Regardless of if you are a parent, a friend, a relative or the person in question themselves, addiction is not necessarily one of the things you would expect to be sneaky. There may be something of a misconception that, most of the time, addictions are obvious. That there are obvious signs of addiction and a way to identify someone struggling with an addiction from the first meeting. Erratic behavior, or certain physical features, or even matters of hygiene.
But the truth is that addiction can hide in a person, to the point that many do not even realize they are struggling with an addiction until it is undeniable. The differences and warning signs of addiction are subtle in the best of times, and harmful yet inconclusive in the worst of times. Only a professional and the person themselves can declare someone an addict – but there are warning signs that, if diligently followed up upon, could reveal something critical.
Before we go into what signs of addiction to look out for when searching for early addiction, it is important not to forget the importance of basic decency and compassion. Nothing destroys the trust between two people like unfair assumptions and quick judgment. And if you truly want to help someone, then trust is imperative.
Do not judge, or assume – just look at the facts, conclude objectively, and pursue an adult conversation. This can be hard to do when emotions run high and entire relationships are at stake, but if you suspect someone else is struggling with an addiction, especially someone you care about, then it is important to stay calm and collected.
Drastic Personality Changes
People can change. But people typically do not change massively over the course of a very short period, unless there is a very influential catalyst driving that change. Regardless of what that catalyst may be, if the changes are negative, then it is fair to say that it is not a good catalyst.
For example: severe emotional trauma or excessive stress can push a person to adopt an aggressive, indifferent, or otherwise negative mood as a way of acting out and coping with their struggles. If the person you know is going through rapid mood changes, it could be a sign of stress.
It could also be signs of addiction and drug use. Drugs are psychoactive, which means they affect the brain and the mind, changing the way you think. Not only do the cause damage in the long-term, but short-term drug use can change the way a person behaves even when they are not high.
Another red flag is lying. People lie when they do not want the truth to be revealed – and if you have a close relationship with this person, then lying about basic things such as where they were recently or what they have been doing indicates that they have been doing something that they know is wrong, and they do not want you to know.
Finding out if someone has been lying, however, is not as easy as knowing that it is bad news. Try and snoop around a little, checking their social media and asking their friends to gather more information is you think you see signs of addiction.
Aside from negative behavior and the onset of unhappiness or depression outside of a high, drug addiction also spurs people on to be destructive if it means getting their next fix. They might also lash out in the absence of drugs or become more prone towards risky behavior because of frequent drug use. This can quickly draw heavy consequences, including the loss of a job or terrible academic performance, and fights with others.
Observe the person you are suspecting and consider how their behavior and reaction towards things has changed. Are they impatient? Do old hobbies seem not to interest them anymore? Are they frequently unaccounted for, or unreliable and missing? These signs of addiction could be warning you about their drug habit.
Signs Of Addiction Is Not Always Drug Use
While these may be early warning signs of addiction , they are not necessarily indicative of addiction. Instead, they are a sign that something has gone wrong between you and the person you are suspecting, specifically along the lines of communication and trust.
Drug addiction is a terrible thing, but it is not the only cause of bad behavior or dishonesty. People lie and act erratically for many different reasons. Some of them are serious and carry long-term consequences, such as the development of depression. Others, however, may only be temporary, and are the direct result of some sort of external pressure causing your friend, relative or loved one to act out.
If you do not have some plausible evidence of drug use (paraphernalia, catching them in the act or getting confirmation of either from others you can trust), then any sufficiently stressful situation could be the root cause of the issues above instead of the signs of addiction. Either way, these are all signs that someone is struggling to cope with their situation, whatever it may be.
There is only one way to find out, and really make sure that your suspicions are not entirely unfounded.
Have an Honest Conversation
Nothing beats a good old conversation. Be honest, open, and come from a place of understanding rather than judgment. Open up to the person you are approaching. Talk to them about how people make mistakes, and about how we are defined not by these mistakes, but by how we react to their consequences and make up for our own fumbles. Being wrong is human, but a person’s own character is revealed by how they handle themselves and the situation.
And most importantly, let them speak. Try and understand their meaning. If something other than an addiction is causing this, it is still a vital issue that must be addressed and dealt with – perhaps they have been subconsciously crying for help. Teens especially need a lot of support growing up, as they have a lot of things to figure out.
But if it is addiction, then the most important question is whether the person wants to get better. It is unimportant how you feel about the situation – an addiction cannot be beaten unless the person being addicted sincerely wants to stop. The only thing you can do is make them see why they might want to and help guide them back to the path of sober living.