Humans are naturally wired to protect their ego, which is why we’ve developed a range of different defense mechanisms that guard our psyche against potential threats. For individuals with a drug or substance abuse problem, that defense usually takes the shape of denial — a refusal to recognize that drug use has evolved into a looming danger. More often than not however, these individuals breach that barrier and slowly but surely come to accept the need for change and treatment. But because denial can be so strong, there’s often an internal tug-of-war between getting professional help and holding it off. That’s why many are left wondering — how do I know I really need help?
When Is It Time to Get Professional Help?
Interestingly enough, there are some people who successfully curb their addiction without having to see a therapist, a counselor, or even a doctor. These cases aren’t as rare as you might think they are, but that doesn’t mean that treatment isn’t necessary. The fact remains that there are a wide number of factors that influence how a person experiences addiction. And while some might have stronger willpower to resist the urges on their own, there are others that need professional help to do the same. That said, it’s important to recognize when addiction and dependence have breached the point of self-help and require the intervention of a qualified set of healthcare workers and professionals.
- Increasing Tolerance
As a person continues to use an illicit substance, their body becomes accustomed to the drug and might not be as reactive as times goes by. That means that over time, a person will have to increase their dosage to experience the heightened effects they’re looking for. And that’s when an individual establishes a tolerance. Later on, it’s possible that even the maximum dose won’t produce the feeling of a high anymore. When a person pushes these limits, they risk overdosing — taking more of the substance than their body can handle. A good sign that it’s necessary to seek professional help would be an increased tolerance. Individuals who reach this point of addiction may be too dependent on the drug that they can’t safely stop its use. Persons with a high tolerance often need medically assisted detox to ensure safe weaning since withdrawal symptoms can be severe.
- Severe Withdrawal
What does it feel like when the effects of the dose have waned? Withdrawal symptoms occur when a person’s body readjusts to their normal chemistry without the illicit substance coursing through their veins. Often, withdrawal is characterized by nausea, anxiety, headaches, body pain, depression, irritability, and vomiting. This combination of unpleasant feelings prompt the individual to seek the drug once more in order to escape withdrawal and feel functional again. The difficulty with severe withdrawal is that even when a person wants to stop their drug use, they find it impossible to overcome the withdrawal symptoms. Instead, they’re forced to keep taking doses in order to avoid the experience. But in effect, they feed the cycle all over again.
- Impaired Social Functioning
Relationships will almost always take a hit once a person chooses to explore illicit substances. With family connections and friendships under attack, a person is left without a support system that is considered of vital importance to the recovery process. Studies have found that having people around who are genuinely interested in seeing the individual recover can significantly improve the outcomes of treatment. But if a person pushes everyone away and continues to use substances at the risk of destroying relationships, then it may be necessary to seek professional assistance. Unfortunately, family and friends can only take so much before they completely give up and abandon a drug user. By seeking professional help, an individual demonstrates a desire to salvage their relationships and prevents destroying these important ties beyond repair.
- Overlooking Personal Care
An addiction can completely consume an individual’s thinking that they no longer find the time or the drive to do anything else. That includes eating, sleeping, and bathing, among many other personal care tasks. These basic everyday activities play a vital role in a person’s well-being so when they’re neglected, the individual further breaks down their already fainting health. Often, this behavior can span beyond personal care. Social and recreational activities, school, and work are typically just as affected. This means that an individual may completely surrender all of their responsibilities and obligations just to gratify their addiction and dependence.
- Financial Trouble
Drugs aren’t cheap, but because a person might soon lose their job due to poor behavior and substandard work output, it’s likely that they’ll run out of funds to support their habit. Down the line, it’s possible for an individual to sell everything they own, including investments like their car, their furniture, and even their home, just so they can buy that next dose. That’s also why homelessness is such a big issue among drug users. And because of the stigma that surrounds substance abuse, even recovered addicts find it a challenge to secure stable, well-paying work. That said, it’s always best to get help while the individual is one step ahead. Once financial trouble becomes much too pronounced, it can be difficult to bounce back — even after recovery.
- Illegal Activity
Once all financial outlets have been exhausted, then an individual might turn to illegal or dangerous activity in order to secure their next dose. At the start, simple thieving might be sufficient to pay for the drug. But with time, most addicts will turn to riskier methods of acquiring money, like breaking into private property or even prostitution. This compounds the entire recovery process because the individual would have to deal with the repercussions of the illegal activity on top of the struggle of getting clean. What’s more, it’s been found that individuals who engage in law breaking are typically more advanced in terms of addiction, which means they may struggle to wean off of the substance on their own.
- Inability to Quit on Your Own
Most often, individuals with a drug problem know that the substance isn’t any good for them. But because of the way the illicit substance might have changed their brain chemistry and function, they find it impossible to just quit. Instead, they try to abstain and then fail miserably, falling back into the habit within mere hours or days after deciding to get clean. If the drug seems to be in control of you instead of the other way around, then it’s imperative to seek help immediately. Chances are, if you can’t force yourself to stop today even if you want to, you won’t be able to do so by yourself in the future.
What Happens When You Get Help?
Some people find it hard to seek help because they feel anxious not knowing what to expect. But there is a predictable pattern that you can anticipate in case you finally decide to get help for a drug habit:
- Intake – This phase involves understanding your specific needs. Specialists ask a number of questions to learn more about your history, your financial situation, your personality, your mental health status, and the factors surrounding your drug use. The purpose of this phase is to understand precisely what you need so they can tailor a care plant that will work best for your situation.
- Detox – In more advanced cases, it can be dangerous to detox on your own. In fact, some sources assert that detoxing from certain substances can be lethal if done wrong. Medically assisted detox helps ensure that you’re safe throughout the duration of the process. It’s also specifically tailored to make sure you won’t have to suffer the maximum magnitude of withdrawal symptoms.
- Therapy and Counseling – This part of the process works to help you understand why you turn to drug use in the first place. This is also where family relationships and friendships are restored through group and family counseling. Finally, therapy and counseling also aims to provide you the necessary tools so you can overcome temptation once you return to independent living.
- Aftercare – When the individual returns home after treatment, specialists and healthcare workers maintain contact to make sure they’re on the right track. Aftercare planning occurs right before discharge, and provides the individual a run-down of all the techniques, skills, and routines they learned while they were in treatment. Aftercare also involves attending 12-step programs and other groups that might help improve sobriety outcomes.
It’s Never Too Early to Get Help
Don’t think that a drug addiction has to reach the maximum severity before it’s practical to seek help. Anyone who has used drugs and has the inclination to use them again can benefit from professional help. As with any other condition, it’s always best to get assistance before things get out of hand. And fortunately with drug abuse, the earlier you seek treatment, the better the outlook for your recovery will be.