Sometimes, it’s helpful for family members to know what to look for in someone who might be using drugs. It’s helpful to have pieces of information in order to connect the dots and ultimately decide whether that person needs drug detox or drug withdrawal treatment.
Below are the typical warning signs that might lead someone to use drugs or drink. They are listed here to point out that there are characteristic behaviors that people participate in, which put them at risk for an addiction. However, this list is not exhaustive, nor is it predictive. In other words, there are many who might exhibit these behaviors and yet they don’t develop an addiction, and they won’t ever need drug addiction treatment.
Anxiety – When someone is under stress and if he or she does not have the coping skills to manage that stress, it’s easy to turn to drugs. It’s easy to have a drink as a way to calm the nerves. Some people, for example, are perfectionists with a tendency to be anxious about their work performance. Not being able to manage anxiety can be a reason to turn to drugs.
Depression – Sometimes depression can lead to drinking. An individual might feel so uncomfortable with who they are, how are their lives are functioning, and it hurts. Although depression is a psychological disorder, it can be painful emotionally and physically. The dissatisfaction with one’s life, the inability to feel anything, the lack of connection with oneself and others might stimulate the desire to drink.
Social Alienation – Withdrawing is a pattern for many people who experience depression, who have to face stressful situations at work, or who don’t have the coping skills to manage their emotions well. They might be very sensitive and yet have developed the pattern of hiding their emotions. With this is the tendency to feel shameful, and as a result feel the need to hide and withdraw. Yet, in their aloneness and in their inability to deal with their emotions, drugs or drinking can become their coping mechanism of choice.
Emotional Avoidance – Emotional awareness is the skill of knowing what you are feeling, why you’re feeling it, and what physical sensations you are having as a result. It’s is also the ability to understand the relationship between what you are feeling and how you choose to behave. However, alcohol or drugs can turn into a way to avoid distress and challenging emotions, especially those that are difficult to express, such as anger and shame. Not having the skills to cope with difficult feelings as well as not wanting to feel them can easily lead to using drugs as an avoidance mechanism.
Risk Taking – Some people never grow and heal from their childhood wounds. They might make choices that are based on childish thinking; they might engage in risk taking behavior as a means to feel themselves or to have fun, which perhaps wasn’t what they experienced as a child, especially if they had to grow up fast. Taking drugs releases dopamine in the brain helps to feel good, especially if life is challenging, and provides a high that changes the internal experience from feeling heavy to light and happy.
These are warning signs that might lead to addiction. If you or someone you know shows any signs of the above, you may want to have them therapeutically assessed. Doing so can help prevent the harmful cycle of addiction from developing. Or if an addiction has already begun, the above list might be a tool to use in your conversation on undergoing substance abuse treatment.
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