Early recognition of the signs of addiction is vital in order to stop the slide of a person into something far worse. Drug addiction does not happen to everyone and it does not always happen intentionally.
Young people might become acquainted with drugs while socialising and feel under pressure from their peers to fit in with the crowd so they will try the drug.
In other circumstances, individuals might become addicted to prescription drugs. If you are taking a certain type of medication and it is not reviewed by your doctor on a regular basis, then you might become addicted to it.
Depending upon which drug is being used and how often, the behavioural changes of the user may not become evident to friends or family for some time. By the time friends and family are aware that something is amiss, the person may be well on the way to addiction. At this stage, many families and friends will be wanting to seek help for their loved one.
Signs and Symptoms
Many people who use drugs do not believe that they have an addiction problem. The person who craves a drug and who continues to use it despite the negative effects is an addict. Most people with addictions will need help from professionals and family to address their problem.
As a friend or family member, you might notice changes in the behaviour of the person that you suspect is using drugs. They may become quiet and withdrawn or uncharacteristically confident and outgoing. Teenagers may be experiencing problems in school and with keeping friends.
In all cases, the person will be spending money that they do not have on the drug. They will find themselves unable to quit and may even resort to stealing to get the drug.
Overwhelming feelings of wanting to take the drug occupy their thoughts and nothing else matters except getting their next hit. Someone with a drug addiction might present as preoccupied and secretive about where they’re going and who they’re seeing. Drug addicts often become socially withdrawn from their usual circle of friends and family.
You might notice that they have changed their circle of friends. They might miss work or education without telling anyone. Their appearance and self-care might become neglected and it is unlikely that they will be concerned by this.
How to Approach the Subject
If you decide to broach the subject of drug addiction with your friend or relative then it is important to handle the situation carefully. It is common for those abusing drugs to get angry and defensive very easily and so a non-confrontational approach is needed.
It would be natural to feel afraid about approaching a loved one in respect of drug misuse because of the uncertainty of how they will react. However, if you can overcome your apprehensions and start the conversation, this might lead to a life changing moment if your loved one decides to seek the help they need.
It is very important that you appear to be non-judgemental in respect of their addiction. Treating the situation as if your friend or relative has an illness rather than an addiction can be a useful approach.
It is common for drug misusers to deny that they have a problem. They may try to tell you that they can stop whenever they like. It is often very difficult for someone who is addicted to drugs to see the changes in themselves and their lifestyle in the same way as others see them. You will need a great deal of patience and empathy to continue to support your loved one.
It is important to set time aside with your loved one to have open and honest discussions about the changes in their appearance and lifestyle. It may be very difficult for them to admit that they are using drugs for fear of feelings of guilt and shame. You will need to provide a great deal of reassurance for them to feel able to admit that they have a problem and would like to address it.
It is important that anyone seeking to address their drug addiction feels ready and able to talk to others as part of the treatment will involve talking therapies. The aim is to help the person to see how their thoughts and feelings affect their behaviour.
During the treatment, the person must be prepared to discuss how and why they first used drugs. They can then begin to understand how their own thoughts and behaviour drove them to addiction in the first place.
It is important to remember that when supporting someone who is trying to deal with their drug addiction, they are unlikely to feel confident in the early stages. As their rehabilitation journey progresses the person can begin to take back control of their lives. It is at this stage anyone supporting them must be prepared to step back.
Where to seek help
The first step is to convince your loved one to visit their GP. They might ask you to go along with them for support and this is likely to be very helpful. If they need treatment for drug addiction, they are entitled to NHS care in the same way as anyone else who has a health problem.
Several options are available including treatment at the GP practice or a referral to the local drug service. If they do not wish to talk to their doctor, then they can approach their local drug treatment service themselves.
As well as the NHS, there are charities and private drug treatment organisations that can help you. Whilst private drug treatment can be very expensive, sometimes people can get referrals through their local NHS.
If you would like to contact us for more information, please call Ocean Recovery on 0800 500 3129 or email us, firstname.lastname@example.org.