Substance addiction is a serious and growing problem in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly one-quarter of a million Americans over the age of 12 are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Of these, the age bracket with the highest prevalence of addiction is the baby boomers, whose substance abuse rates have more than doubled within just seven years.
People become addicted to substances for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it starts as a way to relax or have fun, as is often the case with alcohol. Other times, it’s caused by dependence to otherwise necessary medications. People may also begin abusing substances as a way to control stress or deal with emotional pain. Whatever the cause, addiction never provides a good solution to any problem.
Substance abuse is responsible for more than two million emergency room trips each year. What’s more, the rates of ER admissions for prescription drug abuse are rising, and have increased by roughly 98 percent within five years. Untreated addiction can damage your health and many other areas of your life, but how do you know if you’re addicted? Here are some signs to look for.
Behavioral and Emotional
Do you find yourself engaging in drug or alcohol-seeking behavior? This can include frequenting bars, only going to parties that provide alcohol, looking for people to sell you drugs or constantly being concerned with how much of a substance you have left. There may also be changes in your behavior as a result of your addiction. These can include:
- Stealing money or valuables to buy drugs or alcohol
- Lying to friends or loved ones about your use
- Avoiding other activities in favor of using drugs or alcohol
- Using drugs or alcohol in inappropriate settings, like work, school or in public
Naturally, substance addiction also presents numerous barriers to your emotional well-being. If you’re using drugs or alcohol to cover up deeper emotional issues, there is never an opportunity to address and work through them. Indeed, substance abuse can even add onto any emotional problems that you already have, encouraging further substance abuse. Many people who use their addiction to run away from their emotions often struggle from additional negative feelings caused by the addiction itself, such as:
- Loneliness and insecurity
Financial and Social
Addictions take a lot of money to support, and that spending typically increases with time. The nature of addiction often means that obtaining drugs or alcohol becomes a top priority. You might start paying your bills late or skimping on groceries and other necessities just to make sure you can continue supporting your habit. In extreme cases, this kind of behavior leads people into homelessness, crime or other unpleasant situations that are extremely difficult to overcome. If you are caught going to work under the influence or using drugs on the job, or if your performance is declining, you even risk being fired. This can result in even greater financial challenges as well as difficulty getting hired elsewhere.
Anything that affects you emotionally and behaviorally is bound to affect your social life. In many cases, addicts begin drifting away from their usual group of friends. Instead, they often choose to spend more time with other addicts because it facilitates their own substance use, and they feel less likely to face judgment from these people. Behavioral changes and emotional disturbances can also, sadly, serve to drive away friends and loved ones. Perhaps you’ve had bitter drug-fueled arguments with a partner or sibling. Maybe you’ve said hurtful things to a friend while under the influence of alcohol. Either way, substance abuse has a way of isolating people from others that care about them.
Drug and alcohol addiction comes with a broad range of harmful effects on your physical health. There are more risks to be concerned about than just overdosing. Long-term use of most addictive substances can lead to gradual but certain deterioration of the body. Some examples of drug and alcohol-induced health issues include:
- Chronic constipation
- Digestive disorder
- Liver problems
- Pale, pasty skin and limp, dull hair
- Slow wound healing
- Reckless behavior leading to physical injuries
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent colds, influenza or infections due to suppressed immunity
- Tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss
- Neurological disorders like neuropathy, numbness, muscle spasms and seizures
What To Do About It
If you think that you may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, getting help as soon as possible is essential to preserving your health and life. There are many treatment facilities to choose from, but if at all possible, it’s recommended to choose inpatient treatment. Because you don’t have to go back to your home or job during your treatment, you can avoid a lot of the stressful triggers that might otherwise make you relapse. In addition, these facilities are equipped to treat not only your addiction, but also its underlying causes.