Did you know that almost every adult in America has tried an intoxicating substance at some point in their life? That’s right, 86% of adults have taken a drink of alcohol, and approximately half of everyone age 12 and older have tried an illicit drug. Millions of people are current users:
- According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 56% of U.S. adults report that they drank in the past month.
- The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that almost 11% of people 12 and up have used an illegal drug within the past month.
But as common as it unfortunately is, substance use is not without consequences. Per the NSDUH, close to 27 million people in this country have struggled with a Substance Use Disorder within the past year. They have lost control of their drinking or drug use and as a result, their lives have become unmanageable.
“Is your life or a loved one’s life out of control due to addiction? Take a look at our 28 day Program.”
Where do YOU fit in with all of this? If you drink or use other drugs, how do you know when your personal habit has become a problem? Addiction doesn’t happen overnight. There are many red flags that can signal a developing addiction. Here, we present several of the top warning signs. If you notice any of these in your own life, then it might be time to seek professional help NOW, before your illness worsens and the negative consequences become even more serious. Addiction is a progressive disease that always gets worse and is almost invariably fatal without outside intervention.
Sign #1 — Someone is Worried about Your Use of Substances
As much as you try to hide it, someone else will always notice your drug use or excessive drinking. They will be able to see past the constant excuses and the lies and the denial. It may be someone close to you, such as a family member or friend who has seen the changes and you, or it may even be a coworker or acquaintance who can recognize addiction because it has touched their life before. They may show their concern in several ways:
- A casual remark that lets you know that THEY know
- Asking you if you are OK
- Treatment brochures left on your dinner table or desk
- An invitation to go with them to a 12-Step meeting such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Celebrate Recovery
- Mentioning Employee Assistance Programs at work
- A willingness to talk about their own struggles with substance abuse
- A formal intervention
However they decide to approach you, the underlying message is the same – they are worried about you and think that you need outside help. Significantly, the first person to wonder if things are spiraling out of control is often YOU. If you have ever woken up hung-over and remorseful after a bender or a binge and sworn to yourself, “Never Again”, then you are already aware that you have crossed a line. But at some point, someone will express concern or try to talk to you about your problem. When it has reached the point that other people are noticing, then that is a major red flag that should not be ignored.
Sign #2 – It Impacts Your Job Performance
It has been estimated that 70% of substance abusers are employed, and the loss of productivity due to illegal drug use costs employers around $200 billion per year. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence lists a number of ways that substance abuse causes problems in the workplace:
- Excessive sick leave
- Reduced productivity
- Decreased efficiency
- Sleeping on the job
- Impaired decision-making ability
- Difficulties with coworkers and supervisors
- Disciplinary problems
- Illegal activities at the workplace
- Lowered morale
- Increased employee turnover
It is important for you to understand that because addiction is a recognized illness, you have certain rights and protections. If you need to take time off of work to go to rehab, your employer is required by law to make reasonable accommodations and protect your job, position, and privacy. But that is only if you proactively seek treatment before there are any incidents or accidents. Your employer has the right to expect and the obligation to provide a safe, drug-free workplace. If you wait until you have an accident or fail a drug test, you are not protected. If you have experienced any of these problems at work, then it should be painfully obvious that your “recreational” substance use has become a problem that is affecting the other areas of your life. SPECIAL NOTE: Many of these work-related warning signs are also applicable if you are a student – frequent tardiness, frequent absences, discipline problems, missing assignments, uncharacteristically poor grades, academic probation, and expulsion. The Monitoring the Future survey found that roughly 4 out of every 10 full-time college students have used an illicit drug within the past year.
Sign #3 – It’s Causing Problems in Your Relationships
It’s a paradox – addiction is a lonely, isolating disease that eventually creates distance between you and the people closest to you. But at the same time, the chaos, dysfunction, and negative consequences that always accompany addiction affect everyone around you. Out-of-control substance abuse can wreak havoc in your personal relationships:
- Breakups and estrangement
But it goes beyond strained relationships. Addiction can also cause you to perpetrate criminal acts on your loved ones.
- Domestic violence – 92% of batterers use drugs or drink on the day of the assault.
- 38% of assailants qualify for a medical diagnosis of Alcohol Use Disorder, while another 22% can be classified as “heavy drinkers”.
- On drinking days, the odds of male-to-female intimate partner violence skyrocket 11-fold.
- Between 50% and 70% of women who abuse their partners also abuse their children.
- Child abuse and neglect – Up to two-thirds of child mistreatment cases involve substance abuse.
- 61% of infants and 41% of older children in out-of-home placements come from homes where their caregivers abused alcohol or drugs.
So if you find yourself frequently fighting with your partner about your drug use or drinking and the problems it is causing, or you have harmed someone you love because of it, it may be time to seek counseling and treatment for and both addiction and anger management.
Sign #4 – It Affects Your Physical Health
According to the World Health Organization alcohol abuse contributes to over 200 diseases and health conditions, including:
- Cancer – Especially breast, mouth, tracheal, mouth, colon, liver, or pancreatic. These risks are magnified by 35 times in the drinker also smokes.
- Cirrhosis – Suffered by 20% of chronic heavy drinkers
- Tuberculosis – Up to 50% of TB patients are alcoholics
- Heart disease – Among senior citizens, even moderate drinking is harmful to their cardiac health. Among older women, this means that even one drink a day can be dangerous.
- Brain damage
In fact, alcohol is the deadliest drug in the world, killing 88,000 Americans every year. Drug abuse is also associated with numerous diseases and health problems, including:
- Heart attacks
- Brain bleeding if
- Endocarditis – A potentially-deadly infection of the heart caused an intravenous drug use
Over 70,000 people in the United States died because of fatal drug overdoses last year. Here’s the thing – drugs and alcohol starts affecting your body and brain from the very first use. And the longer and heavier you use them, the worse the damage to your health becomes. If you are already experiencing health problems related to your substance use, then it is absolutely imperative that you see a medical doctor and immediately check into a program that can treat your addiction. In a very real way, your life may depend on it.
Sign #5 – You Experience Legal Problems
Substance abuse leads to court decisions that can land you legal hot water.
- Driving Under the Influence – Leading to significant fines, loss of driving privileges, and even prison time
- Public Intoxication
- Identity Theft
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that approximately 18% of prisoners in federal custody committed their offense to obtain drug money, along with 17% of those in state prisons. If you have ever been arrested for a DUI, sold drugs, or stolen something so you could buy drugs, then you are on a slippery slope that is only going to get worse.
Sign #6 – You are Struggling Financially
Your substance abuse probably costs much more than you might realize. For example, look at how much the “typical” drinker or drug user might spend:
- Oxycontin – $100,000 per year
- Vicodin – $40,000 to $50,000
- Heroin – $50,000
- Methamphetamine – $30,000
- Alcohol – $10,000 or more
- Marijuana – $5000 or more
And that is just the cost for the individual substance. Most addicts and alcoholics use more than one substance. When you also factor in civil and criminal charges, lost wages, and medical bills, you get a much clearer picture of the true financial burden of addiction. If you have ever bought drugs or alcohol with the money needed to pay your bills, then that is a clear sign that feeding your addiction has become the top priority in your life.
Sign #7 – Your Mental Health is Suffering
Addiction and mental illness have a complicated relationship. Each worsens and is worsened by the other. In fact, having one addictive or emotional disorder doubles the likelihood that you will struggle with both. In other words, if you are exhibiting the symptoms of one kind of condition, it is extremely likely that you will also need treatment for the other illness. Some of the mental conditions linked to substance abuse include:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Conduct Disorder
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Suicidal Ideation
Such a dual diagnosis complicates successful recovery from either. This is why top rehab programs offer specialized comprehensive treatment that addresses both the addiction and the mental disorder simultaneously. If you struggle with any mental illness and find yourself turning to alcohol or drugs for temporary relief, then you definitely need professional help.
Sign #8 – You Ignore Responsibilities and Obligations
Because addiction is characterized by compulsive substance-seeking and use, that leaves very little time for anything else. You will break promises, miss deadlines, and ignore commitments if they interfere with your ability to get drunk or high that day. So you make flimsy excuses, or worse, completely blow off professional and personal obligations and leave your suffering family members, friends, and coworkers to cover up for you. You put them in the awkward position of enabling your continued substance abuse. If your alcohol and drug use has made it with the people closest to you consider you completely undependable, it may be time for a change.
Sign #9 – You Withdraw Socially
Because finding, using, and recovering from substances start to take up so much of your time and energy, you find that you just don’t have anything left for your friends, especially if they don’t share or support your habit. So you stop going to parties, accepting invitations, or even just hanging out with people who have been by your side for years. You may even feel that you no longer have anything in common with them. Often, you make new “friends” who are only too willing to party with you. Unfortunately, however, drugs and alcohol may be the only connection you have. These so-called friends are just unhealthy triggers that prompt you to drink and do drugs whenever you are around them. Look around you at your current circle of “friends”. If they are all drug users and heavy drinkers and all of your time together involves getting high or drunk, it may be time to step away and reconnect with the real friends who were pushed away by your addiction.
Sign #10 – You Don’t Care about Anything Else
Addiction also robs you of your interests, talents, and passions. Because intoxicants directly affect the areas of the brain associated with reward and pleasure, chronic substance abuse impairs your ability to derive pleasure from activities and hobbies that you used to enjoy. Nothing seems fun or brings you joy anymore, except for drugs and alcohol. As a result, you lose interest in those things that used to define you. Whatever interests you had—sports, art, collecting, dancing, drawing, music—are replaced by your substances of choice. You become one-dimensional, focusing only on your next high or your next drink. If you can barely remember the last time you practiced what used to be your favorite hobby, then that is a definite sign that your addiction has become the most important thing in your life.
Sign #11 – Your Day Revolves around Drugs and Alcohol
People struggling with severe addictive disorders often find that feeding their insatiable compulsion takes up virtually all of their waking hours. The first thing they do when they wake up is take a drink, hit, pill, or bump, just to “get right” for the day. If they are out of or running low on their drug of choice, then it is time to find more. That usually involves calling or visiting their dealers to locate what they will need to get through the day. Paying for the drugs also frequently requires a juggling act of hustling or scamming to come up with enough money. Using and recovering from use also takes a significant amount of time. Often, alcoholics and addicts will drink and use until they run out or pass out. They sleep it off, and the next day, the cycle of substance abuse starts all over again. Look at your own day. Do you “wake and bake” or take a drink as soon as you get up? Do you spend a lot of time every day messaging or waiting on a dealer? Is your biggest daily worry about how you are going to find and pay for the drugs you will use today? Do you set aside time every day to use and recover from alcohol or drugs? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then addiction is stealing the one resource you can never get back – your time. It is time to reclaim your life.
Sign #12 – You Compromise Your Principles
Addiction is a disease that thrives on dishonesty, deception, deflection, and denial. It is virtually impossible to habitually abuse alcohol and drugs without lying to and taking from other people. And once you take one step over the line, it becomes far too easy to keep on breaking your own moral code.
- Unhealthy secrets – Hiding your consumption from others
- Lying – About how much and how often you are using
- Stealing – From your friends, family, employer, or even strangers so you can afford to buy more alcohol or drugs
- Committing fraud – Writing bad checks, identity theft, pawning stolen property, etc.
- Other criminal acts – Selling drugs, prostitution, etc.
No recreational drug user or social drinker ever intends to become dependent or addicted. But intoxicants affect reasoning, decision-making, impulse control, and even the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. If you have ever stolen anything, hurt someone else, or otherwise done something that you never thought you were capable of just to satisfy your drug and alcohol cravings, then you know that you have gone too far and need help to find your way back.
Sign #13 – You’re Missing Out on Your Own Life
Addiction is a selfish disease that wants all of your time, money, resources, and attention. This means that you miss out on so much of the good things going on in your life –birthdays, anniversaries, school recitals, graduations, reunions, family get-togethers, and other celebrations. You also lose the little everyday moments –family dinners, reading to your children, or tucking them into bed at night. When all of your time is spent thinking about, acquiring, using, and recovering from drug or alcohol abuse, you sacrifice what is really important. These are moments that you can never get back. Even when you are actually physically present, you may not be all there mentally. For example, chronic substance abuse can significantly impair your memory. If you are too high, too drunk, or too hung-over to be a part of what’s going on, and you are not going to remember it anyway, then what is the point? Worst of all, your condition and behavior may make your presence on these occasions uncomfortable, and therefore, unwelcome. Your loved ones may stop expecting or even inviting you because they know that you will either let them down or embarrass them yet again. Think about it – how many special family occasions have you either missed, forgotten, ignored, or ruined because of your substance use? If it’s happened even once, that’s too often.
Sign #14 – You Feel Sick When You Don’t Use
If you are like most people who worry that they might have a drinking or drug problem, you have probably tried to cut back or even quit completely. You may have even tried to bargain with your addiction by making deals –no drinking during the daytime, using only on weekends, switching from hard liquor to beer, etc. Bargaining is one of the primary symptoms of a diagnosable Substance Use Disorder. But soon, you start to feel so bad that the only way you can feel better is to start using again. The sobriety that you were determined to achieve is abandoned. Unsuccessful attempts to quit are another indication of SUD. These withdrawal symptoms can be so harshly unpleasant – physically and emotionally – as to trigger a relapse. Sometimes manifesting within just a few hours of the last used, typical symptoms include:
- Irresistible drug cravings
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle cramps
- Tremors in the extremities
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive sweating
- Watery eyes and tearing
- Flu-like symptoms
Withdrawal is yet another symptom indicating that a medical diagnosis of SUD is appropriate. SPECIAL NOTE: Although it can be painful and distressing, in most cases, withdrawal is not particularly dangerous. However, in the specific cases of severe alcoholism or addiction to benzodiazepine tranquilizers, quitting abruptly can be fatal. For this reason, detoxing from either of these substances should only be done under the close supervision of trained medical personnel. If you have ever tried to make deals with yourself to control your substance use, found yourself unable to stay clean and sober, or experienced painful withdrawal symptoms within just a few hours of the last time you used or drank, then you are exhibiting multiple symptoms of a SUD diagnosis.
Sign #15 – Despite All This, You Keep Using
If you demonstrated several of these warning signs, you are probably already aware on some level that you need help. You may even desperately want to stop drinking and using drugs. But despite your best intentions, but you just can’t quit on your own. Continuing to abuse substances despite ongoing and worsening negative consequences is perhaps the biggest warning sign and symptom of a serious addiction. This is an undeniable indication that what used to be a personal choice has now become an uncontrollable compulsion.
What to Do Now
It also highlights the fact that addiction is bigger than your own willpower or best intentions. Addiction is a disease, not a personal weakness or moral failing. You cannot argue or negotiate with a disease, and you can’t beat it simply by making up your mind. No, addiction is a legitimate medical condition – a disease that hijacks your brain and compromises your ability to control your own actions. The best way to successfully recover is to seek specialized abstinence-based treatment that addresses your illness on multiple levels. Accepted strategies include:
- Medically-supervised drug and alcohol detox
- Education about the disease of addiction
- Individual counseling
- Behavioral modification
- Relapse prevention and response
- Group therapy
- Treatment for co-occurring disorders
- Family services
- Medication-Assisted Treatment
- Long-term aftercare and support
What Does All of This Mean to YOU?
You are the best judge of whether or not any of these warning signs are present in your life. If they are, you are also the only person who can make the decision to seek help and check into an appropriate rehab program. As the traditional recovery philosophy goes, YOU have to admit that you are powerless over addiction and as a result, your life has become unmanageable. There is good news, however. Once you make that admission, you have taken the first and most important step on the road to recovery. With the help and support of the right drug and alcohol rehab program, you have an excellent chance of a safe, successful, and enduring return to sobriety. For more information and to start your own sober journey, click HERE.