As of 2017, nearly 20 million people in the United States had a substance use disorder, and this number has likely risen significantly since the global pandemic. Whatever the final tally, suffice it to say that addiction is an all-too-common problem.
If you’re worried that your own alcohol or drug use has crossed a line into potentially dangerous territory, or your concern is for a loved one, it’s important to recognize the early signs of addiction.
To help, HealthFirst’s Dr. Jonathan Singer pulled together a list of common signs of early addiction in this month’s blog post.
The difference between addiction and dependence
Before we get into some early signs of addiction, we want to point out that there are two sides to a substance use disorder: addiction and dependence. Addiction describes the behavioral aspects of substance use that are controlled by your brain.
The dependence side of the equation refers to your body’s tolerance and reliance on your substance of choice. When there's dependence, you can go into withdrawal if you don’t drink or use.
Addiction warning flags
For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to stay focused on addiction and the many ways it can make itself known, including:
1. Hiding your use
One of the first signs of addiction is when you feel the need to hide your drug or alcohol use. Perhaps you sneak a drink or two before you go out so it doesn’t look like you’re drinking far more than others.
Or, you find a place to do drugs in secret, away from friends, for fear of judgment.
Hiding your use can quickly turn into isolation as you withdraw to drink or use drugs away from the watchful (and likely concerned) eyes of others.
2. Loss of interest in other things
Not only do people with addiction tend to hide and isolate more, they also lose interest in the activities they once enjoyed. When there's addiction, your brain is hijacked by drugs or alcohol, and it rewires itself to place using or drinking above all else.
As a result, you find no joy in other activities and you start to avoid them in favor of drinking or using.
3. Inability to simply stop
This sign of addiction is a big one. You’ve convinced yourself that you can quit at any time, but when you try, you cave all too quickly. The cravings created in your brain are too strong and quickly overcome your resolve.
With addiction, your brain has been taken over by drugs or alcohol to the point of obsession. For example, you spend a good deal of time figuring out where and how you’re going to get your drugs or alcohol and when you'll be able to take them.
5. Mood swings
As you can imagine by some of the characteristics of addiction that we outline above, many people tend to have fairly severe mood swings. You're miserable one minute, but as soon as you use (or know you’ll be able to use soon) your mood swings up. And up and down it goes.
If any of these hallmarks of addiction ring true, it’s a good idea to take action by coming to see us. The sooner we can address addiction, the easier it is to break free and take control of your life under our expert care.
To get started, please contact one of our offices in Greenwood Village, Colorado, or Cheyenne, Wyoming, to schedule a consultation