Substance and alcohol addiction start somewhere, whether it was a childhood trauma or a recent tragedy. Abuse has many faces, and it can be hard to spot the differences in a loved one when they start to spiral down the hole of addiction.

Is there a beginning?

Drug abuse typically starts when an individual uses the drug and experiences a “high” from the substance. This may make them feel extremely good, as many substances have an effect on dopamine and other neurotransmitters that cause pleasure.

The person seeks to feel this pleasure again, and over time and multiple uses the brain stops releasing signals from the neurotransmitters associated with pleasure. When this happens, users experience a crash in mood and energy and often show signs of irritability. In the wake of this emotional upheaval they seek to regain the pleasure they previously experienced, and since the brain is no longer releasing these signals they turn to drugs and alcohol more and more often.

Why Are They Addicted?

There’s no single reason for addiction, but genetics play a large role in just how susceptible a person is to abuse substances. About half of the risk for alcohol abuse stems from a genetic predisposition for the disease.

Mental illness and environment also play a role in how likely a person is to abuse dangerous substances. Trauma can be the catalyst for abuse, such as an accident, injury, or death of a loved one or family member. Even the loss of a job can trigger destructive thoughts and behaviors that lead to addiction.

How Can I Tell?

If you suspend someone you love is abusing drugs, there are a few ways to know for sure without asking them outright. You may notice they have trouble sleeping or they may sleep too much, their eyes may be bloodshot or watery. They may suddenly gain or lose weight; their eating habits may change, and they eat more or less and sometimes not at all. If you notice slurred speech or dilated pupils, these may also be indicators of drug abuse.

Changes in behavior can also be noticed when someone is becoming addicted to a substance. They may become more irritable, easy to anger, and emotionally unstable. A once honest person may become a chronic liar and thief, or they may exhibit secretive behavior as they try to hide their abuse. Individuals often show the greatest change at work or in school, where performance is monitored and a change in quality can be clearly seen in grades or work performance.

Help is always out there for loved ones if you believe they are showing any of the characteristics and behaviors listed above. They can get the best quality help from caring professionals in the blink of an eye, but the first step needs to be taken, and the problem needs to be recognized. Take action soon, and don’t ignore changes in behavior or attitude as these could indicate a greater need for help.


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