Overcoming drug addiction: The role of friends and family

Substance use makes one feel powerful and confident, but it also has a number of adverse effects on health.

Substance use makes one feel powerful and confident, but it also has a number of adverse effects on health.

What you need to know:

  • Drug abuse is a complex problem for families, but the approach should always be supportive and non-judgmental.
  • By learning more about drug use and treatment options, family members can help their loved ones overcome their illness and lead healthier lives

The effects of drug addiction include addiction, damage to vital organs, the risk of overdose, and more. Addiction can be triggered by peer pressure, childhood trauma, curiosity, among other things.

Addiction is difficult to overcome because the addict may feel trapped. In addition, some may choose to hide their addiction problem because of the fear of judgment.

What is a drug abuse addiction?

Drug abuse is the problematic use of drugs that negatively impacts your everyday life. The user becomes dependent on the drugs and is unable to stop using them, without help.

The most common drugs among teens and young adults are weed, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine (crystal meth), the nicotine from smoking tobacco products or cigars. However, many other less-commonly abused street drugs can be addictive as well.

Cocaine (also called "coke") is a powerful stimulant that can be injected, snorted, or smoked. It has effects on dopamine levels and can create feelings of euphoria.

The euphoric effects of cocaine wear off gradually, users report feelings of dread and paranoia as the drug begins to leave their system. They may also experience anxiety, confusion, and agitation after the high wears off.

Methamphetamine (popular street names are crystal, meth, blue, or ice) is a stimulant that speeds up your body's functions, decreases appetite, and causes hyperactivity. It also makes you feel energetic as well as awake.

The side effects of this drug include tooth decay, weight loss, and confusion. It is also associated with adverse effects like liver damage, low libido, weak immunity, seizures, or death.                                       

Other common drugs include heroin and marijuana.

Signs of addiction

Illicit drug users are secretive. A family member who suddenly changes their behaviour might be abusing drugs and alcohol, but there are other signs to look for as well.

  • They may start doing poorly in school or at work and cannot keep up with responsibilities.
  • They lose interest in hobbies and activities that they once enjoyed.
  • They may start to break rules, such as staying out past curfew or ignoring curfews.
  • They frequently get into trouble and fights.
  • They may start stealing money or valuables from family members to buy drugs.
  • Lying about their activities, associations, and whereabouts.
  • Abnormalities in the eyes, such as bloodshot eyes.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Any physical changes that are not directly caused by disease or injury, such as shaggy hair and weight loss.
  • Participating in hazardous activities
  • Straining to do easy work.

How can you help someone who is addicted to illegal drugs?

The first step that family members should take to assist their loved ones is to initiate dialogue about the drug problem. If they are afraid of judgment or rejection by their loved ones, reassure them of their support.

Encourage the addict to seek professional help. Addiction is a disease, and the addict needs help to recover from it.

Family members need to learn more about substance abuse, available support groups, and how they can be of help. They also need to learn the signs of drug abuse and how to ensure their safety.

If you are an addict, seek professional help because illegal drugs can harm you.