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When does drug abuse become a drug addiction?

In this blog Port of Call asks when does drug abuse become a drug addiction? We explore the definition of drug addiction, the signs and symptoms of drug abuse, and hear two very different stories of recovery.

Definition of drug addiction

AddictionAddiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that’s characterised by compulsive drug use, regardless of the harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain’s structure and how it works. These changes can be long lasting and lead to harmful, self-destructive, behaviours.

If you’re worried that drugs could be taking over your life, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I/they feel the need for the drug regularly?
  • Do I/they have to use more to get the same effect?
  • Have I/they promised to give up but carried on?
  • If I/they try to stop or cut down do I/they feel depressed, anxious or unwell?
  • Have I/they lost interest in family, friends, hobbies or work?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, and are concerned about the situation, it is possible that you’ve developed a drug addiction and that professional help, such as a drug or alcohol rehab programme is needed.

Signs and symptoms of drug abuse and addiction

Signs and symptoms of drug abuse can vary according to the substance a person uses. Some of the more common physical signs of drug abuse are:

  • Bloodshot eyes and larger or smaller pupils.
  • Sudden weight loss or gain.
  • Deterioration of physical appearance.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination.

But there can also be behavioural and psychological signs to look out for, such as:

  • Poor attendance at work.
  • Suspicious or secretive behaviour.
  • Financial difficulties.
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or ‘spaced out.’
  • Unexplained changes in personality or attitude.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid.

Drug addicts before and after

Drug addiction can and does happen to anyone. Charlotte, 20, from Wilmslow was a self-confessed ‘wild child’ who’s love of partying led to an expensive cocaine addiction that threatened to hijack her law studies.

“It got way out of hand,” said Charlotte. “At one stage I was going out six nights a week and snorting coke on most of them. My flatmate, and best friend, came to talk to me. She told me that she barely saw my these days and was upset that we’d drifted apart so much.

“It made me realise that I probably hadn’t been paying much attention to my friends, family, or studies for quite some time. That very day I contacted Port of Call for some Addiction help,”

she added.

Read more of Charlotte’s story about her journey from Grade A student to Class A cocaine addict and how Port of Call helped her to take back control.

After Jack, 19, from Bolton narrowly avoided a jail sentence for burglary, to fuel his crack addiction, his mother Barbara was desperate to get her son back. A call to Port of Call prompted a family intervention that was such a revelation to Jack that he signed up for rehab there and then.

“Port of Call put us in touch with a team of professionals who would run our intervention,” said Barbara. “They advised us to get an intervention team together, arrange a suitable venue where Jack would feel comfortable, and talked us through a treatment plan.”

Read Barbara’s story in full about how a family intervention helped her son to curb his addiction and take control of his life once more.

At Port of Call we understand how complex these situations can be because we have been there too. We have been through them and have reached recovery. You can too. With us there at every step of the journey to help you navigate towards the right treatment at the right time.

Contact us today to find out more about our Addiction Support services, including private rehab, and What can be treated through our network of addiction experts.  Call confidential today on  08000029010.

About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is our admissions team leader. Over the last 5 years he has spoken with more than 10,000 people via our helpline and has organised over 1,000 detox and rehabilitation placements.

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