The symptoms of substance abuse are plentiful and those aware of them can spot them easily. Substance abuse counselors will gain this skill as they have further experience with those suffering from these symptoms. This is another reason people who have been involved with their own substance abuse make for great substance abuse counselors. They know the symptoms, they know the feelings, they know the reasons, and they know what helps. They know how an addict and abuser thinks. And they can help. The symptoms of substance abuse run deep, and cause disruption in school, at home, at work, and in relationships.
Symptoms of Substance Abuse – Lifestyle Changes
If you see a friend or family member changing, it is possible that they are engaging in substance abuse. You need to have a firm understanding of the nature of addiction and how it develops, and most especially what it looks like. Knowing these aspects of the symptoms of substance abuse will allow you to deal with it most efficiently and appropriately. For instance, if you suspect your child may be involved in substance abuse, look for the warning signs. Has your child begun making lower grades and having lower involvement in extracurricular activities? Does he or she have a lack of motivation or apathy regarding his schooling and education? If the teenager drives him or herself to school, has there been increased absenteeism and tardiness? These symptoms of substance abuse go for adults in their professional lives as well. Have there been reports of them not arriving to work? Lifestyle changes are a huge symptom of substance abuse.
Symptoms of Substance Abuse – Physical and Emotional
A person who is engaged in frequent use may show physical symptoms of substance abuse, such as stumbling, staggering, smelling of substances, glassy and bloodshot eyes or hiding your eyes behind sunglasses, slurred speech, vomiting, difficulty concentrating, lack of coordination, bad hygiene, sleeping at inappropriate times, bad hygiene, rapid weight loss, dilated pupils, etc. There are emotional effects such as depression, defensiveness, being withdrawn and be a loner, crying, etc. Other symptoms include hyperactivity, nervousness, being extremely negative, aggressive behavior, verbal outbursts, irresponsibility in general, cheating, etc. Does the person begin avoiding contact with his or her usual social circle and family? A change in peer group and friends is a big symptom, especially if this group is older than the person. Does the person leave without notification or without permission? Has medicine, alcohol, or money gone missing in the home? These are some of the more obvious symptoms of substance abuse. These symptoms grow through stages.
The Stages of Growth in the Symptoms of Substance Abuse
The first stage is the experimental stage where people try a substance out of curiosity, rebellion, boredom, or for social reasons. They may only use on weekends or at parties. They get it from friends only when its around or take some from their parents. There are no significant changes in behavior enough that are detectable by anyone not looking for it. The person enjoys their euphoria and then returns to baseline level.
The second stage involves the purposeful misuse of substances. Use has begun on a regular basis and the user begins to purchase or obtain enough to save for future use. The person is not using to enjoy euphoria anymore but to escape from stress and cope with some uncomfortable feelings. There is a decline in work or school performance and the person begins to feel guilt or shame about their use. The symptoms of substance abuse are beginning to show.
The third stage begins the habitual use and preoccupation with the lifestyle. Daily use is now the norm although there have been attempts to monitor and control use. The social circle has now evolved into only having users as friends. All relations have suffered as the user moves into the new culture. Depression and uncomfortable feelings emerge when not actively under the influence. After the euphoria wears off, baseline is not experienced because the user now crashes into pain and discomfort. The person now needs more of the substance to produce an equal effect now that they are growing a tolerance.
Stage four is full blown dependency and addiction. Use is now continual throughout the day. The person takes serious criminal risk to obtain substances, school or work is a disaster, and the person may have had possible overdose experiences. The user is taking substances to avoid depression and the problems in their life associated with the use itself. A shift in personality has set in as they experience memory loss, paranoia, volatile mood alterations, and other psychological issues. Life becomes about obtaining and using substances. The culture is embedded in the person now. The physical appearance is deteriorating noticably with weight loss and more. The symptoms of substance abuse are in full effect.
Symptoms of Substance Abuse – Summary
The symptoms of substance abuse are many and come in various degrees of severity. Substance abuse counselors should become acquainted with the problems arising and surrounding substance abuse. There are physical, emotional, financial, and other issues that will surely abound. General disruption in life is the red flag. Your patients will obviously have these issues, but your goal will be to get them to admit why they have these issues. They need to admit it themselves that their substance use is the direct cause of their problems in life, and escaping through use cannot be a solution if it is also the problem.