Niagara Gazette — For the past 24 years the month of September has been nationally recognized as Recovery Month to acknowledge those impacted by mental and/or substance abuse disorders. The observance of Recovery Month is to highlight that substance abuse and mental health services can positively impact those dealing with these disorders in order to enable them to live a healthier life. As part of the initiative to support those in recovery and to assist those seeking treatment it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and what constitutes drug dependency.
The more common and noticeable warning signs for drug abuse include physical, behavioral and psychological changes in an individual. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., physical changes a person may begin to show include changes in appetite and sleep patterns, sudden weight loss or gain, seizures without a history of epilepsy, deterioration of personal hygiene and grooming, shakes, tremors, slurred speech, and impaired or unstable coordination.
Behavioral changes will be noticed by those who interact with the individual on a daily basis. Behavioral warning signs include sudden changes in relationships, friends, favorite hangouts and interests. Individuals may also be withdrawn, silent, and engaging in secretive behaviors. They may also have an unusual or unexplained need for money and begin to have financial problems leading them to borrow and steal from those around them who may find money and valuables missing more frequently. In addition, another sign of drug abuse/dependency include a drop in attendance from school and work, and complaints about the person from co-workers, supervisors, teachers, and classmates.
The final category of signs and symptoms of drug abuse deals with psychological symptoms. These relate closely to behavioral warning signs, including sudden changes in mood, irritability, angry outbursts, or inappropriate laughter. Individuals may also be hyperactive or agitated at certain times and lacking motivation or becoming lethargic at other times. Other psychological warning signs are an unexplained change in personality or attitude leading an individual to appear fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid for no apparent reason.