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Five Signs It’s Time to Get Addiction Help

Drug and alcohol addiction wreaks havoc on the lives of millions of addicts and their families, but only a fraction of men and women with a substance abuse problem ever seek treatment. The costs of untreated addiction are enormous, both in personal and societal terms. Helping addicts to realize their need for treatment and guiding them to proven methods such as intensive outpatient treatment programs is one of the most difficult – but most necessary – challenges their friends and family will ever face.

According to the Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap initiative, 23.5 million Americans – that’s roughly one in 10 Americans over the age of 12 – have a drug or alcohol addiction. Of those 23.5 million men and women, only 11 percent will receive treatment. While insurance coverage and affordability create a barrier for many, one of the largest obstacles to addicts getting treatment is their inability, or that of those closest to them, to realize a problem exists.

A 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that the vast majority of people who need addiction treatment but don’t receive it do not think they need help. Addicts often engage in self-deceptive behavior to avoid coming to terms with the fact that they have a serious problem. They tell themselves that they can quit whenever they want to, that their addiction is just a product of temporary stress, or that their addiction is a personal matter that doesn’t affect anyone else.

Addicts often extend this deception to those around them, hiding the extent of their problem. Friends and family often ignore obvious signs of addiction, not wanting to believe that someone they’re close to has a problem.

Old man reading label on prescription medicine bottle

Knowing the Signs

If you think that you or someone you love has an addiction problem, consider these signs of possible addiction, and seek help from an outpatient addiction treatment program if necessary:

  • Physical symptoms – These are some of the most recognizable symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse. Some changes in appearance common to users of drugs and alcohol include bloodshot or glazed eyes, dilated pupils, and abrupt weight changes. While not everyone who has lost a little weight or who has bloodshot eyes one morning has a drug or alcohol problem, if physical signs appear along with other signs, it may be likely that a substance problem exists.
  • Behavioral symptoms – Drugs and alcohol can have a huge impact on a person’s behavior and habits. Over time, drug and alcohol abuse can have an impact on an addict’s brain, making coherent thought and focus more difficult. Some changes in personality that may indicate a drug problem include increased irritability, depression, dramatic changes in priorities, and sudden mood swings.
  • Criminal activity – The need to acquire money to pay for drugs often pushes addicts into criminal activity. A decrease in inhibitions caused by drug use makes this behavior more likely. People who are ordinarily law-abiding may turn to theft or embezzlement to support their habit.
  • Financial problems – Sudden financial problems can be a sign of a drug or alcohol problem, as the cost of maintaining and hiding the habit can be high. If a friend or loved one suddenly begins piling up debt and exhibits financially reckless behavior, it may be a sign of a substance abuse problem.
  • Relationship woes – People suffering from drug or alcohol problems often have unstable relationships, as the mental health issues caused by substance abuse impair their ability to sustain healthy friendships and romantic relationships with others.

Couple dealing with untreated addictions

Consequences of Untreated Addiction

Untreated drug or alcohol addiction has a wide range of serious consequences. Escalating use increases an addict’s chances of running afoul of the law by way of an arrest for DUI, public intoxication, or illegal drug possession. Addicts also run the risk of losing their jobs because of diminished performance or drug testing. Family relationships and friendships often suffer, and, as mentioned, drug and alcohol addicts frequently run into financial problems related to their substance abuse.

There are also the long-term medical consequences of drug abuse to consider.  The use of illicit drugs and alcohol can have severe negative impacts, especially if the abuse continues over years and decades. Some of the major physiological consequences of long-term drug or alcohol abuse include:

  • Kidney damage – Habitual drug use can cause substantial damage to the kidneys over years of abuse. Many abusers of crystal meth and heroin develop kidney failure. One kidney problem that can develop as a result of heroin and cocaine abuse is rhabdomyolysis, which occurs when muscle tissue breaks down and releases proteins into the blood, which can cause kidney damage. Alcohol can also cause changes in kidney structure and function.
  • Liver damage – Alcohol abuse is commonly associated with liver damage, particularly cirrhosis of the liver, but drug abuse can also result in liver damage. Cirrhosis causes healthy liver tissue to be replaced with scar tissue, impeding the flow of blood through the liver and impairing its ability to process toxins. In addition to alcohol, Vicodin and OxyContin abuse can also cause liver damage.
  • Heart damage – Cocaine and other stimulants can do severe damage to the heart each time they’re abused. Drug use can result in heart failure and abnormal heart rate, as well as a variety of other conditions. Even so-called “soft” drugs like inhalants can result in heart failure. Injection drug use can also result in cardiovascular problems, as it can cause collapsed veins and contribute to bacterial infections of blood vessels.
  • Lung damage – Addicts who smoke drugs can sustain severe damage to their lungs over time. With some drugs, such as crack cocaine or crystal meth, the damage occurs more quickly. Addicts who smoke crack or crystal meth can sustain the same amount of damage to their lungs in a short period of time that tobacco users sustain over decades of use. Also, although marijuana is often categorized as harmless, regular use of the drug can cause lung damage over time.

Drug and alcohol abuse can also cause significant brain damage and mental health issues over time. Chronic use of drugs and alcohol can cause structural and chemical changes in the brain, resulting in cognitive difficulties and emotional problems. Addicts often suffer from depression and other mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder and ADHD.

Because the stakes are so high, and the consequences of substance abuse are so serious, it is imperative that people with drug or alcohol problems find professional help to overcome the disease of addiction.

say no to drugs,choice life- message on green chalkboard

Seeking Help

Getting an addict to realize that he or she has a problem and convincing the addict to seek help pose tremendous obstacles to providing needed treatment. Interventions by friends and loved ones can convince people in denial about their drug or alcohol problem to seek treatment. Providing positive information about the benefits of outpatient substance abuse treatment programs can also help dispel the fear or anxiety people struggling with a substance abuse problem may have about seeking help.

RECO Intensive is an intensive outpatient treatment program that can help men and women struggling with drug or alcohol abuse begin their journey to recovery. RECO Intensive provides a highly personalized treatment program tailored to each patient’s needs. RECO’s staff is highly trained and uses the latest, most effective treatment techniques for substance addiction and related mental health issues.

Located in an upscale Florida community, RECO Intensive provides a relaxed, pleasant environment where people struggling with substance abuse can focus on their recovery.



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