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Published on January 16, 2019

addiction definition

The Warning Signs of Addiction and How To Help

This is the second part of two stories on the warning signs, as well as coping strategies, that often accompany addiction.

Addiction is among the most difficult diseases to treat. Part of the reason for this is because in 60 to 80 percent of cases, mental health and the abuse of alcohol or drugs are intertwined.

“When families face a loved one who is struggling with addiction, they may also have someone who is facing depression, anxiety or other behavioral health conditions, and that’s among the top reasons we recommend professional support in treating the illness,” said Malia Holbeck, LCSW, LAC, outpatient manager with Avera’s Addiction Recovery Program. “People can overcome addictions – and families can help support them. One way to do so is to know the warning signs that may indicate that a person has gone from safe, social drinking to something more serious, or that they are facing a substance abuse crisis.”

Look for these following signs that may indicate a problem:

  • Efforts to hide use of alcohol or drugs
  • Inability to limit the amount of use
  • Grows angry or disagreeable when not using
  • Personality changes or behavior modifications, like working less, sleeping more
  • Withdraws to be alone and denies there’s any problem

“Much like any other illness, no two patients are the same,” Holbeck said. “One person who is facing addiction may have trouble remembering things or have new physical or psychological problems, but not the other warning signs mentioned.”

Remaining Detached Without Giving Up

Addicts who stop drinking or using drugs may exhibit traits such as anxiety and depression, or show signs like fever, confusion or sweating as they stop using. In these cases, it can be hard for loved ones to hold back in their efforts to help.

“We teach people every day: you didn’t cause this, you cannot control this and you cannot cure the problem,” she said. “You can help by talking to them when they are sober and expressing your worries, especially if they are impacting kids, careers and health.”

But for any addiction to end, it requires the concentrated effort of the addict, who may need professional intervention and who may face a mental health condition, along with the use of drugs or alcohol.

“Our recovery professionals are dual-licensed to not only treat the use of addictive substance, but to address underlying behavioral health concerns that may be aspects of the addiction,” Holbeck said. “Addiction is as serious as cancer, heart disease or diabetes, but social stigma and shame can prevent us – both patients and families – from getting that professional assessment started and beginning the process.”

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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