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5 Ways to Detect Emotional Symptoms of Possible Drug Abuse

5 Ways to Detect Emotional Symptoms of Possible Drug Abuse

Changes in concentration can be a symptom of drug abuse

Drugs directly and indirectly affect emotions, and friends and family members may look for emotional changes in loved ones if they suspect drug abuse, or they may suspect drug abuse after observing changes in emotions and behavior. While lists of physical and psychological symptoms of drug abuse can be found across the Internet, knowing emotional risk factors for drug abuse is a different way to detect addiction and help a loved one. Possible emotional and mental signs of drug abuse include the following:

  • Changes in concentration
  • Changes in emotional attention
  • Mood swings
  • Negative feelings
  • Emotional stress

Concentration and attention are two characteristics commonly affected by drug abuse. Individuals high on a substance may have trouble focusing and may not be able to concentrate on their or others’ emotions even when sober. Individuals abusing drugs will have overall different focuses and will pay more attention and give more emotion to drug-related cues than to once-valued relationships, hobbies and passions. The Handbook of Implicit Cognition and Addiction explains, “Drug-related stimuli should capture and hold attention, and elicit approach behaviors, in drug users…Exposure to drug-related cues causes physiological, subjective, and behavioral reactivity” (2006). Individuals abusing drugs will spend their emotions and attention on things related to drug use, and family and friends may find that they are no longer a priority.

A loved one abusing drugs may be happy, giddy or over-excited. While abrupt changes in emotions indicate possible drug abuse, consistent low moods may also contribute to or be symptoms of addiction. A recent study shared in Rutgers Today found, “cocaine addicts may become trapped in drug binges – not because of the euphoric highs they are chasing but rather the unbearable emotional lows they desperately want to avoid” (“Addicts May Be Seeking Relief from Emotional Lows More than Euphoric Highs,” November 6, 2013). Drug use can be as much, or more, about avoiding bad feelings as it is about creating positive ones. A loved one who struggles with depression, anxiety or other powerful negative emotions may be abusing drugs, even if he or she is not expressing other changes in emotion or behavior that may indicate addiction.

When faced with stress, some individuals employ healthy coping mechanisms such as talking with friends or professionals. Others turn to potentially harmful coping mechanisms such as avoidance or, “’emotion-focused’ coping [which is] the management of one’s emotional distress associated with the stressful event rather than the cause of the stress” (“How Does Stress Increase Risk of Drug Abuse and Relapse?” Psychopharmacology, 2001). Many individuals turn to drug abuse in an effort to mask emotions and distress rather than address their cause and come up with an effective solution. A loved one experiencing stress or dealing with past emotional stress is at risk for drug abuse for just this reason.

If your loved one’s emotions indicate drug abuse or cause you to suspect addiction, take action today. Talk with one of our admissions coordinators about your concerns and options for family mediation or caring intervention. We are here 24 hours a day, and all calls and phone services are free and confidential. Please don’t hesitate to voice your concerns and gain objective information and advice. Call now.