Let’s be clear about how drug use almost always starts: teenagers or young adults decide that it’d be fun to experiment a little bit together in a social setting.
No harm, no foul – right?
If only it always worked out that way.
The problem is that too often, what starts out as a “fun” night out or trying something new with a group of friends ends up being a situation where an unsustainable amount of money and too much time get committed to something that literally ruins your life.
You think that addiction is a joke? It isn’t.
Once a person switches from recreational to habitual usage, the consequences begin to appear in a hurry. Sure, some people are pretty adept at hiding things, but it always comes to an end one way or another.
If someone starts having difficulty in school all of a sudden, it might be addiction.
If your loved one is lethargic all the time and for some reason no longer has energy, ask yourself what happened.
If a colleague all of a sudden starts missing work or showing up late without explanation, something might be up.
If money is all of a sudden an issue and they haven’t lost their job or bought a new car of house, something is up.
If they seem like they don’t eat or pay their bills anymore, alarm bells should go off.
If performance changes, ask yourself why.
If physical appearance is altered, what is behind it? Do they no longer care about grooming? Are they not washing themselves or their clothes? Why?
If someone becomes erratic all of a sudden, you should probably question why.
The Outlier: Alcohol
Perhaps no substance is more difficult to deal with than alcohol, and it’s not because it’s “not as bad”. It is as bad.
The issue with alcohol is that it’s legal.
Now, this is neither a commentary about whether alcohol should be illegal or other drugs should be legal, we’re just pointing out the fact that you can buy liquor at the store.
Don’t trick yourself into thinking that alcohol isn’t dangerous because it’s legal though; both drinking too much, and being a drinker who drinks too much and detoxing off of alcohol, can be fatal.
Withdrawal from alcohol can result in “Delirium Tremens” (DTs), a condition that can result in hallucinations, life-threatening seizures, and even death in extreme cases.
If you know someone who drinks every day, or seems to get “blacked out” every time they drink, they might have a problem.
Have you noticed that someone seems to ramble on endlessly, rapidly puts words together, perhaps gets aggressive, or seems to swing moods as if they’re swinging a golf club?
You might notice dilated pupils. Pupils so big that you can barely see their iris, or the coloured part.
Ever noticed someone breathing really fast?
How about a burst of energy that you can’t otherwise explain?
Depending on what they’re using, and how long into the binge they are, they might get extremely paranoid and suspicious of everything anyone else does.
Drugs like Methamphetamine and Cocaine are ingested in many ways, including snorting, injecting and smoking.
Whether it’s prescription painkillers, heroin, fentanyl or any other opioid, the risks of physical dependence are present from the moment this class of drug is taken.
You might notice things like an inability to concentrate, slower reaction times, memory loss or issues, appearing sleepy or tired, and overall laziness.
Withdrawal symptoms can include profuse sweating, diarrhoea, and massive mood swings.
At the start of the century, opioid medications were prescribed on a wide scale by physicians who were under the impression that new formulas were less addictive. By 2010, almost no one was prescribing them anymore because of the unintended consequences that had occurred (addiction).
Many previous users switched to powerful street versions.
British Columbia has led Canada in overdoses every year since at least 2016, and over the last 4 years, we’ve experienced an average of 4 overdose fatalities per day.
Talk about “grey zone”.
First, we started off with medical marijuana, and now we’ve gone to widespread dispensaries.
Anyone over 50, largely accepted that the risks of marijuana were minor because, during their childhood, the substance wasn’t particularly potent.
Times have changed. Marijuana has 10x, 20x and sometimes 30x the THC content today than it had 25-30 years ago.
Marijuana use causes the eyes to get red, perceptions to be thrown off, uncontrollable laughter, individuals to be uncoordinated and increased appetite.
Individuals who are under the influence of marijuana are less cognizant of their surroundings and slower to react than they otherwise would be.
What To Do
If you suspect that someone you know or love is suffering the adverse effects of prolonged drug use or addiction, early intervention is the best thing to do.
You need to extend a hand and let them know that they’re not alone.
Friends and family providing support will show the impacted individual that there is a path forward.
No one wants to go to treatment, but sometimes that’s what we need to do.