Written by Kirk Markey
Addiction loves to keep secrets. It treasures and cherishes them above all other things, to the extent that the addict begins to construct a moral foundation out of the secrets that he or she keeps to maintain their using patterns. Secrecy is the axis on which many other drug abuse symptoms revolve, because addiction cannot live long in the light. It thrives best in a murky world of secrets and misguided loyalty, where drug abuse symptoms can live a veiled and unimpeded life, a life that cannot bear the scrutiny of the honest human gaze or the clarity it brings. Stripped of its secrecy, addiction is revealed for the cowardly monster it is and authentic life can begin to reassert itself.
As the loved ones of the suffering addict, our best tools are awareness, knowledge, and the ability to penetrate the shroud of secrecy and spot drug abuse symptoms as they appear. And they will appear. They can be subtle at first, and manifest themselves as nothing but slight changes in personality and attitude, but drug abuse symptoms always appear and give themselves away. But only if we’re paying attention. Drug abuse symptoms may seem like almost microscopic changes at first, but if we’re willing to be honest with ourselves and look at our children, spouses, and parents with a clear, we’ll quickly recognize that something unnatural is happening to them.
But just like every person is different, every addict is different too, and their drug abuse symptoms will present themselves in a variety of ways, according to their constitution and personality. Fortunately for us, drug abuse symptoms usually exist within certain known latitudes or parameters, and when we know what these categories are, a fuller awareness is not far behind. And only when armed with this fuller awareness can we be truly helpful.
For some, the first drug abuse symptoms to appear are physical in nature. Depending on the drug, they can include the following: bloodshot or dilated pupils, excessive sweating, trembling, slurred speech, clumsiness, labored breathing, itchiness, marked changes in appetite or sleep patterns, runny nose etc. The list could go on and on, but this should give a general idea of what to look for if you’re concerned. Now, we don’t want to jump the gun and start making accusations at the first appearance of these possible drug abuse symptoms. What we’re looking for are consistent patterns and a worsening of these conditions. If these symptoms recur in your loved one consistently, without any other plausible explanation for their cause, they might be evidence of a problem. A healthy person only gets so many colds a year after all.
Rapid and inexplicable changes in behavior are often the most visible and distressing of the typical drug abuse symptoms. In addition to the excessive secrecy mentioned above, these can include: loss of interest in hobbies and activities, lack of energy and motivation, withdrawal from family and friends, sudden mood changes, irritability, paranoia, noticeable increase in anxiety or panic attacks, restlessness, depression etc. Again, we’re looking for patterns that have no other plausible explanation. We’re also looking for the conjunction and constant recurrence of these possible drug abuse symptoms. If these conditions appear often and along with one another, it might be wise to take a closer look or even consult with an addictions professional.
The bottom line is that we know our loved ones well. We know how they look and act when they’re doing well. We know what troubles them and what gives them pleasure in life. If there are consistent changes in any of these typical patterns, and there is no other plausible explanation for them, then it might be time to take decisive and specific action. Otherwise, we are just feeding addiction with more secrets and helping it to live well.