The misuse and abuse of alcohol, over-the-counter medications, illicit drugs, and tobacco affect the health and well-being of millions of Americans. Drug and alcohol dependencies can lead to other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Addressing the impact of substance abuse is estimated to cost Americans more than $600 billion each year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse early. If you’re worried about your own drug or alcohol use, or that of a friend or family member, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) provides the following warning signs that you should look for:
- Loss of Control: Drinking or drug use more than a person wants to, for longer than intended, or despite telling themselves that they wouldn’t do it this time.
- Neglecting Other Activities: Spending less time on activities that used to be important (hanging out with family and friends, exercising, pursuing hobbies or other interests) because of the use of alcohol or drugs. Also a drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
- Risk Taking: More likely to take serious risks in order to obtain one’s drug of choice.
- Relationship Issues: People struggling with addiction may act out against those closest to them, particularly if someone is attempting to address their substance problems. Additionally, there may be complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates.
- Secrecy: Going out of one’s way to hide the amount of drugs or alcohol consumed or one’s activities when drinking or using drugs. There may also be unexplained injuries or accidents.
- Changing Appearance: Serious changes or deterioration in hygiene or physical appearance such as lack of showering, slovenly appearance or unclean clothes.
- Family History: A family history of addiction can dramatically increase one’s predisposition to substance abuse.
- Tolerance: Over time, a person’s body adapts to a substance to the point that they need more and more of it in order to have the same reaction.
- Withdrawal: As the effect of the alcohol or drugs wears off, the person may experience symptoms such as anxiety, trembling, sweating, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, depression, irritability, fatigue, loss of appetite and headaches.
- Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences: Even though it is causing problems (on the job, in relationships, for one’s health), a person continues to abuse alcohol and drugs.
If you are struggling with a chemical dependency, don’t hesitate to reach out. Help is available. Contact your PCP who can help coordinate your care and refer you to a specialist, if needed. If you don’t have a PCP, just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.