This is the second of three articles in the Topic on addiction.
Signs and symptoms of Addiction
Substance dependence is addiction to a substance, such as a drug, alcohol or nicotine. The person can no longer control use of the substance due to intense cravings. With addictions, most often the he person takes the substance over and over and cannot stop. Often at least one serious attempt was made to give up but the person relapsed.
Signs and symptoms include:
Withdrawal symptoms occur when the drug goes out of the system and the person will experience unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms. They include cravings, moodiness, ill-tempered behaviour, poor focus, depression, sense of emptiness, frustration, anger, bitterness and resentment.
Physical symptoms can include an increased appetite, especially an urge for sugary and fatty foods (occurs with the likes of cannabis use or heroin use) or an inability to eat due to nausea and vomiting in the case of withdrawal from the likes of opiates (eg) heroin. Insomnia is a common symptom of withdrawal especially with withdrawal from illegal drugs. Constipation or diarrhoea are common both during use of many drugs and withdrawal. With some substances, withdrawal can trigger violence, trembling, seizures, hallucinations, and sweats.
Addiction continues despite health problems – due to the addictive nature of the substance the person continues taking the substance regularly despite developing illnesses due to its use. (eg) some smokers continue smoking despite developing smoking related diseases such as lung cancer or heart problems and alcoholics often continue smoking despite developing liver disease
Social and/or recreational sacrifices - some activities are given up because of an addiction to something. An alcoholic may miss out on family or work engagements as they would prefer to get drunk or are too hung-over or a smoker may avoid situations or people where smoking is not possible. Also, the financial difficulties caused funding an expensive addiction may reduce ability to ability to take part activities you once were able to afford (eg) going on a holiday, going for a meal
Maintaining a good supply - addicts will always make sure they maintain a good supply, even if they do not have much money. Sacrifices may be made in other areas (eg. food, clothes) to make sure they have sufficient supply.
Taking risks – risk taking occurs to enable getting his/her substance of choice including stealing, violence, trading sex for money/drugs etc. Being under the influence of substances like alcohol or drugs can lead to a person engaging in risky activities which they wouldn’t dream of when sober (eg) drink driving, violence
Obsession – the addiction causes the person to spend more and more time and energy trying to get hold of the addictive substance and causing damage to other areas of life (family, work, finances, etc)
Secrecy and solitude - in many cases the addict may take their substance alone and in secret (often due to shame)
Denial – many addicts are not aware, are in denial or refuse to admit that they suffer from an addiction.
Excess consumption - for addictions such as alcohol, drugs and even nicotine, excessive use pretty much goes hand in hand with the problem. This leads to blackouts due to alcohol or drug binges and both physical and mental health problems
Dropping hobbies and activities - as the addiction progresses the person often stops doing things he/she used to enjoy (eg. sports, clubs etc. This may because they are physically not able to take part in the activity (due to the damage drugs, alcohol or smoking does to the health), they can no longer afford to take part (addiction eats up all available funds) or the addiction takes up to much time (ie) Trying to get the substance or using the substance such as drinking means time for other activities is limited
Having stashes - the addicted person may have small stocks of their substance hidden away in different places (eg. house, car, work) and often in unlikely places. This is to help ensure they never run out.
Consuming an initial large dose - this is often seen with alcoholism. The person may gulp the first drink down to get that feeling of “relief” and to get drunk and feel good quickly (and take away the emotional and physical pain of withdrawal quickly)
Problems with the law is common as drug, alcohol and gambling addictions can be expensive so the person may need to steal or deceive to fund an expensive habit. Substance abuse can impair judgment and leads to the person taking risks and engage in illegal behaviour that is out of character and wouldn’t engage in when sober. For example the likes of assaults and drunk and disorderly offences can occur even in those who would never dream of breaking the law when sober.
Financial difficulties – the addicted individual may sacrifice a lot to make sure its supply is secured. Even cigarettes, which are currently over €11.50 for a packet of twenty (2016 budget) meaning a 40-a-day smoker will spend €700 per month or nearly €8,395 per year on smoking (which equates to over €11,000 pre-tax income).
Behavioural addiction is addiction to a behaviour such as gambling or video gaming. The physical signs of drug addiction do not occur in behavioural addiction. Behaviorally addicted individuals have certain symptoms and will undergo many of the same consequences brought about by addiction to alcohol and drugs as well as other obsessive behaviours (eg) money problems, relationship breakdowns, guilt, etc
Community Alcohol and Drug Service (CADS)
The HSE Community Alcohol and Drug Service offer counselling and treatment services for adults suffering from addiction to alcohol, drugs and gambling. CADS have centres in Mullingar, Athlone and Longford. CADS provides counselling and treatment to help people get over their addiction. You can contact them at 04493 41630.
To be continued….next week
For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans, log on to www.whelehans.ie or dial 04493 34591.