucinations.
  • Finding drug paraphernalia around the home.
  • Increase in dosage.
  • Combining drugs with other drugs.

Recognizing Addiction In A Loved One: Withdrawal

In addition to recognizing addiction in a loved one, signs of severe addiction often include tolerance to the drug and withdrawal. Withdrawal is when the body is no longer receiving amounts of drugs that it feels are necessary to feel normal. As a result, many will continue chemical dependence until they feel normal or need more. Withdrawal symptoms vary based on the chemical abused and can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Inactivity
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Disinterest in everyday activities
  • Vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Thoughts of suicide

Going cold turkey will bring on withdrawal symptoms. While going cold turkey to live a healthier life is admirable, it can be challenging. Often, many return to the substance due to the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. Medical treatment can be a beneficial and safe way to recover without the discomfort of withdrawals as patients receive medication and supervision.

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Why And How Addiction Occurs In Loved Ones

Addictions to chemicals can alter the brain’s chemical composition, resulting in atypical behavior and furthering their addiction.  The high of the drugs creates enough of a lure for people to continually seek it out. One’s behavior in relation to their addiction can vary based on the drug, based on dosage, and based on other factors. Someone can develop an addiction in response to having an underlying mental or emotional condition. To illustrate, someone battling depression may begin to drink to not feel anymore. Over time, a tolerance to alcohol can occur, leaving the person to seek higher dosages of alcohol to feel its effects. Continued drinking can lead to dependence and using it during depressive episodes.

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Other causes of addiction can include abusing prescription medications used to calm anxiety or to treat pain. Someone may start off with the recommended dosage and transition to larger doses once they develop a tolerance. Because they are driven by the need to numb anxiety or reduce pain, he or she can go to great lengths to suppress anxious feelings by numbing them with drugs or alcohol. In some cases, people abuse drugs to enhance their performance at work, school, or in the gym. Lastly, addictions can occur when people want to fit in or cave into peer pressure.

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How Treatment Can Help

Discovering a loved one is battling a severe addiction is difficult, heartbreaking, and frustrating. Fortunately, family members could consider inpatient or outpatient rehab. Those in need have several options to choose from whether they want to stay local or travel or heal with alternative treatments. Rehabs offer 24-hour support for detox and recovery, with 12-step programs, exercise regimens, and medication to help assist recovery.

In the case of withdrawal, patients in inpatient facilities can receive medications to help with symptoms, along with one-on-one counseling to uncover any underlying mental or emotional disorders that impact addiction. Lastly, some facilities offer family visits as family support and involvement are motivating factors in recovery.

Don’t Wait Any Longer

Family members can help their loved one get help.  Reach out to a qualified treatment provider today.

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