Understanding the characteristics of addiction is the first step in knowing whether you or someone you love are struggling with drug or alcohol dependency. Studies show that many addicts often attempt to conceal their use from family, friends and medical professionals. In this entry, we will discuss some of the more common things to watch for when you suspect a problem.
The internal characteristics of addiction include regular cravings, difficulty or inability to stop use, ensuring easy access to the drug, and a feeling that the substance will help you sort out life’s problems. These characteristics are generally similar, regardless of the substance in question.
Though each substance brings about it’s own specific set of symptoms, a number of external characteristics are shared, regardless of the drug type. Friends and family members will often notice psychological, physical and behavioral changes:
Psychological – Wild and sudden personality changes, outbursts, mood swings, and periods of both decreased and increased activity.
Physical – Bloodshot eyes, lack of personal hygiene, large or small pupil sizes, impaired coordination, and weight shifts.
Behavioral – Sudden need for money, chances in friends or interests, decrease in work performance, secretive behaviors, and an increase in dangerous activity, such as traffic accidents or legal issues.
Understanding the difference between typically teenage behaviors and addiction characteristics can be difficult. Common abuse symptoms in teens include lower grades, an increase in disciplinary action at school, ditching class and missing money. Sudden changes in appearance, behavior and health issues can also signal potential substance abuse issues.
It’s not uncommon for addicts to visit multiple physicians’ offices to obtain prescriptions for their chosen substance to avoid detection. Characteristics in the doctor’s office can include assertive and aggressive personality, agitated waiting room behavior and a somewhat unusual appearance. When speaking with physicians, addicts will make specific requests for particular drugs, exhibit an extensive knowledge of substances, and offer up exaggerated or vague responses to questions concerning their medical history and symptoms.