Your loved one may not think that they have a problem – they probably believe that their substance use is under control, and that they can stop at any time. They may still manage to keep up with some day-to-day obligations, leading friends and family to believe their addiction isn’t “bad enough” to warrant professional treatment. There’s also a pervasive understanding that people suffering from addiction need to hit rock bottom to accept help; however, recent research shows that earlier intervention – before someone has suffered too many ill effects of substance use – yields better outcomes overall. All of these factors mean that you shouldn’t wait for your loved one to ask for help; it’s likely they never will.
America’s addiction epidemic is a growing public health concern. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2016 survey, an estimated 17.7 million adults needed substance use treatment but did not receive it. Of these 17,700,000+ people, only 4.5 percent (806,000) felt that they needed substance use treatment at all.
With continuous efforts to make treatment affordable, effective, and accessible, progress is being made in the field of addiction medicine. Read on to learn which signs to look for, and when you should seek professional help for your loved one.
The 5 Stages of Addiction
Addiction is typically broken down into five main stages. These patterns of behavior correlate with the amount of control that substance use has over someone’s life.
The first stage of addiction, experimentation, is exactly what it sounds like. This behavior typically begins in the party scene for teens, or in times of stress for adults (for example, taking Adderall to meet a deadline at work). Substance use at this stage is associated with fun or relaxation, not consequences or cravings.
When substances are being consumed on a more regular basis, your loved one has progressed into the second stage of addiction. Instead of using sporadically, at parties or when friends offer the drug, people may begin using alone and at regular intervals (such as on the weekends). Small consequences may begin to appear, such as missing work due to hangovers, and they may develop a nagging concern that their source for the drug will disappear. Substance use is now associated with escapism – perceived freedom from negative emotions or situations.
At this stage, drug use has escalated and begun to cause serious issues in daily life. School or work performance has degraded, and relationships are becoming strained as substance use becomes more important. Behavior also begins to change significantly, as do one’s circle of friends. Risky use in particular is characterized by DUI or DWI sanctions that occur as a result of driving while high or drunk.
There are three factors associated with dependence, which is considered a general reliance on drugs or alcohol. The first is tolerance: needing more of a substance to achieve the same effect. Users will also begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when they don’t maintain a baseline of the substance in their system. The final aspect of dependence is psychological – your loved one will crave the drug, use it more and more often, take increasing doses, and come back to it after attempting to quit.
The final stage is addiction, or a full-blown substance use disorder. This is characterized by the following signs. Users cannot deal with day-to-day life without drugs or alcohol, and fail to control their use. They’ll keep drinking or using even when they know that consequences will come their way as a result. At this stage, it’s common to lie about their use and isolate themselves from concerned friends or family members. Above all, they do not see any of this as a problem.
Signs That Someone Needs Addiction Treatment
Like many diseases, addiction is progressive. It exists on a spectrum and can range from mild to severe in intensity. The below signs are pulled directly from diagnostic criteria from addiction – they can indicate whether your loved one is exhibiting classic signs of substance use disorders.
- Desiring to quit, but feeling unable to stop using.
- Uncontrolled, increased use over time.
- Experiencing cravings for the substance.
- Failing to meet expectations at work, school, or home.
- Abandoning activities and hobbies that used to be enjoyable.
- Using in situations where it is unsafe, such as while driving or swimming.
- Developing tolerance – requiring more of the substance to achieve the same effect.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug.
Seattle-Area Recovery and Treatment
If your friend, family member, or spouse is experiencing any of the above symptoms, they should pursue professional addiction treatment. The sooner they receive help, the more quickly they’ll be able to recover. Give your loved one a fresh start. Lakeside-Milam offers comprehensive, proven rehabilitation along the full continuum of care: from intervention to long term treatment. Assessments are provided at no charge. If your loved one meets any of the above criteria, please call Lakeside-Milam today at (800) 231-4303.