The term “substance abuser” conjures images of an unkempt, malnourished person who sleeps on the streets. In reality, the person working alongside you or living in the house across the street from you could be a substance abuser because many substance abusers go to great lengths to hide their addiction.
However, no matter how well substance abusers try to conceal their addiction, eventually the addiction causes them to change and it is those changes that become signs of substance abuse. Here are those signs.
Many of the drugs used to alleviate pain or anxiety can lead to addiction. These drugs alter the thinking process. Consequently, individuals are unable to think clearly and logically. Simple tasks can become overwhelming and eventually an addicted individual will become scattered or disorganized. For example, taking a medication for pain creates a sense of distance from the real world. Trying to add a column of numbers or serve food to customers will become confusing and an individual may be unable to decide what to do first.
Some drugs can create periods of wakefulness that lead to a “crash.” The individual may sleep because of fatigue or to sleep off the effects of a pain- or anxiety-relieving drug that causes drowsiness. Individuals simply don’t wake up to go to work or experience periods of withdrawal from reality that result in an inability to remember to go to work or school.
INABILITY TO GET ALONG WITH COLLEAGUES
As the addiction worsens, individuals have difficulty with interpersonal relationships for several reasons. One reason is the simple fact that nothing really matters anymore except getting more of the drug. In addition, the disorganization and frequent absences make a drug abuser an unpopular colleague. Coworkers begin to suspect there is a problem and put pressure on the individual to “clean up their act.” This can deteriorate into very unpleasant episodes at work and at home.
CHANGES IN APPEARANCE AND PERSONAL HYGIENE
The altered mental state experienced by drug abusers also changes their perception of themselves. The addicted individual may be unaware of how they look or even forget to take a shower and change clothing regularly. The need to find more of the drug can also be time consuming and interfere with regular activities that include personal hygiene.
SLURRED SPEECH OFF HOURS
A side effect of the most abused drugs is slurred speech and staggering gait. Responses are slowed and the individual may appear to be intoxicated. Frequently a drug abuser will make a great effort to appear normal during working or school hours. However, after hours may become the time to take more of the drug and the side effects are more pronounced or obvious.
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