It’s easy to brush addiction off as an issue that only affects people who use drugs like heroin and cocaine. But the reality is that substance misuse can happen to anyone, even you. Addiction doesn’t discriminate; it can affect anyone. If you’re worried about your drug or alcohol use, it’s important to be aware of the signs that you’re heading down a dangerous path.
So read on for some red flags to watch out for — and remember, early intervention is critical for long term recovery when treating addiction.
Spotting the Early Signs of Addiction
Addiction can happen to anyone, regardless of age, sex, or marital status. Although addiction often starts with innocent use, it can quickly spiral out of control if left untreated. Those early signs often include the following.
1. Experimenting with Different Drugs
One of the earliest signs of addiction is experimentation with drugs. People addicted to drugs are always chasing a new high, and they will try different combinations of drugs to achieve this. The reason why experimentation is such a sign of addiction is that it shows that the person is not content with just using one substance.
They feel they need to use multiple drugs to get the desired effect, which can be extremely dangerous. It also shows that the person cannot control their drug use, that they need to use a substance even if it’s not the drug they usually use because they cannot be sober, which is another hallmark of addiction. If you know someone always experimenting with different drugs, it’s important to get them help before their addiction worsens.
2. Family History
As anyone who has struggled with addiction knows, it is a disease that often takes hold gradually. One early sign that someone may be at risk for addiction is a family history of the disease. This does not mean that addiction is inevitable, but it does indicate that the individual is more likely to develop an addiction than someone without a family history of the disease.
Several factors contribute to this increased risk, including genetic predisposition and exposure to addictive substances at an early age. If you have a family history of addiction, it is vital to be aware of the risks and to take steps to protect yourself from developing the disease. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you on this journey. Just remember, you are not alone.
3. Drawn to an Activity/Substance
Another early sign of addiction is being drawn to an activity or substance. This can manifest in different ways but typically includes a preoccupation with the substance or activity, an inability to control use or exposure, and developing tolerance. For example, someone addicted to drugs may become fixated on acquiring and using them. They may continue using despite negative consequences and may need increasingly larger doses to get the desired effect.
Similarly, someone addicted to gambling may think about it constantly, chase losses, and be unable to stick to set limits. If you notice these behaviours in yourself or a loved one, seek help for addiction as soon as possible.
4. Select Participation in Events
One sign that someone may be developing an addiction is actively seeking out situations where they will have easier access to the desired substance or activity. For example, a person addicted to gambling may only feel comfortable socialising with friends if there is a casino nearby, or someone addicted to alcohol may only agree to go to parties where there will be drinking.
This behaviour can be a way of self-medicating, as the person feels they need to be in an environment where they can access their drug of choice to feel normal. However, it can also lead to further problems, as the person may start to isolate themselves from loved ones and activities that don’t involve their addiction. Commonly, they will also begin to neglect self-care.
5. Bingeing and Loss of Control
One of the leading early signs of addiction is when you start to lose control. This may manifest as bingeing, where you use more of the substance than you intended, or it may simply be a loss of control over how much you use. In either case, this sign is often accompanied by little to no feelings of remorse.
When a person begins to lose control of their substance use, they may also exhibit signs of apathy and disregard for the consequences of their actions, such as committing criminal behaviour to fund their habit. This lack of remorse can be a sign that addiction has taken hold, and it is often accompanied by other warning signs such as isolation, financial problems, and relationship difficulties.
Are You Struggling with Addiction?
We spoke to Danielle Bryant, Treatment Director and Co-founder of Step by Step Recovery, residential rehab in Essex, about what key signs you should look for if you are worried about your alcohol or drug use. Danielle said,
“If you’re using alcohol or drugs more frequently and you feel you need them to function normally, or you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to go without, those are all key signs you are struggling with addiction.”
“When your alcohol or drug use negatively affects your work, school, or personal relationships, that’s also a big sign it has become a problem.”
Addiction is a serious disease that can have devastating consequences if left untreated. But with professional treatment and support, it is possible to overcome it. Don’t wait until addiction has taken over your life — get help now and start your journey to recovery.