When substance use takes hold of someone’s life, new priorities and feelings will control how they behave.
This results in rapid or noticeable changes from what was previously considered “normal” for this person. Daily routines and activities get rearranged or abandoned, and relationships with friends and loved ones come under stress. If you or someone you know is turning into someone unrecognizable, it could be a consequence of drug abuse.
Some changes to watch for are:
1. Struggling with Limits:
This can manifest as urges to take a prescription drug at a higher dose than prescribed or continuing after the health problem it treats has ended. Addiction makes it hard to follow even self-prescribed rules. If you have set yourself a self-imposed use limit but cannot stop yourself, this is a concerning sign.
2. Loss of Interest:
Substance dependency takes over the mind’s reward system. Take note if someone is becoming complacent in realms they used to take great pride in or apathetic towards the people or hobbies they usually cherish.
It may mean they are funneling their energy toward feeding the impulse of using drugs. Frequent failure to show up or follow through on plans, lack of enthusiasm, or dulling of talents can all indicate an underlying struggle.
3. Mood Swings:
Many substances, especially when used heavily, impair the user’s ability to manage emotional input. This can appear as sudden misery, extreme upset, irritation, or anger in situations when they could previously handle their moods well. If a normally calm and collected person seems hyper and manic, or an optimist is dealing with sudden waves of depression, it could be a sign of drug abuse.
4. Reclusive and Private Behavior:
Substance abuse disorders are incredibly isolating. A user often experiences shame and fears social stigma, and some drugs also can induce paranoia. This can cause a person to withdraw from their usual relationships and become secretive. Reclusive behaviors that point to hiding an addiction include:
- Spending extended periods in their room
- Locking the door when they leave or enter their private space
- Not sharing details about places or people they visit when out of the house
- Shutting down when asked questions by people they usually trust
Withdrawn behavior and responding with hostility or wariness when uncomfortable topics arise can be a sign of defensiveness. A person trying to hide addiction may redirect the conversation with arguments or even aggressive mood swings, and distraction methods are also a defensive sign.
6. Erratic Behavior:
This trait is usually very evident and a symptom of most substance addictions. Depending on the drug, the high could be associated with euphoria, paranoia, feelings of power, or invulnerability. These are all sensations that can lead users to reckless or dangerous actions. Withdrawal brings with it physical and emotional distress that can also lead to erratic or even violent behavior.
Mental health is the sum of many parts. Co-occurring disorders, such as depression or anxiety, are often amplified by drug abuse – with the effects of one feeding off of the other. For people struggling with these synergistic conditions, dual diagnosis is key to effective healing.
7. Changes in Sleep Habits:
Drug abuse tends to wreak havoc on users’ sleep habits. Both stimulants and depressants alter the activity of hormones responsible for tiredness and wakefulness. This will drive a user off their typical schedule.
An addicted person will sometimes also experience the opposite effects when the drug leaves their system. If someone keeps “off-hours” – be that oversleeping or staying up for extended periods – relative to their usual habits, it can be a sign of growing chemical dependence.