How To Spot The Early Signs Of Addiction


While mental health practitioners are normally expected to assist those with conditions ranging from depression to schizophrenia, it is often forgotten that the most widespread mental health issue we see is addiction.

Dr. Douglas Ziedonis

Dr. Douglas Ziedonis

Whether it is an addiction to drugs and alcohol or gambling, or any other activity that fuels a damaging compulsion, addiction plagues countless people across the country, and many need the help of professionals to fully escape their vice.

The most dangerous aspect of addiction is how it slowly builds, until the addicts feel out of control. But, this also means early detection of the signs and symptoms of addiction are absolutely essential to preventing the addiction to grow to even more damaging levels.

Dr. Douglas Ziedonis, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center and the chairman of the Psychiatry Department at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, recently spoke to Megan Bard, a reporter from Mass Live, about the importance of spotting the signs early.

Many of the earliest signs of substance abuse and addiction are behavioral. They include:

  • Diminished performance at work or school
  • Lying or deceptive behavior
  • Paying less attention to hygiene
  • Reduced motivation for common activities
  • Apathy towards future goals
  • Hostile attitudes or mood fluctuations

As Ziedonis told Bard, “an addict will start losing interest in normal things and then, as it progresses, things start to go missing because they are being stolen.” But, a lot of the damage can be prevented if you catch the signs early. “[It is] important to talk to your child or adolescent and see how they respond to you, see if they’re hiding something.” Ziedonis emphasized.

More long term symptoms of addiction become more physical. They include:

  • Depression
  • Slowed Breathing
  • Confusion
  • Weight loss
  • Track marks in an arm from a needle
  • Development of infectious disease

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