Category: Drug addiction

How can you tell if someone is addicted to drugs?

elderly drug use


Drug use is dangerous. You don’t even want to think that a loved one could be using drugs. But when you suspect a loved one is addicted to drugs, here are the warning signs.


Signs that a teenager is addicted to drugs:

  • Problems at School
    • Skips classes
    • Grades are dropping
    • Finds new set of friends
    • Communicates with new friends secretly
    • Hides the phone from you, refuses to answer questions about new friend


  • Problems at Home
    • Does not participate in usual family activities
    • Becomes uncommunicative
    • Holes up in personal room for prolonged periods
    • Lies about whereabouts and activities
    • Some valuable things are lost at home; you suspect them stolen by your teen
    • Breaks, destroys, or vandalizes things
    • Challenges you in a verbally abusive way
    • Hurts other members of the family
    • Becomes cruel to pets
    • Violates curfew
    • Runs away from home


  • Physical and Emotional Changes
    • Loss or increase of appetite
    • Easily irritable
    • Has slurred speech
    • Lashes out with the smallest provocation
    • Does not seem to sleep or sleeps too much
    • More often than not, in a depressed or anxious mood


Teens as young as 12-14 years old are experimenting with drugs now. A lot of teenagers start using drugs because their friends do. They believe that if they miss out they are uncool, and they don’t belong. “It is simply weird,” if they don’t try it they say.


Teenagers who think that drugs are not dangerous tend to experiment with drugs. Teenagers also use drugs to address normal needs. These normal needs are:

  • Boredom
  • Desire to rebel
  • Curiosity
  • Desire to chill out, zone out or relax


If they are not given means to address these normal needs, they may turn to drugs. It is important to remember that a lot of times, experimentation does not lead to drug abuse. But the sooner you detect your teen is using drugs, the better.


Studies show that if you intervene early, especially in the first three years of drug experimentation, drug addiction could be stopped.


Teenagers who are:

  • Are being bullied
  • Seen as “slow” academically
  • Have learning disabilities or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Have a low sense self-esteem


They may be at risk of using and later on abusing drugs.


If you are present emotionally and talk to your teens openly about drugs, you lessen their risk of drug use and abuse. Teens model what they see. If you are sober and drug free, chances are, they will be too.


For adults, here are some signs that someone is addicted to drugs:

  • Problems at Work
    • Becoming argumentative
    • Frequently absent or late
    • Cannot concentrate with job at hand
  • Inability to fulfill financial duties
  • Marital problems/ problems with partner
  • Being defensive when asked about drugs
  • Withdrawing from friends; has new set of friends
  • Poor appetite, insomnia
  • Secretive behaviour


Mostly, adults and teenagers who are addicted to drugs have similar signs. With adults, the problems manifest at work and not in school.


When you suspect that someone you care about is using drugs, it is important to have the right approach.


Most users will deny they have a problem. Some drug users will stop talking to you or lie to you.


Some will stay they have stopped using drugs, but they will do it behind your back.


Having a person you care for slide down this slippery slope is terrifying. If the drug-using behaviour is not curbed within the first year, drug addiction tends to continue long-term. In some case, an intervention is required, or even drug rehab.


For people who have been using drugs longer than a few months, here are some of the signs:

  • A persistent cough
  • Losing ability to remember things
  • Not eating enough resulting to being malnourished
  • Gets sick easily – susceptibility to diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV
  • Problems conceiving (infertility)
  • Mental health issues like depression, anxiety and panic attacks
  • Paranoia – feeling like somebody is out to get them
  • Criminal behaviour
  • Likelihood of Overdosing, which leads to death


Recently, there has been an increase of the number or elderly persons abusing drugs. There are many seniors that are becoming drug addicts.


Particularly, they abuse:

  • Benzodiazepines

Seniors have insomnia. Examples of benzodiazepine medication prescribed for insomnia  include, Ativan, Xanax, and Valium. Sometimes, because they are taking many medications, they accidentally use too much and develop a drug dependence and tolerance, leading them to become addicted to benzodiazepines.

  • Opiates (for pain relief)

These medications are prescribed to relieve chronic pain in conditions such as inflammation, cancer, or injury.

  • Skeletal muscle relaxants

For the elderly, these are often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.


Here are signs that an elderly person is abusing drugs:

  • Having mood swings
  • Speech is slurred or hard to understand
  • Forgets to eat
  • Has difficulty sleeping
  • Unable to keep self clean (bathing, or going to the toilet independently)
  • Keeps on forgetting things
  • Does not seem to remember where they are or what time it is
  • Getting the same prescription from two or more doctors
  • Becoming defensive or secretive when asked about medication


The difficulty in spotting drug addiction among seniors is the fact that when they complain about fatigue, loss of balance, inability to remember things, and the like, we may attribute it to Alzheimer’s or dementia, not drug abuse.


Trained doctors would be able to distinguish if an elderly person has a drug problem, but for most of us, the difference is hard to spot.


Elderly people take a lot of medicine. The biggest challenge in of detecting elderly drug abuse is primarily the mind-set we have about drug addicts.


When we think of the word “addict” a senior does not come to mind.


If you are concerned that a loved one is addicted to drugs, there are many places that offer help. Finding out that someone is on drugs is not the end of the world. Drug addiction is a disease that has a cure.


Like diabetes and heart disease, lifestyle choices are partly to blame, so are genetics. In no way is drug addiction a moral failing on the part of the drug addict. If changes must be made, they should be for the long-term.


Your role is to be supportive, encouraging and patient.


Even if the person you love tries to alienate you or deny there is a problem.


Long Term Heroin Effects: A Personal Account

My name is Mona.


I have been trying to quit heroin for ten years. I started doing drugs when I was 16. I went down that rabbit hole…and now I am almost 30. I will be having my birthday in rehab. It’s my first time! I guess, you’re never too late to try something new. Well, for me, it’s rehab.


And I’m not proud of it.

Honestly, I feel like a failure, but coming here means I’m safe. Here, I don’t have monsters lurking in every corner.

I don’t really know if I’m going to make it, but I really hope this works. For the sake of my mum, for the sake of my dad. And also for me. You see, I don’t have any siblings. It’s only me, my mum and my dad. So I really want to get better. If it’s not for me, then I want to get better for them. They don’t deserve a piece of ***t like me. I’m horrible.

The other day, I withdrew £500 from my mum’s bank account. I’m so ashamed of myself. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m stealing from my mum. I love her, I don’t want to hurt her.

The clock is ticking. I’m almost thirty, I should be getting them ready for retirement, earning a huge amount of money and buying them a house in Sutton or Barking.

I shouldn’t still be living with them in this crappy apartment, depending on them for food, for everything. I shouldn’t have to be their burden, that wasn’t the plan, but look at me now.

Ten years, lost. I wasted it. I got wasted, I’m such a waste.


I want it back. I want my life back.

What makes me think I can make it this time?

I started getting high by accident. I was Goal Attack for netball and I had a rotator cuff injury. I was given Oxycontin by the GP and I got hooked on the drug. When my prescription ran out, I tried to get it filled, but they wouldn’t let me. A friend of mine said I should try heroin, that it gave the same effect, and that was it. I became a heroin addict.

Looking back, I think it was near the time mum and dad almost had a divorce. I guess I wanted to blank it out. I couldn’t take the hassle. I couldn’t take the blame. Yeah, I felt like I was the one to blame for their almost-divorce. They shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place. (You shouldn’t get married just because you’re going to have a baby.)

What a stupid decision. But then again, what do I know? I made some epic stupid decisions in my life.
Getting into heroin is the worse decision I made. Look at me now. I steal from my mum, I don’t have a job, and people keep telling me I am better than this. They say I’m smart and kind, and I can be more than an addict. I hate myself. Sometimes, I wish I OD’d and just died.


But that wouldn’t be fair, wouldn’t it? I do have something to live for.

I really do love my mum and my dad. They mean the world to me. (Right now, they aren’t divorced, but that’s another story.)

My story is about how heroin destroyed me. I’m writing this so you shouldn’t even think about using heroin. Because it was the oxycodone that got me started with the drugs, I should be getting angry at the people who made them. I should be up against the doctors who prescribe them. But using heroin? It was mostly my choice. I made the jump from prescription pills to drugs. I chose heroin.

And it won’t let me go.

Please, let me go.


I tried to quit heroin by myself and I failed. I was 22, I think, when I started wanting to quit? I tried to do cold turkey. It was a mess. It was that time too, when mum figured out something seriously wrong with me. Mum thought I was just lazy. She thought I was still figuring out what to do with myself after Primary. She thought I was just taking a break, then going for BTEC. Then she found me unconscious in the loo.


I was brought to the hospital, and all my half-truths came out. My mum and dad couldn’t recover from the shock that I have been using heroin for two years, and apart from heroin, I haven’t been doing anything else with my life.

“Where did you get the money for it?” They asked. I couldn’t answer. I wouldn’t answer. But I think they knew anyway.

I paid for heroin with sex.

No, I wasn’t a whore. I didn’t hawk my wares on the streets or something like that. It worked this way: I contact someone, I have sex with him, he shoots me up with heroin. End of story.

My dad almost hit me on the head, “Have you heard of AIDS?” He yelled. “Of course I have!”


At that time, I didn’t get myself tested. I was ***t scared. I comforted myself with the fact that I try to be as responsible as I can because I only have sex with guys my friends know.

But last year, I had to go to the doctors. I got a bad cough that wouldn’t go away. I lost my voice. I really couldn’t be heard or understood by anybody. I stopped denying it when I was ordering food and I couldn’t make myself understood over the phone. I needed help. I was sick.


We found out it was tuberculosis. It ate the inside of my throat (the official diagnosis was Laryngeal Tuberculosis, ***k! We thought it was cancer.)The Infectious Diseases doctor gave me a free HIV test too, and thank God, I found out I don’t have AIDS. Yet.


My parents were crushed. I was disgusted by myself. TB? How could I get TB? But then, how can I be a heroin addict? What a barrel of laughs.
I think the first time I tried to quit, I ended up unconscious in the loo because I didn’t ask for help. Now, I want my mum with me. She has always been with me, I just shut her out. This gives me hope. That maybe if we work together, we would have a different outcome.


The hardest thing about this addiction is the withdrawal. Especially the first two days. I can’t count how many times I have tried to quit in the past, but kept on going back to my drug/sex dealer because I couldn’t functional without it.


Today is my first day in rehab, and they started me out with detox. The nurse told me to put Bupe (Buprenorphine) under my tongue. Before that, she asked me ton of questions about my drug use, etcetera. I told her everything. At first, I wanted to deny it, but I’m done denying.

I’m done denying.

I have laryngeal tuberculosis. I don’t have a voice. I almost got AIDS. I am an embarrassment to my family. Can I start living again?

I want this to work, and I’m so scared, and I am not sure of myself, but I want this to work. I guess I just have to trust the process.
So in addition to my tail of TB meds, I get to have this Bupe for a while. The doctors say I will have to take them for six months.

There’s an app in my phone that I use to help me with that. When I take my TB meds, I video it, then send it to the drug addiction recovery UK clinic. (It’s called Video Observed Therapy). Come to think of it, I should video myself taking the Bupe and make myself proud of it.


Who knows? This time, I may have a better shot at sobriety.

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