Behaviors That Can Make Addicts Dangerous

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Finding out someone has an addiction can be a shock for many friends and relatives. But if the addiction has taken hold of your partner, teenage child, or someone else you live with, you may also be wondering whether there are any dangers the addict might bring to yourself and your loved ones.

In How to Spot a Dangerous Man, a self-help book for women who tend to be attracted to abusive men, "the addict" is presented as one of eight types of a dangerous man.

Alcohol and drug addicts as well as those hooked on a range of behavioral addictions, including sex addiction, food addiction, problem gambling, and even achievement, approval, thrill-seeking, and religion, are listed as dangerous men.

In addition, many of the other categories of dangerous men overlap with the addict, including the mentally ill man, the abusive or violent man, and the emotionally unavailable man. Although this book is about dangerous men and more men than women are statistically identified as having addictions, women and children can, of course, develop addictions and be dangerous.

Certain Behaviors Make Addicts Dangerous

Although having an addiction doesn't make you dangerous automatically, there are several ways that dangers to other people can occur. Whether or not an addict is dangerous depends on many factors, including the severity of the addiction, the effects of the drug or behavior itself, their underlying mental and physical health, their life circumstances, and whether they perceive any threats to themselves or their access to their addictive substance or behavior.

When people ask whether addicts are dangerous, they are usually worried about the threat of violence. Overall, the risk of violence is higher in people with addictions, and in particular, when the addiction is to psychoactive substances that lower impulse control, impair judgment, and cause the person to lose their grip on reality.

Alcohol, meth, and cocaine are among the most risky substances. Children, the elderly and people living with a disability are particularly at risk for violence and abuse. Vulnerable individuals should never be left in the care of a person who is under the influence of these substances.

Other dangers include the risk of theft—anything from stealing cash and possessions to emptying your bank account to cover the cost of drugs, gambling, and even shopping addiction, and sexual abuse, which is perpetrated more frequently by people under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or by sex addicts.

You or your loved ones could also be traumatized by being exposed to self-harm, finding the addict sick or unconscious from an overdose, or being harassed by debtors or drug dealers.

Although trust is important in relationships, secrecy and lying are common among addicts, so err on the side of caution if you are at all uncertain of what their addiction involves. Rebuilding trust takes time and effort, and the first step is for the addict to acknowledge he or she has a problem and needs help.

If they are unable or unwilling to enter treatment, it is important to set boundaries to protect yourself and your loved ones.

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