Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.
It’s common for a person to relapse, but relapse doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.
Possible indications that your family member is using drugs include:
Problems at school or work — frequently missing school or work, a sudden disinterest in school activities or work, or a drop in grades or work performance
Physical health issues — lack of energy and motivation, weight loss or gain, or red eyes
Neglected appearance — lack of interest in clothing, grooming or looks
Changes in behavior — exaggerated efforts to bar family members from entering his or her room or being secretive about where he or she goes with friends, or drastic changes in behavior and in relationships with family and friends
Money issues — sudden requests for money without a reasonable explanation; or your discovery that money is missing or has been stolen or that items have disappeared from your home, indicating maybe they’re being sold to support drug use