Young adults are the most likely age group to become addicted to substances. This may not come as a major surprise, seeing as this classification spans the years from 18 to 25. It is a time of life when a person is just starting to find their independence. They have a whole new range of responsibilities, but retain some of the recklessness and impulsivity of youth.
It is also a time when people are figuring out who they are. Having spent most of their lives conforming to the expectations of parents and authority figures, it is understandable that young adults are likely to experiment. Experimentation is healthy, but it comes with a fair amount of risk as well.
If you have a young adult in your life who might be addicted to substances, you may have noticed certain signs. Here are some of the most common red flags that a young adult may be struggling with addiction.
The very first item on this list makes it clear just how difficult this task can be. Changes in behavior are one of the most obvious signs of addiction. The problem is that when it comes to young adults, changes in behavior are expected.
Even some of the problematic behaviors that addiction often leads to are fairly common in young adults. An older person who shows up to work clearly nursing a hangover will draw attention, but a young adult stumbling into a lecture hall after a long night out is unlikely to be out of place.
Nonetheless, if the changes in behavior of the young adult begin to add up, becoming something of a pattern, they may be struggling with addiction.
These are the common changes in behavior to look out for:
- Neglect of responsibilities
- Lying and deceit
- Avoiding eye contact
- Breaking rules
- Poor focus
Changes in appearance:
Often it is possible to see addiction in a person to some degree. Their appearance changes due to the effects of the substances on their body and due to their behavioral changes. Instead of taking care of how they look, they may start neglecting themselves.
Again, some of these changes may also be down to the person adapting to their new responsibilities. A feeling of being overwhelmed can lead young people to neglect how they look. They may also be taking care of themselves for the first time, and struggle to balance their responsibilities with self-care.
It is also important to remember that addiction can be somewhat invisible. Just because the person’s appearance hasn’t changed does not mean they are not addicted. Ultimately, we are looking for patterns.
Here are some of the changes to appearance you may notice:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Constant perspiration
- Track marks
- Sores around the mouth
- Flushed cheeks
- Changes in complexion
- Lack of attention to personal hygiene
Physical health issues:
Addiction impacts both the body and the mind. When it comes to the body, addiction does not merely cause physical cravings. Rather, it impacts the body’s entire ecosystem. The brain starts to produce less of some chemicals and more of others. Certain functions occur less as the body becomes dependent on substances to provide them. A person with addiction may see their health change very rapidly.
These are some of the physical health issues a young adult with addiction may have:
- Frequent illnesses, including colds and flus
- Difficulty getting to sleep or waking up
- Lack of appetite
- Struggles with coordination
- Sores on body and around the mouth
Mental health issues:
When it comes to the mind, addiction can cause a wide range of issues. The person begins to see substances as a necessity, leading to urges and increased anxiety. Their healthy coping mechanisms may go out the window, leaving the door open to struggles with emotional regulation.
Many of these issues do affect young adults who are not addicted to substances. As we’ve mentioned, this period of life is stressful. It is one of discovery and exploration, and that impacts different people in different ways.
Nonetheless, even if it turns out that the person does not have an addiction problem, the following mental health issues should be taken seriously:
- Lack of motivation
- Low self-esteem
- Dramatic mood swings
- Sudden changes in personality
- Emotional withdrawal from friends and family
If you have noticed these signs of addiction in a young adult, it is important that you take them seriously. However, it is also crucial that you don’t jump to conclusions.
If you have good lines of communication with the individual, you should speak to them about what they’re experiencing. Do not act accusatory or ask leading questions. Rather, check in with them. Discuss the topic of substances if it comes up organically.
If your lines of communication are already somewhat frayed, speak to another loved one about your concerns. See if they have similar concerns and ask about their recent experience with the person.
You should then consider speaking to a mental health professional. It is worthwhile to consider this route even if other loved ones are not concerned. While it is crucial that you don’t jump to conclusions, this subject is too important to neglect.
Young adults are at high risk of addiction. If you have noticed any of these common signs of addiction in a young adult, consider seeking professional help for them.