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Signs of Dependence & How To Stop It – Claimont Health

What are the signs of dependence?

Substance abuse is a common issue that affects people from all walks of life. Defined as a dependence on using a substance to the point where it could be detrimental to your health, the sufferer often has no control over their situation.

In this section, we’ll be looking into the general signs of substance abuse that cover all types of dependence, so that you can approach the topic sensitively and accurately with yourself or your loved one.

How can I look for signs of dependence? 

Substances include alcohol, tobacco and nicotine, household inhalants, prescription medication, illicit drugs and more. If you’re concerned that someone in your life could potentially be dealing with substance abuse, there are several signs of dependence you can look out for. 

Despite the signs of substance abuse varying depending on the specific dependence, there are key elements you can look for if you are concerned about a loved one. Changes in a person’s behaviour are a good starting point, particularly if a person is behaving in a manner that is completely out of character. Outward changes in their physical appearance will also indicate poor health, both mentally and physically. 

What are the risk factors for dependence?

Regardless of a person’s age, sex, background or financial standing, anyone can become dependent on a substance. Despite this, there are a number of risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing problems.

A history of dependence

If a person has a family history of dependence, there is likely a genetic predisposition involved. You are more likely to develop problems with substance use if you have an immediate relative with a drug or alcohol disorder. On a similar level, difficult family situations such as a lack of parental supervision or a poor relationship with parents and siblings are often risk factors.

Mental health struggles 

Mental health struggles can also increase a person’s chances of becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol. Substances are commonly used by patients with depression, ADHD or PTSD as a way of dealing with complex emotions associated with their disorders – however, substance abuse will always make the problem worse.

Peer pressure

For young people especially, peer pressure is a factor in beginning to use substances. Similarly, using drugs and alcohol at an early age can affect the brain’s development, making the user more likely to progress to a disorder.

Recreational drug use 

Recreational use of highly compulsive substances such as stimulants, painkillers or cocaine may lead to the faster development of dependence than lesser substances. However, casually taking ‘lighter’ drugs can also act as a gateway for substance abuse.

Spotting the signs of alcohol abuse

Alcohol dependence  – most frequently referred to as alcoholism – is a disorder where the user has an uncontrollable desire to drink. A person living with alcoholism will take part in harmful drinking at a level that will negatively affect their health and responsibilities.

If you believe a loved one is developing an unhealthy relationship with their drinking, it’s important to look out for the signs that someone is an alcoholic.

Physical signs of alcoholism

The physical symptoms of alcoholism will be noticeable even during the early stages of the disorder. As a starting point, you will notice the person being drunk on a regular basis, with the obvious signs including slurred speech, impaired coordination and poor decision-making.

Often, if a regular user feels sick after drinking, they will use alcohol to get rid of the nausea. Blacking out regularly is also associated with alcohol abuse. Those showing signs of alcohol abuse will also often choose to drink over eating regular meals. 

As the dependence develops, the person will noticeably decline in their appearance due to burgeoning health problems. More than 60 medical conditions develop with alcohol as a risk factor, including heart and blood pressure issues and liver and kidney damage.

Behavioural signs of alcoholism

You will also begin to notice significant behavioural differences when the person is drunk as opposed to how they normally act when they are sober. The person is much more likely to participate in dangerous or risky behaviours, such as drunk driving.

A person showing symptoms of alcohol abuse will also be very secretive about their drinking. Alongside drinking beyond moderation on a regular basis – where moderation is defined as seven drinks a week – the person is also likely to drink alone and at erratic times, such as first thing in the morning. They will give up passions and interests to drink and will be evidently unable to stop.

More key signs that someone is an alcoholic include developing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression as a consequence of their drinking. Depending on the level of alcohol consumed, the person may also experience insomnia.

Knowing the signs of drug dependence

As with alcohol dependence, drug dependence is a disorder that impairs the user’s ability to control their intake of a specific substance, legal or otherwise. A person will be aware of the harm the substance has on their body but will be unable to stop.

If you think a loved one may be struggling with substance abuse, there are a number of signs you can look out for.

Physical signs of drug dependence 

If you suspect that someone you know is abusing drugs, you will notice significant alterations in their appearance. The hallmark signs of drug use include changes in a person’s eyes – you should pay close attention to the size of their pupils and whether they’re excessively over- or under-dilated. Bloodshot and red eyes are also telltale signs.

Someone living with drug dependence will also look recognisably different in their skin. This includes having an unusual level of puffiness in their face and changes in their complexion that make them look either overly flushed or washed-out. Abusing drugs will often affect a person’s weight. Depending on the specific substance, a user will have their appetite either suppressed or accelerated – meaning they will experience drastic changes to their weight.

When looking for signs someone is on drugs at that present moment, keep an eye on whether the person is slurring their speech or constantly sniffling. They may also be itching persistently or impulsively tugging on their sleeves. 

Consistent fatigue is also something to consider, especially as drug abuse alters the hormones responsible for rest and wakefulness. Someone regularly using drugs will be erratic in their sleeping habits in comparison to their usual schedule. This is the case for both stimulant and depressant users.

Behavioural of drug dependence  

As many substances impair a person’s ability to handle their emotions effectively, you may notice a drug user dealing with extreme mood swings. A person abusing drugs will also become increasingly erratic in their behaviour due to the stark contrast between a high and the withdrawal phase. Co-occurring mental health disorders can also be amplified by drug use.

Since substance abuse is an experience that comes with a lot of social stigma, the user will often appear ashamed and paranoid about their situation and therefore become reclusive. When confronted about their use, the person will often be hostile and defensive in an attempt to hide their problem. 

A frequent drug user will often prioritise using their chosen substance above everything else, meaning that their usual interests will begin to wane. This is particularly apparent if a person becomes unenthusiastic about the people or hobbies they’re usually passionate about.

What are the long-term signs?

The signs of dependence explained above tend to present themselves in the early stages, however, it’s important to remember that dependence often takes over a person’s life if left untreated. From untreated symptoms stems a variety of potential long-term effects that will increase in severity the longer they are ignored.

The personal and psychological consequences are life-changing. Many patients experience strained or broken relationships as a result of their behaviour, including family breakdown. Long-term mental health problems are also common, with suicidal thoughts and behaviours being reported by many of those struggling.

The patient may also be affected financially by job loss and unemployment if they are struggling day-to-day. This can lead to legal problems or homelessness.

Similarly, physical health consequences become more prevalent over time and can result in death if left untreated.

For long-term use, the following health complications can arise:

  • Liver damage
  • Pancreatitis
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • High blood pressure 
  • Increased stroke risk
  • Ulcers
  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased cancer risks
  • Various heart problems
  • Issues in the brain
  • Kidney failure
  • Gout

You’ve seen the signs of drug dependence and alcoholism: What now?

How to stop a dependency

A physiological need, dependency or compulsion can be a powerful force, but you don’t have to feel stuck or hopeless. You can tackle it and come out on the other side free from its grip. 

To help you on this journey of self-improvement, we’ve compiled our top 10 tips for how to stop. This practical advice will help equip you with the knowledge and understanding necessary to set yourself up for success, whether that’s finding supportive people, developing new habits or seeking professional treatment. 

Don’t be disheartened if your first attempts at changing your behaviour don’t work – break down the process piece by piece and start taking small steps in the right direction today.

Identify what is causing the habit and find ways to address it 

Identifying the root cause of your habit is the first step in successfully stopping it. It might be something like a stressful job or relationship issues. 

In giving up, it’s important to address these underlying issues to succeed. Therapy, a support group, or simply confiding in a friend or family member can all be effective ways to address the underlying issues that contribute to a destructive habit. 

Similarly, for those struggling with drugs, perhaps the root cause is a desire to escape from reality. Once again, therapy, support groups or finding healthy ways to manage stress can all help address the root cause. 

Develop a plan that involves a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, and relaxation

Giving up can be daunting, but developing a plan that involves adopting a healthy lifestyle can make the journey easier.

Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in recovery, as it provides the body with the necessary vitamins and minerals to repair the damage caused.

Exercise is also essential as it boosts the production of endorphins, which help to reduce cravings and improve mood. 

Sleep and relaxation are equally important, as they allow the body and mind to recharge and reduce stress. 

Also, incorporating mindfulness practices, such as meditation and yoga, can help individuals manage their thoughts and emotions better, reducing the risk of relapse. By prioritising a healthy lifestyle, individuals can improve their overall physical and mental well-being.

Set realistic goals for yourself and take small steps each day to reach them

If you are thinking about giving up alcohol or drugs, setting realistic goals for yourself is crucial. It’s important to acknowledge that quitting is a challenging process that requires patience, dedication and perseverance. 

Creating achievable targets for yourself can help you stay motivated and track your progress along the way. Rather than trying to give up alcohol or drugs all at once, set small goals each day. For example, skipping a drink or a drug in certain situations or reducing the amount consumed gradually. 

Over time, these small steps will culminate in a lifestyle change that can significantly improve your overall well-being. 

Remember, giving up is a journey, and it’s okay to have setbacks along the way. The key is to keep yourself focused on your goals and remain dedicated to the process of quitting. 

With determination and commitment, you can successfully overcome your dependency and build a happier, healthier life for yourself.

Find distractions 

When it comes to giving up any dependency, finding distractions can be a lifesaver. 

It’s important to have a variety of activities you enjoy that can take your mind off cravings. This could be anything from reading a book to jogging or learning a new hobby.

Exercise is beneficial as it releases endorphins that can help lift your mood and reduce anxiety.

Social support is also crucial, so make sure to spend time with friends and family who don’t drink or use drugs. 

Finding new ways to have fun can be challenging, but it’s worth it. Remember, the key is to stay busy and engaged in activities that bring you joy and purpose.

Take time to reflect on why you want to stop

Before embarking on the journey, it is important to take the time to reflect on why you want to stop.

It could be to improve your physical health, to save money or to mend damaged relationships. You need to have a strong reason to stay committed to the process and remain motivated when faced with challenges. 

Reflecting on the root cause can also help you gain an understanding of the triggers and situations that lead to substance abuse. This insight will enable you to develop coping mechanisms and strategies to overcome cravings and maintain sobriety. 

So, take the time to dig deep and understand your motivations for quitting. It will go a long way in helping you achieve lasting change.

Tell somebody about your problem – having a friend or family member who will support you will make it easier

Sharing your struggle with someone trustworthy and supportive could be a crucial step in your recovery journey. 

It takes great courage to talk about your problem, but it can help you feel less alone and more accountable for your actions. 

Communicating your feelings, thoughts and reasons for wanting to quit alcohol or drugs to a friend, family member or a medical expert can provide you with a fresh perspective on your situation and give you the motivation to continue on the path to recovery. 

Additionally, learning from others’ experiences and seeking professional help can be incredibly helpful in setting realistic goals for giving up alcohol or drugs safely and effectively. 

Remember, admitting that you have a problem and seeking help is often the hardest but most important part of the journey.

Avoid negative influences and environments

If you’re looking to stop, one of the most important things you can do is avoid negative influences and environments. 

This might mean cutting off ties with friends who are still using or drinking or finding new hobbies and activities to fill your time. It’s also important to avoid places where drugs or alcohol are readily available, such as bars or parties. 

Instead, try to surround yourself with supportive people who are committed to helping you stay sober. This might include attending support group meetings or therapy sessions, where you can share your experiences and learn from others who have been in your shoes.

By taking these steps, you can significantly increase your chances of successfully quitting alcohol or drugs and leading a healthier, happier life.

Remove whatever you’re dependent on from your surroundings 

Keeping temptations out of sight and out of mind can help you focus on your sobriety and prevent relapse. 

Start by getting rid of any paraphernalia in your living space, including bottles, cans, or drug-related items. 

Avoid social situations where use is prevalent and surround yourself with supportive peers. 

Creating a recovery environment, creating a recovery can be challenging during early recovery, but staying committed to your goal and avoiding triggers can help you lead a healthier, happier life. 

Remember, it’s never too late to seek help and start your journey towards recovery.

Make a list of what motivates you to quit, such as your health or happiness

When it comes to giving up alcohol or drugs, the first step is to acknowledge that you have a problem and be motivated to make a change. 

One way to stay motivated is to create a list of reasons why you want to quit. This list can include factors such as the desire to improve your health or to be more present in your relationships. 

By writing down these motivating factors, you can remind yourself of why you started on this journey and help keep you focused on achieving your goal of quitting.

Additionally, this list can serve as a source of inspiration during challenging times, providing you with the strength to overcome any obstacles in your path.

Remember, making the decision to quit is the first step towards a healthier, happier life.

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Here at Claimont Health, we offer treatment in the comfort of your home. Contact us today to see how we can help you.