Each person who becomes addicted develops the disease for different reasons, which can vary based on his or her unique circumstances. As to what those reasons may be, we’ve learned that addiction develops through some combination of biological, behavioral, social and environmental factors.1 Knowing about these situational factors has helped us develop more targeted treatments that can effectively mitigate the symptoms of this deadly disease.
However, although the causes of addiction vary immensely from one addict to the next, there are certain behaviors that virtually all addicts exhibit as their substance abuse problems transition into active addiction.
It’s important to be aware of these behavioral cues, which might alert a person’s loved ones of his or her escalating problem with alcohol or drugs, giving them the chance to get the individual into a treatment program sooner rather than later.
Recklessness and Risk-Taking
Substance abuse itself is a reckless, risky behavior. It puts a person’s physical and emotional well-being at risk while also jeopardizing numerous other parts of his or her life, such as career, financial stability and relationships. Clearly, it’s not a rational behavior, but irrational recklessness is one of many unfortunate side effects of the disease.
That’s why those who are developing problems with alcohol or drugs frequently begin to exhibit other reckless behaviors.2 The most common manifestation of this recklessness is the lengths to which they’ll go to obtain their substances of choice. In fact, many substance users and addicts end up having legal troubles due to crimes they’ve committed in a desperate attempt to sustain their habits.
As such, someone who has begun to exhibit uncharacteristically dangerous behavior may be showing signs of a growing substance abuse problem.
Sudden Change in Lifestyle or Physical Appearance
People are generally considered to be creatures of habit.3 We develop routines that help us to maintain order in our day-to-day lives. Within reason, a person will typically try to adhere to his or her established routine as much as possible, which is why a sudden change in lifestyle or appearance could be cause for question.
If this change somehow represents a deterioration or degradation of appearance or lifestyle, this could be considered an indicator of a substance abuse problem.
Due to the nature of the disease, addicts are not going to be forthcoming about their substance abuse. Dishonesty is what accommodates an addict’s alcohol or drug habit.4 As they become more comfortable with their deceit, addicts begin to lie even when it’s not necessary and doesn’t benefit them in anyway.
Lying is a reflexive, habitual response that an addict learns over a period of time. When he or she lies, the dishonesty is rewarded with the next fix. Therefore, when a person is frequently lying, especially when there seems to be no motivation for it, that could indicate that he or she is developing or suffering from a substance abuse problem.
Blaming Others Instead of Being Accountable
Addicts blame others for their problems instead of being accountable for their circumstances in order to mask their indiscretions and to help themselves feel less guilt or shame for their misdeeds. Addicts feel that assuming accountability is tantamount to inviting others to see them as lesser people who aren’t deserving of respect. In other words, being accountable would cause others to judge them and see them in a negative light.
And since an escalating substance abuse problem means experiencing increasingly worse problems, an addict will blame others more adamantly. For this reason, those who are hiding substance abuse problems frequently betray their secrets by being so insistent that others are to blame for their problems.
Unprovoked and Inexplicable Mood Swings
Developing a substance abuse problem is a profound change in lifestyle, very different from the lifestyle a person has when sober. Being creatures of habit, people respond quite strongly to dramatic changes in their lives. For a substance user, this emotional volatility is compounded by his or her substance abuse, resulting in unpredictable and seemingly unprovoked mood swings.
This is especially pronounced when the individual hadn’t been known as an overtly emotional person. The common emotions substance users exhibit include irritability, anxiety, depression, anger, lethargy and fatigue,6 but there are other emotional extremes that are known effects of using certain drugs.
In short, when a person seems unusually, overtly moody with intense and unprovoked mood swings, there’s a possibility he or she has a substance abuse problem, especially when other signs are present.
When a person develops an alcohol or drug problem, the individual is beholden to dangerous, self-destructive impulses as well as many other behavioral changes. Many addicts barely resemble their former, non-addicted selves, but every addict deserves the chance to get his or her life back.
At Black Bear Lodge, we have a variety of treatments and recovery resources that can help you or your loved one return to a state of physical, psychological and spiritual wellness. Contact us 706-914-2327 to take the first step on this journey toward lasting health and happiness.
By Dane O'Leary, Contributing Writer