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Skip Navigation Linksunderstanding-drug-use-and-addiction Understanding Drug Use and Addiction

An addicted loved one is the nightmare of many. We all want to believe that our children, friends and family members are safe from all the bad influences in life and that they will never become part of such a tragic habit.

Unfortunately, many people do not grasp why or how anybody can become a drug addict and mistakenly believe that drug users do not have any willpower or principles. The fact is, even though the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most, repeated drug use leads to changes in the brain that challenge self-control and the ability to resist.

Some become addicted while others don’t. There is no single factor that can predict if a person will become addicted or not, but a combination and the factors leading to this can include:

  • The environment, for example, which includes different influences from family and friends, economic status and quality of life. Peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse and a lack of proper parental guidance are great factors that can affect a person’s probability of drug use and addiction.
  • As absurd as it may sound, the genes that people are born with account for about half a person’s risk for addiction. The presence of mental disorders may influence the risk of drug use and addiction.
  • Age plays another big role. Taking drugs can happen at any age, but the younger the person is, the more likely it will progress to full addiction. The part of a teenager’s brain that controls decision making and self-control is still in the development phase and the human brain is not fully developed until their early 20’s. Teenagers may therefore be more prone to trying drugs and ending up addicted.

How to Spot Drug Use

Your loved one may be using alcohol or drugs if you notice a dramatic change in his/her appearance, friends or physical health. Below are other possible signs of drug use:

  • The obvious evidence of drugs and/or drug paraphernalia in his/her possession
  • Behavioural problems or changes in mood, emotional distancing, isolation, depression, or fatigue. Hostility, irritability, or change in level of cooperation in family activities
  • Lying or increased evasiveness
  • Decrease in interest in personal appearance and physical changes, such as bloodshot eyes, runny nose, frequent sore throats, and rapid weight loss or change in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Dizziness and memory problems
  • Unusual odour on breath (alcohol, inhalants, marijuana)
  • Widely dilated pupils even in bright light
  • Pinpoint pupils even in dim light

Despite being aware of the harmful outcomes, many people who use drugs continue to take them, which is the nature of addiction and they need all the support and help they can get to survive this nightmare.

Recovery Direct is an executive rehab centre in South Africa that provides comprehensive therapeutic rehabilitation for individuals suffering from a wide range of substance use disorders and other mental health conditions, and can be reached via their website.

Drug Facts

Although this document has been prepared with due care and in good faith, the interpretations and opinions are those of the authors and are subject to change without notice. As such, the contents do not constitute definitive advice and should not be accepted as such. Neither Simeka Heatlh (Pty) Ltd nor the authors accept liability for any damage whatsoever or however it may arise, including but not limited to, direct, indirect or consequential loss that may arise as a result of sole reliance on the information herein. Competent professional advice should be sought when dealing with any contentious issue. Simeka Health (Pty) Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sanlam.



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