Addiction is a serious disease and it is imperative for it to be regarded as such. If addiction is left untreated it can result in a myriad of adverse effects for the addicted individual. The timeframe for the possible effects can range in severity and manifest in the short-term and long-term. The most severe possible consequence from addiction is death.
Abuse vs. Addiction
There is a common misconception that drug and/or alcohol abuse and addiction are synonymous. Though abuse of a foreign substance can lead to addiction, addiction and abuse are not tantamount. When an individual abuses a substance, he or she ingests said substance more than is healthy for his or her body to process. One example of abusing a substance is taking a medication that is prescribed by a medical professional differently than the way in which it was prescribed, i.e. breaking up a pill and snorting it instead of swallowing it. Another hypothetical example may be if an individual drinks more alcohol than his or her body is able to process, resulting in “blacking out.” Abuse of a substance can be considered the step immediately before the substance abuser is led to and possibly enters the stage of addiction.
Addiction is when the abuse of drugs and/or alcohol has become so consistent that the individual “needs” the foreign substance to function. If an individual regularly ingests a foreign substance in excess, the individual will manifest a dependency on the substance. This, in turn, is called addiction.
The severity of addiction can vary depending on the time period of substance abuse, type of substance abused, and amount or dosage of abused substance. Individuals are unique and therefore respond differently to quantities, dosages, types and frequencies of drugs/alcohol. Due to the fact that each person differs, the treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction must be somewhat tailored towards each individual in need.
- Physical Signs
Individuals who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol will display physical signs of his or her addiction. The physical signs will vary depending on the drug of choice. Regardless of the substance, in many cases it is possible to notice an addiction in one’s eyes. One’s pupils may appear dilated or contracted, or the whites of one’s eyes might appear bloodshot or one’s eyes may simply appear glazed. Abrupt weight changes, either drastic weight loss or significant weight gain, can also be a sign of addiction.
- Cravings/ Increased Tolerance
When addiction has taken over an individual’s body, he or she will go to exorbitant lengths to satisfy his or her substance cravings. The tolerance of an abused substance will often rise exponentially in an addicted individual. This rise in tolerance will increase one’s cravings for his or her drug of choice, perpetuating the cycle of substance abuse and advancing his or her addiction.
- Withdrawal Symptoms
When an individual introduces and foreign substance to one’s system, with regular ingestion, it is highly likely that when attempting to remove the foreign substance one’s body will protest. This protest will look differently in different people. There are short-term withdrawal symptoms and long-term withdrawal symptoms. The intensity and longevity of one’s withdrawal symptoms will depend greatly on one’s drug of choice, in addition to the frequency of use and dosage abused. Some possible short-term withdrawal symptoms when stopping use of a substance can include: sweats, fever, chills, nausea, irritability, vomiting, depression, and exhaustion.
Regardless of the substance of choice, withdrawal from any abused substance can be extremely dangerous. It is best to go through the detoxification process under the supervision of a medical professional, due to possible health complications. A medical health professional will be able to help the addicted individual manage his or her withdrawal symptoms and possibly provide guidance as to how to deal with the discomfort.
The signs mentioned above are merely a few of the possible signs that can be exhibited in an individual addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. If there is any concern for oneself or a loved one, it is essential to seek help. Medical and/or psychological professionals can be good resources to contact, as they will be able to provide proper guidance or at the very least provide helpful references and resources.
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