How to Know if Your Loved One Has an Addiction
When you think of substance abuse tell-tale signs, what do you think of?
Maybe bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, or drastic weight loss? But would you recognize substance abuse red flags if you saw them in your spouse, child, parent, sibling, or friend?
Addictions aren’t formed overnight. They grow gradually, making it difficult to tell when recreational use has crossed the line into full-blown addiction. It can be hard to tell if a friend appears anxious because she’s abusing stimulant drugs, or if she’s anxious because her job and marriage are currently strife-filled. It can be hard to tell if a son or daughter’s irregular sleep pattern is a result of puberty, depression, heroin, or a combination of all three.
Addiction is complex and sometimes difficult to identify. Knowing the physical, behavioral, and psychological warning signs can help you recognize if a substance is becoming a problem in a loved one’s life.
Physical warning signs:
- Little appetite
- Irregular sleep
- Weight loss or gain
- Strange smells on the person or their clothes
- Slurred speech, shaking, or impaired coordination
- Out-of-character poor hygiene
- Pupils smaller or larger than normal, bloodshot eyes
Various drugs have different physical and psychological effects, but they share some common threads when it comes to emotional health and lifestyle changes. Here are some social and emotional signs that substance abuse might be seeping into important parts of a person’s life:
Behavioral and psychological warning signs:
- Neglecting responsibilities such as school, work, or children
- Taking risks. For example, a person might want more drugs so badly that they drive to get more while under the influence.
- Legal trouble with the law
- Financial problems
- Increased fighting in relationships
- Needing drugs or alcohol to relieve withdrawal symptoms
- Stopping hobbies that once brought joy
- Stronger drug tolerance, needing higher quantities of a substance to feel the effects
- Starting off with a large dose. For example, a person with alcoholism might chug their first drink of the day because the person’s primary goal is to be drunk, not to enjoy the taste or the company.
- Suddenly hanging out with a different groups of friends
- Mood swings
- Lack of motivation
- Anxiety for no reason
- Unusually hyperactive or giddy
- History of alcoholism or substance abuse in family
- Loss of control. For example, one night a person might say they’ll just do a little cocaine this time and genuinely mean it. But then, that night they consume large amounts cocaine.
The above lists of warning signs are general ways addictions affect lives. To see a list of commonly abused drugs and their more specific warning signs, visit HelpGuide.org.
If, after reading the warning signs, you think your loved one might have substance abuse issues, what should you do?
First, spend time with your loved one. Personality changes are commonly noticed by a parent, spouse, relative, or close friend. Someone who lives with or is in close proximity to the loved one is most likely to observe lifestyle changes. So draw near to your loved one, without joining in substance abuse activities. Note the specific changes in behavior that worry you.
Next, talk about your observations with your loved one in a nonjudgmental way. If you are unsure whether your loved one is engaging in substance abuse, still vocalize your concerns. Even if it turns out your loved one is not struggling with addiction, openness is valuable in any relationship. If the person is struggling with a non-addiction related problem that is causing them to act differently, it is still likely they need someone to talk to.
When you talk to your loved one about substance abuse, if they are unwilling to open up or are defensive, seek help. You are just one person, and addiction is powerful. It’s okay to admit you don’t know how to perfectly help a loved one with substance abuse issues. That’s why there are trained professionals. Victory Addiction Recovery Center has a highly qualified, experienced team of nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, and directors. Victory doesn’t just treat the individual but helps the entire family. The Family Care Support Group, facilitated by a qualified counselor, is a place for family members of residents to meet and receive care at no cost.
Don’t believe the myth that people need to hit rock bottom to recover. It’s easier to overcome addiction in the early stages. It’s better to address a possible problem area sooner than later. If you have reason to believe your loved one has an addiction, seek help.
Teenagers are notoriously moody and closed off, so it can be particularly tricky to determine if changing behavior in a teen is drug- and alcohol-related or not. If you are a parent wondering if your child has an addiction, visit NCADD.
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