People caught up in addictions can often be very secretive about it and are usually locked up in SELF-DENIAL. They work hard to convince others and themselves that there is nothing wrong and can sometimes justify their behaviour and even be very deceitful to obtain the means to feed an addiction (like stealing to buy drugs).

Common clues to watch out for:

Absorbing focus: All addictions consume time, thought, energy and become all-consuming obsessions;

Growing denial: An addict will deny their enslavement to their dependency to ensure that this is not challenged and they do not have to give it up. Addicts often try to live two lives and are also convinced they can stop at any time.

Increasing tolerance: More and more is needed over time to maintain the same physical or psychological effect from the substance;

Damaging consequences: Addictions destroy and ravage one’s health, job, reputation, self-respect, relationships with others and God.

Painful withdrawal: The thought of giving up a dependency will normal evoke terror with much fear and anger. Addicts might feel that they cannot live without the substance.
(Source: Karen Els, Clinical Psychologist, SA)

How drugs affect the mind, body and relationships:

Usually addictions bring short term pleasure but there are long term consequences in terms of one’s health, relationships, psychological well-being and spiritually. In most cases, addictions are progressive conditions that slowly exert more and more power and control.


• Becomes disrespectful-is verbally and physically abusive;
• Gets angry often, acts paranoid or confused, or suffers from extreme mood swings;
• Seems depressed and less out-going than usual;
• Secretive and lies about what he/she is doing and where he/she is going;
• Secretive about phone calls. Acts nervous, anxious or agitated with certain calls;
• Stealing or losing possessions;
• Seems to have lots of money, or is always asking for money;
• Withdraws from the family and family activities.

Physical Appearance:

• Not taking care of hygiene and grooming;
• Not sleeping or sleeping too much;
• Loss of appetite;
• Weight loss or weight gain;
• Too hyperactive or too little energy.

Social Activity / School Performance:

• Sudden new friends & activities;
• Skipping school or work;
• Loss of interest in school work and lower grades than normal;
• Sleeping in class;
• Loss of concentration and having trouble remembering things.

Social Behaviour Problems:

• A need for money (Long term: Deal, Steal or Prostitute themselves)
• Binging behaviour – out all night & sleeping all day, sometimes for days
• The person will start taking a lot more risks
• A dramatic change in behavioural patterns
• Will slowly become more and more emotionally unstable
• As the loved ones enable the addiction so disrespect grows – often verbal to start with and as this is tolerated it moves to physical and more and more abusive
• Weight loss
• Disregard for hygiene and dental problems over time
• Bi-Polar


Substance abuse puts strain on relationships. Problem abusers tend to change social circles often and are unable to maintain long-term friendships. They alienate themselves from others to hide their excessive/illegal consumption.