It is a maladaptive pattern of use of mood-altering substances (drugs / alcohol) leading to clinically significant impairment or distress as manifested by Tolerance i.e – Need for increased amount of the substance to achieve the in-toxification

Reduced effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance. Withdrawal symptoms when the substance of use is withdrawn.

Common signs include:

  • Craving and strong urge to use the substance.
  • Loss of control over the amount and frequency of use.
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  • Continuing to use despite negative consequences.
  • Developing tolerance and needing more of the substance to achieve the same effect.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using.

Some of the early warning signs of drug addiction are:

  • Loss of appetite / loss of weight
  • Personal neglect in the form of unkempt hair, uncut nails, dirty clothes, decreased frequency of bathing, poor dental hygiene.
  • Frequent mood fluctuations ranging from grandiosity to depression.
  • Monetary and emotional demands increase
  • Drooping eyelids or mouth partially open
  • Hollowed eyes and dark circles under eyes.
  • Comes home late and at odd hours
  • A new set of friends may call or frequent the residence of the person
  • Compulsive lying
  • Disappearance of articles and personal belongings
  • Loose tobacco – unburnt – in ashtray
  • Needle marks or abscesses on forearms, burnt tips of thumb, forefinger and middle finger (commonly seen in chasers).
  • Direct evidence in the form of a pudi, a vial, stained coin, candle, foil may also be found.

Health risks include:

  • Liver disease, heart disease, and various cancers.
  • Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Increased risk of accidents and injuries.
  • Infectious diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS, hepatitis) from needle sharing.
  • Neurological damage and cognitive impairments.
  • Overdose and death.

When an alcoholic or an addict begins to use, the symptom of craving kicks in, and the brain demands more alcohol or drugs. Even when they stop using, alcoholics and addicts have the symptom of poor insight/denial which tells them that they can successfully use again, even though their history demonstrates that they clearly cannot. Euphoric recall is one way the brains of alcoholics and addicts trick them into remembering the good times and not the bad.

The symptom of craving, the symptom of poor insight / denial, and the symptom of euphoric recall are basic elements of the disease of addiction, which is a treatable disease.

Studies on relapse have consistently shown that relapse is a process, whose final step is drinking or drug use. Many things happen before a person picks up the drink or drug. The relapse process is inevitable; it is a basic symptom of the disease of addiction. However, the process can be arrested before patients get to that first drink or drug, and reversed. Arresting and reversing the relapse process is a lifelong aspect of recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction.

Remember that not wanting treatment is a typical symptom of the disease of addiction.  It is a treatable symptom.  All patients with the disease of addiction go through periods where they don’t want help.  Some people stay there and never want help; some people do have moments of great pain where they are ready to accept help on their own.   Often, an intervention can be instrumental in motivating the individual to seek help.

Drug addiction is a chronic, progressive, and ultimately fatal (if not treated) disease.  An intervention can help the person get treatment even when he / she is suffering from the core symptom of denial. Meanwhile you can start your healing process by joining by Al-Anon or connecting with people affected by the disease of addiction.

Steps to take include:

  • Approach them with empathy and concern.
  • Avoid judgmental language and accusations.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help.
  • Offer support in finding and accessing treatment options.
  • Educate yourself about addiction and available resources.

This is a common fear, and it is based on some truth. The fact is, that during active alcoholism and drug addiction, staying “dry” (abstinent from alcohol and drugs but without a program to manage the rest of the illness) can be quite miserable. Without an active recovery program, the person will simply be an alcoholic with sick behaviors, painful problems and no way to manage the feelings. This will clearly not be enjoyable.

However, the practical experience of recovering alcoholics and addicts is that their lives have become more enjoyable, not less. The feeling that the alcoholic needs alcohol to be happy is a symptom of the disease of alcoholism and it will respond to treatment/recovery.

Treatment options include:

  • Detoxification: Medically supervised withdrawal management.
  • Residential Rehabilitation: Inpatient programs offering comprehensive care.
  • Outpatient Programs: Treatment sessions that do not require staying overnight.
  • Counseling and Therapy: Individual, group, and family therapy.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Using medications to manage withdrawal and cravings.
  • Support Groups: Peer support through groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

Yes, addiction can be treated successfully. While it is a chronic disease and recovery can be a long-term process, many people do recover and lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Treatment is most effective when tailored to the individual’s needs and often includes a combination of therapy, medication, and support.

Family plays a crucial role by:

  • Providing emotional support and encouragement.
  • Participating in family therapy to address dynamics that may contribute to addiction.
  • Helping to maintain a stable and supportive environment.
  • Encouraging adherence to treatment and attending support group meetings.

Although you did not cause your spouse’s addiction but alcoholism is a family disease–you have certainly suffered as a result of your spouse’s drug use and Al-Anon can guide you along the healing process, which is essential for you to recover.  Through this fellowship you can learn to avoid repeating unhealthy behaviors which worsens your own suffering. Remember, whether or not your spouse gets well, you must begin to recover from the damage in your life caused by the family disease of alcoholism / drug addiction.  Also in these meetings you will get to know the disease of addiction better and will be able to support your spouse in the attempt to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Strategies to prevent relapse include:

  • Continuing with aftercare programs and support groups.
  • Identifying and avoiding triggers that lead to substance use.
  • Developing healthy coping mechanisms and stress management techniques.
  • Staying connected with a support network of family and friends.
  • Seeking ongoing therapy or counseling as needed.

Holistic treatment approaches offer benefits such as:

  • Addressing the whole person, including physical, mental, and spiritual health.
  • Incorporating practices like yoga, meditation, and art therapy.
  • Reducing stress and promoting overall well-being.
  • Enhancing traditional treatment methods and improving recovery outcomes.

Support can be provided by:

  • Offering understanding and patience during their recovery journey.
  • Encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and activities.
  • Being a reliable source of encouragement and positivity.
  • Staying informed about addiction and recovery processes.
  • Respecting their boundaries and recovery plan.