For friends and family of those who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, it can seem like a purely physical battle. Side effects like changes in appetite and sleep, weight loss or gain, slurred speech, and impaired coordination are most often associated with addiction, but underneath these physical symptoms, many people are also battling emotional and behavioral symptoms, as well, that might make breaking their addiction even more difficult.
“Many people are familiar with the physical signs that are exhibited by those suffering from substance abuse, but the psychological, emotional and behavioral side effects are lesser known,” says Jessica Cirillo, senior counselor and relapse prevention specialist at Mirmont Treatment Center. “Understanding what an addict goes through emotionally, as well as physically, can provide more insight into the addiction.”
While the physical affects of abuse may vary depending on substance, the behavioral side effects are relatively consistent across the board. Those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction typically exhibit a low drive or lack of motivation during their active use, mood instability, sleep disruption, impulsive/compulsive behaviors, and difficulty with judgment and decision making.
Addiction is considered to be a disease because it is chronic, progressive and potentially fatal. It is characterized by mental obsession and a pre-occupation with the addict’s drug of choice which drives compulsive use, regardless of the negative consequences that may come as a result.
“Substance abuse disrupts the natural chemistry of the brain. Typically, how seriously someone is affected has to do with the progression from substance use to dependence and the severity of use. Other factors involved include but are not limited to frequency of use, amount used, substance, duration of use, and the impact on brain functioning and personality,” explains Cirillo.
Understanding and recognizing addictive behaviors can be helpful to recognizing a substance abuse problem, but Cirillo says it is also key to understanding one. Recognizing all the components of addiction helps us have more insight and understanding to the pain and suffering addicts experience and help us refrain from taking their decisions and behaviors personally.
“Remember that addiction is a terminal and life-altering disease,” says Cirillo. “Although it might look easy to quit to an outsider, many people suffering from addiction are struggling with significant psychological, emotional, mental and behavioral issues that might make it difficult to do so.”
Many addicts are suffering from a great deal of distress, and although they have a desire to change and stop their drug or alcohol use, they become caught in a cycle of chaos and unmanageability that makes its very difficult. This is why treatment is the most effective option in terms of separating them from their addiction, and working to stabilize their thoughts and behaviors, so they may regain control of their lives and learn healthy ways to adjust to a new life in recovery.
So how can you help? Regardless of the type of addiction, what’s important is to speak up. Without using blame or guilt, talk to the affected party to let them know that you are there and want to help them through recovery. Allow them to explain their addiction and triggers to you; listening can be the first step in the healing process. Once they’ve agreed to get help, seek out a treatment center that fits their needs and yours.
Mirmont Treatment Center has been helping people overcome drug and alcohol dependency for over 25 years. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, visit our website to get help or to learn more about Mirmont’s treatment programs.