Recognising addiction - Part 1

October 06, 2012

In this day and age, one of the biggest concerns for modern parents is how to prevent children from becoming addicted to drugs. 

Parents need to be aware that addiction is not only physical but also psychological in a sense that it affects not only the body, but also the mind. If parents are aware of what addiction actually is and the signs, maybe they can be instrumental in protecting their children from this very real danger in today’s society.

What is addiction?

Addiction is the continued use of a mind-altering substance or behaviour despite the fact that the use of this substance or behaviour has negative effects and can even result in a neurological impairment (a broad group of disorders in which the central nervous system does not function properly and which leads to some form of physical or mental problem).

Addictions can include alcohol abuse, drug abuse, exercise abuse, gambling, sex addiction and others. Classic signs of addiction include: Impaired control over substance use/one’s own behaviour, preoccupation with a substance, continued use despite negative consequences and denial (not accepting or even realising that there is a problem).

Patterns and habits associated with addiction can be characterised by immediate gratification (short-term reward) together with delayed deleterious effects (long-term costs). Physical dependence occurs when the body has to adjust to the substance by incorporating the substance into its normal functioning. This will then create conditions of tolerance and withdrawal.

Tolerance means that the user’s body continuously adapts to the substance and larger amounts are required to achieve the original effects. Withdrawal is when physical and psychological symptoms are experienced when reducing or discontinuing a substance the user had become dependent on. When withdrawing from a substance, a user may feel anxiety, irritability, intense cravings for the substance, nausea, hallucinations, headaches, cold sweats and tremors.

Signs of addiction

While symptoms are experienced by a person with addiction, the signs can be observed by other people. You can never know just what someone else is experiencing unless they tell you, so if you are concerned that one of your family members may have an addiction, say, to drugs, look for the signs, as well as for symptoms.


Here are some signs to look for that are common in an addict. These may occur in case of many addictions, however, not in all of them.

Extreme mood changes - happiness, sadness, anxiety etc

Sleeping a lot more than usual, sometimes at different times of day or night

Changes in energy - extremely or unexpectedly tired or energetic

Weight loss or weight gain

Seeming unwell at certain times, and better at other times

Pupils of the eyes seem smaller or larger




Financially unpredictable - having large amounts of money at times, but none at other times

Changes in social groups, new and unusual friends, odd cellphone conversations

Repeated and unexplained outings, often with a sense of urgency

Presence of drug paraphernalia such as unusual pipes, cigarette papers, small weighing scales, etc

Stashes of drugs, often in a small plastic, paper or foil packages

A note of caution

Many of the signs mentioned may have other explanations, for example, someone can be secretive because they are planning a surprise party. Unfortunately, teenagers often display many of these behaviours, but are one of the most vulnerable groups where drugs are concerned.

So when a parent speaks to a teenager regarding addiction, the matter should be handled very carefully.

Hanan obtained her Higher National Diploma in counselling from The Natural Healing Institute in United Kingdom. Her career started out in education where she has been teaching mostly college-level students in various fields and specialisations for over 20 years. Hanan realised that there was a need for counselling in schools and colleges and decided that this would be ideal for her, especially as she had the inside knowledge of students’ academic and social problems. She is a consultant at Al Harub Medical Centre.