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Recognising the Signs

About Addiction

Addiction is a complex disorder

Many professional bodies, including the American Psychiatric Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, agree that all levels of alcohol and drug problems, including addiction, are primarily a disease of the brain manifested by compulsive substance use despite its harmful consequences.

Experts generally agree that people with an alcohol and/or drug problem often display two or more of the following behaviours:

  1. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs in larger amounts or for longer periods
  2. Wanting to cut down or stop drinking or taking drugs but not managing to
  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from drinking or taking drugs
  4. Suffering cravings and urges to drink alcohol or use drugs
  5. Failing to carry out daily activities at work, home, or school/college/university because of alcohol or drug use
  6. Continuing to drink or use, even when it causes problems in relationships
  7. Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of drinking alcohol or using drugs
  8. Drinking alcohol or using drugs again and again, even when it's dangerous
  9. Continuing to use drugs or alcohol, despite a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused, or made worse, by the substance
  10. Needing more drugs or alcohol to get an effect (increasing tolerance)
  11. Developing withdrawal symptoms, which can only be relieved by taking more drugs or alcohol
  12. Taking less care than usual in their appearance and personal hygiene

How did you score?

2 or 3 Substance use disorder

4 or 5 Serious disorder

6 + Severe disorder/addiction

Even at the lower level, treatment should be sought as studies indicate that substance use disorders are progressive and the chances of getting worse are extremely high. Also, as with other diseases, there are huge advantages in getting treatment at the mild to moderate stages when the condition is less advanced.

The common signs of alcohol and drug problems

Alcoholics, addicts and people with alcohol or drug problems are skilled at concealing the signs, but here's what you should look out for:

Preoccupation

Their life revolves around getting and using alcohol and/or drugs. And even If they’re not using, they will be thinking about it. So they may appear distant.

Risk taking

As the need to use becomes more urgent and cravings grow in strength, the result will be increasingly risky behaviour.

Secrecy

They will commonly deny they have a problem. They may become uncommunicative, lie about where they’ve been or who they've been with. If questioned, they may sulk or become angry.

Changed behaviour

Family relationships and friendships deteriorate. They may change their friends and their routines. Often, there’s a growing tendency to try and control people, situations and things.

Neglect

This could be the disregard of responsibilities, appearance, or their daily needs. They may exhibit eating disorders such as over or under eating or appear fatigued due to lack of sleep.

Restlessness, irritability & discontent

They may appear disengaged from life and unwilling to take part in social events. They may be unable to sit still and exhibit indecision, defensiveness or self-pity.

Financial issues and debt

They may have financial problems - you may notice an increasing need to borrow money or over-reliance on credit cards and overdrafts, and even stealing and selling personal possessions.

Problems at work

They may turn up late for work – if at all. Their performance will probably be erratic and unreliable and they may miss business appointments. They may be drinking or using during their lunch break.


If you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, or know someone who does, please get in touch for free, confidential advice.

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