An addict is a person who feels a compelling need to consume a certain (or multiple) substance irrespective of any negative consequences it may cause. The symptoms of drug addiction vary according to the drug(s) an individual is addicted to. People addicted to opiates and narcotics may often exhibit a set of similar symptoms, which would be quite different from those experienced by people addicted to depressants like alcohol.
Here are some signs and symptoms that you could look for, if you suspect that a loved one may be developing a substance abuse problem of any kind.
According to the National Library of Medicine, following are some signs of drug addiction in children that can alert the parents:
- Change in friends
- Hanging out with a new group
- Seclusive behavior: long periods spent in self-imposed isolation
- Long, unexplained absences
- Lying and stealing
- Performing unlawful acts
- Deteriorating family relationships
- Delirious, incoherent, or unconscious
- Obvious intoxication
- Changes in behavior and attitude
- Decreased school performance
Following are the signs and symptoms of addiction that are specific to each drug:
Cannabis compounds are found in marijuana and hashish. Indications of addiction to these substances are an increased sense of visual, auditory, and taste perception. Other symptoms include loss of memory, blood shot eyes, increased appetite, slowed reflexes, and paranoid thinking. An addict may also face physiological changes such as increased blood pressure and rapid heart rate. Decreased coordination and difficulty concentrating are other signs.
Central Nervous System Depressants
Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are examples of central nervous system depressants. Phenobarbital, amobarbital (Amytal), and secobarbital (Seconal) are examples of barbiturates. Benzodiazepines include tranquilizers such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), oxazepam (Serax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), and chlordiazepoxide (Librium). People addicted to these substances usually experience intense drowsiness, may speak with a slurred speech, and lack coordination. Their memory may be compromised, and they are likely to become confused, dizzy, and depressed. Their breathing may also become slow and blood pressure may drop.
Central Nervous System Stimulants
This class of drugs includes amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine, and methylphenidate (Ritalin). The symptoms of dependence on these drugs include a disdain towards food, restlessness, easy annoyance, and inability to sleep. The addicted person may seem ecstatic without reason, but will become depressed as the drug wears off. An addict will lose weight and have an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. He/she is likely to experience nasal congestion due to damage to the mucous membrane of the nose that takes place after snorting drugs. The person is also likely to be paranoid.
Synthetic compounds such as ecstasy are similar to amphetamines and produce hallucinations. The symptoms of addiction of these drugs depend upon the drug being used. Drugs such as LSD, phencyclidine (PCP), and ketamine (special K), a so-called "club drug" produce hallucinogenic effects. The drug, ecstasy, produces a mild hallucinogenic effect and a feeling of euphoria. It also causes an increased heart rate, increased body temperature, high blood pressure, kidney and liver toxicity, and memory problems.
The indications of LSD abuse include:
- Flashbacks, a re-experience of the hallucinations, even years later
- Greatly impaired perception of reality, for example, interpreting input from one of your senses as another, such as hearing colors
- Permanent mental changes in perception
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
The symptoms of PCP abuse include:
- Loss of appetite
- Aggressive, possibly violent behavior
Ketamine abuse show the following signs:
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of memory
- Nausea and vomiting
- Impaired motor function
The symptoms a person experiences change according to the substance that has been inhaled. Some commonly used inhalants are glue, paint thinners, correction fluid, felt tip marker fluid, gasoline, cleaning fluids, and household aerosol products. The effect produced by them is brief intoxication and a decreased feeling of inhibition. If used over a long period of time, one may experience seizures and suffer damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys. Use of inhalants can also lead to death.
Opioids are narcotic, painkilling drugs produced naturally from opium or made synthetically. This class of drugs includes heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone, and oxycodone (OxyContin). The indications for addiction to opioids include lowered sense of pain, confusion, sedation, depression, and slow breathing. One can also check the person for needle marks.
For concerned parents, the signs that their teenager may be addicted to drugs are a sudden drop in school performance as well as skipping of classes. If your child becomes listless or shows apathy, then he/she might be using certain drugs. The child may become extremely secretive and may spend a lot of time alone. Also, drastic changes in their behavior, and in their relationships with family and friends may point towards drug use. Loss of interest in their appearance and constantly sporting a disheveled look may also be due to an addiction. Occurrences like money or items disappearing from your home, or your teenager asking for money without an explanation, are definite indicators that you should investigate.
Drugs have a very powerful hold over the people using them. For this reason, they usually need intervention and persuasion to start the rehabilitation process, and help them on the road to recovery. While quitting drugs is difficult, it is definitely not impossible. A good treatment facility, and adequate support from family and friends, go a long way in the recovery process.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.