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Natural Awakenings Space & Treasure Coast Florida

The Signs Of Addictions

Apr 04, 2011 06:28PM ● By Dr. Kevin Kilday, PhD

Anybody who uses drugs or alcohol can become an addict. Addiction has no age limit and even teenagers can become addicted. Some people are more susceptible to addiction than others but addiction can strike anybody who uses. It is a gamble and there is no definitive way to tell in advance if you will develop an addiction.

People can get addicted to all sorts of substances. When we think of addiction, we usually think of alcohol or illegal drugs. But people become addicted to medications, cigarettes, even glue! And some substances are more addictive than others: Drugs like crack or heroin are so addictive that they might only be used once or twice before the user loses control.

The difference between substance abuse and addiction is a very thin line. Substance abuse involves the repeated and excessive use of alcohol, prescription or street drugs. Addiction begins as abuse and a person crosses the line between abuse and addiction when he or she is no longer trying the drug to have fun or get high, but has come to depend on it. Addiction means a person has no control over whether he or she uses a drug or drinks. His or her whole life centers around the need for the drug. An addicted person — whether it's a physical or psychological addiction or both — no longer feels like there is a choice in taking a substance.

Psychological addiction happens when the cravings for a drug are psychological or emotional. People who are psychologically addicted feel overcome by the desire to have a drug. Many people use drugs in order to cope with unpleasant emotions and the difficulties of life. People who are suffering emotionally use drugs not so much for the rush but to escape from their problems. They’re trying to self-medicate themselves out of loneliness, low self-esteem, unhappy relationships, stress, or are suffering from undiagnosed mental health problems.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that about half of all drug abusers also suffer from a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

General and Psychological signs that you or someone you know may have a drug or alcohol addiction include: use of drugs or alcohol as a way to forget problems or to relax, withdrawal or keeping secrets from family and friends, marked change in behavior ranging from hostility to violence, loss of interest in activities that used to be important, changes in friendships such as hanging out only with friends who use drugs, spending a lot of time figuring out how to get drugs, stealing or selling belongings to be able to afford drugs, failed attempts to stop taking drugs or drinking, use of incense or room freshener to hide smoke or chemical odors, lack of concern for appearance and grooming, evidence of eye drops used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils, evidence of drug paraphernalia such as pipes and rolling papers, stealing someone’s prescription drugs, continuing to use drugs even though you have health problems that are affected or caused by your drug use, paying bills late and the inability to keep track of your money, being arrested, continuing to use drugs even though you realize your job or education is in jeopardy, missing work or school or going in late due to drug use, feeling annoyed when other people comment on or criticize your use of drugs, feeling remorse or guilt after using drugs, associating with questionable acquaintances and frequenting locations to purchase or use drugs, using drugs when alone, psychosis, difficulty concentrating, increased anxiety, racing thoughts, increased depression and mood swings.

Physical addiction is when a person's body actually becomes dependent on a particular substance (even smoking is physically addictive). It also means building tolerance to that substance, so that a person needs a larger dose than ever before to get the same effects. Someone who is physically addicted and stops using drugs or alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms. Many times a medical detox is used because withdrawals can be deadly.

Physical signs that you or someone you know may have a drug or alcohol addiction include: feeling shaky or sick when trying to stop, needing to take more of the substance to get the same effect, changes in eating habits, weight loss or gain, excessive energy, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, rapid breathing, irritability, impulsiveness, aggression, nervousness, cravings, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, muscle pain, headaches, stomach cramps, diarrhea, sweats, flu like symptoms, seizures and possible heart failure. Sharing needles and having unsafe sex resulting in HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.

Unfortunately, overcoming addiction is not easy. Quitting drugs or drinking is probably going to be one of the hardest things you've ever done. It's not a sign of weakness. It is best to get professional help from a trained drug counselor or therapist as well as a nutritionist to help rebuild not only your mind but your body as well.

Dr. Kevin Kilday, PhD is a board certified counselor, nutritionist and founder of Life Recovery Center specializing in the treatment of addictions, anxiety, stress, and depression 10 years experience. Please call 321-704-0602 or visit

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