Drug addiction is a primary, chronic and progressive brain disease that affects an individual’s chemical brain response and reward system and leads to behavioural changes and losing the ability to control the use of legal or illegal drugs. It can often start with experimental substance use in various social settings or as a result of peer pressure. 

When discussing drug abuse, it is often useful to differentiate between illegal drugs, such as cocaine or heroin or legal drugs – such as prescription medications (e.g: painkillers and antidepressants).

When a substance abuse disorder is in place, it is often difficult to treat it without a professional treatment programme.

Castle Health offers a comprehensive long-term treatment programme for drug addiction  that includes both medical detox and specialised addiction psychotherapies. We invite you to reach out to us if you believe that you or someone you love may be developing a serious drug abuse problem.

When dealing with drug addiction, it is important to identify the early warning signs. Addiction to chemical substances can occur very fast, that is why it is advisable to seek professional help before this happens. 

The most common signs of drug addiction include:

  • Behavioural changes: drugs tend to alter one’s behaviour significantly; some of the warning signs can include personality changes or increased irritability and/or aggression.
  • Keeping secrets: drug abuse is a socially condemned activity, thus the addict may be reluctant to talk or tends to spend a lot of time alone.
  • Mental health issues: depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder may all be associated with drug abuse.
  • Failing at school or work: sudden drops in school attendance or failing classes, as well as a decrease in work productivity.
  • Asking for money: frequently asking for money may be common as sustaining this addiction is more costly compared to alcoholism, for example.
  • Criminal activity: an escalation of the previous point, stealing money or other goods to sustain an addiction.

While these are general behavioural and social changes that can be associated with drug abuse, it is also important to look for physical changes in the individual. These can include:

  • Bloodshot eyes;
  • Constricted or dilated pupils;
  • Sudden, significant weight changes;
  • Sleep problems;
  • Changes in physical appearance (including personal hygiene issues);
  • Impaired physical coordination; 
  • Dental and skin issues.

Individuals who abuse prescription drugs may experience the following:

  • Continue to take the drug even if it is no longer necessary;
  • Develop tolerance to the drug (the need to take more than the initially prescribed dose to experience the desired relief);
  • Show drug withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea, seizures, fever (varying according to the severity of the case);
  • Inability to stop thinking about the drug or to refrain oneself from taking the drug.

The signs of drug addiction vary according to the type of drug abused. Some common warning signs are:

  • Marijuana: euphoria, increased visual perceptions, increased appetite, lack of physical coordination, suspiciousness, paranoia, red eyes, uncontrollable laughter.
  • Barbiturates/benzodiazepines: dizziness, blurred vision, confusion, involuntary eye movements.
  • Stimulants (including cocaine): dilated pupils, hyperactivity, irritability, euphoria (can be followed by contrasting symptoms such as depression or excessive sleeping).
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, psilocybin): hallucinations, muscle spasms, nausea, general difficulty to distinguish between hallucinations and the real world; the user may be drowsy or panicked.
  • Heroin: contracted pupils, sweating, vomiting, twitching, loss of appetite, needle marks.
  • Opioids: sedation, slowed reaction times, lethargy, concentration problems, memory issues, mood swings, digestive issues (in case of opioids that have an influence on the digestive system; not applicable in all cases).

The early warning signs of drug addiction can sometimes be difficult to perceive due to the individual’s tendency to hide his consumption or disguise it as a mandatory or beneficial activity (for prescription drug users). In the case of opioid medication or other prescription-based chemicals, the safest approach to avoid developing an addiction is to take the medication only as directed by the treating physician. Being mindful of the early signs of addiction is important, both at an individual level and when a family member or friend might be put at risk. Early intervention is essential to allowing the patient to have a successful recovery. 

At Castle Health we provide a complex residential rehab programme aimed at treating both addiction and other related mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, commonly associated with drug misuse. Each patient is individually assessed and receives their own personalised treatment programme to suit their needs for drug detox and psychological therapies. Our medical and therapeutic team will support the patient throughout their entire recovery process.

Contact our admission specialists for more information about our dedicated plans for treating drug abuse at Castle Health.