How to Recognize a Substance Use Disorder

Recognize a Substance Use Disorder

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction is a chronic disease that affects areas of the brain involved in reward, motivation, and memory. Someone who has an addiction will crave the substance or behaviour, often to the detriment of other aspects of their lives.

Since addiction is such a complex illness, some people might wrongly attribute it to character flaws or lack of willpower, but the truth is that it can affect people from all backgrounds and all ages. The first step to getting help is recognizing the signs of addiction, so we will explore them in this article.

Before we move forward, note that the risk and speed of developing an addiction has a lot to do with the substance that’s being abused. For example, opioid painkillers can lead to addiction very quickly. That’s because some drugs have a powerful effect on the brain, causing high amounts of dopamine to be released. Although, in the beginning, the dopamine produces intense euphoria and a feeling of being “high,” gradually, the brain gets used to the dopamine, and higher quantities are required just to feel normal.

Types of Addiction

Addiction is most commonly associated with substance abuse, but addictions that involve certain behaviours like gambling can be just as serious.

Substance use disorder is linked to addictive substances such as:

  • Drugs – both illicit and prescription
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine, or tobacco

Behavioural addictions are usually associated with:

  • Gambling
  • Video games
  • Internet
  • Pornography
  • Sex
  • Shopping
  • Working

Both types of addictions affect the brain’s rewards system and other areas responsible for decision-making.

Initial Signs

A person might now show signs of a full-blown addiction from the very beginning. The initial signs are:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Experimentation – looking for situations where they have access to the substance or behaviour
  • Feeling very drawn to the substance or activity in question
  • Episodes of loss of control and binging

Changes in Personality

Once they move past the experimentation phase, you will start to notice changes in personality:

  • Increased secrecy
  • Changing friends a lot
  • Risk-taking behaviour
  • Lack of interest in activities that used to be important
  • Neglecting work-related or social obligations
  • Neglecting relationships

You may also notice a certain degree of alienation. When people develop an addiction, they prefer to spend time with people who encourage their behavior and away from those who might judge them. If you confront them, they can react negatively, deny or justify their addiction by saying things like:

  • “I only do it from time to time.”
  • “I can stop any time I want.”
  • “I’m not hurting anyone.”
  • “I only do it on the weekend.”

It can be very difficult to confront someone with an addiction and get them to seek help. Before you approach the subject, it would be useful to read more about the mechanism of addiction and treatment centers such as Malibu Drug Rehab so that you can learn about treatment options.

You’ll also want to make a plan with other family members and perhaps even with an intervention specialist who can teach you how to show you have good intentions without triggering a negative reaction.

Quitting drugs or alcohol means more than simply stopping. A person with an addiction needs help figuring out what caused them to get in that situation in the first place and learn coping mechanisms that will keep them from starting up again.

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