How to detect addiction in yourself or anyone else

Denial is an integral part of addiction and affects both those who are suffering and those around them.

The person who has become addicted or has fallen into misusing alcohol, drugs or substances may not be ready, prepared or able to face their problem. Similarly, people who care about them may not want to accept how serious their addiction or may be unwittingly convincing themselves everything is under control.

addictionWhether it is you, a loved one, family member or colleague you are worried about, there are a number of ways to detect addiction.

Spotting addiction in yourself

If you’re beginning to be concerned by your own drinking or drug use or other people have expressed concern about it, this in itself could be the first sign of addiction.

In a test used to help identify dependent and harmful drinking across the world – the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) – one of the questions relates to whether someone has raised a concern about your drinking. If they have it’s one positive sign of a potential issue.

The regularity of drinking or using alcohol or drugs is another sign. Frequent use may indicate a problem.

Quantity of use is another issue. Even if you are not drinking or using every day, if you drink or use to excess, it can be an indicator of an issue.

A failure to be able to stop drinking or using or drinking or using more than intended are other potential signs of addiction.

Feeling guilt or remorse in relation to drinking or taking drugs, especially frequently, can indicate addiction.

Being injured or harmed due to drinking or taking drugs is another potential sign.

No one of these factors automatically indicates addiction and similarly, a positive response is not required to every statement to confirm addiction. However, if a number of these things apply to you, your initial concerns may be founded. You could well have a misuse issue.

Spotting addiction in a work colleague or staff member

We have all experienced colleagues who like to party and may take drinking or drug use to excess and that doesn’t necessarily indicate addiction, but it may be a sign.

Anyone who begins to fail to meet commitments or their responsibilities due to their drinking or drug use may be displaying signs of addiction.

Responsible employers should be alert to signs of addiction not just because of the potential harm and danger they can pose in the workplace and general duty of care to team members, but also because early intervention may allow them to support and retain an important person.

Wellness expert Professor Sir Cary Cooper has recently joined the advisory board of a new UK residential rehab centre, Delamere, citing how the rise of stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace, can manifest in addiction and urging employers to be aware.

Lateness, absence, failing to meet deadlines or forgetting about things can be signs of many issues and addiction, drug or alcohol abuse is one. Creating opportunities for open and honest dialogue with colleagues and staff means intercepting issues as early as possible and preventing escalation.

Spotting addiction in a family member

Not everyone who uses drugs or alcohol is addicted. Knowing someone is using illegal or illicit substances can be especially worrying if it is not something you have ever done or are comfortable with. Whilst there are dangers involved in all drug use, some of them severe, dependency is not an automatic outcome.

Someone who is addicted does not stop using even when there are painful, dangerous and unhelpful consequences. They may want to stop or may imply they are in control, but their use has become something they have lost or are losing power over.

Signs that someone in your family may be suffering addiction may include:

  • Failing to meet responsibilities.
  • Being moody.
  • A preoccupation with drinking, taking drugs or gambling or the behaviour that is of concern.
  • Having financial troubles.
  • Displaying withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, getting the shakes or vomiting.
  • Frequent or excessive use of the drug, alcohol or substance or engagement in the behaviour.

Whilst some or all of these signs may point toward addiction, these signs may not be there when addiction is present. Addiction can be very well hidden. These signs may also indicate another problem.

What is vital is that if you fear someone you care about is struggling in any way – talk to them. Put aside judgement and blame and just let them know you care, you’re worried for them and you want to help, whatever they are facing. The Time to Change Ask Twice campaign urges us all to do just that – sometimes where we say we’re fine we’re not.