You know them inside and out. They are a good person, someone you love and respect.
But could this person be an addict? The first step to finding out is letting go of the notion that addiction cancels out any of your loved one’s positive qualities. Everything you have come to like about this person is still there. By identifying an addiction, you are playing the vital role of calling out a mental and physical disorder of which they might not even be fully aware themselves. You are naming the addiction, not labeling an addict.
What are signs of substance abuse?
The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health (2016) characterizes substance abuse as one of the most pressing health crises of our time, and we know more about it now than we ever have. Substance abuse can share many of the warning signs associated with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. As with mental illness, there are behavioral and physical signs you can watch out for when you believe a loved one might be struggling with addiction. These signs include:
- An increase in substance use following stressful events (e.g., death of a friend or family member, financial troubles, or divorce). If the substance becomes their primary way of managing stress, this is a sign that they are not able to cope to the same degree without the help of the substance. They don’t have to “hit bottom” with their dependency for it to be a real problem.
- Sudden changes in personality or mood. For instance, people can become more secretive when trying to hide an addiction or irritable when either prevented from obtaining the substance or confronted during substance use. Addiction may also be accompanied by mood disorders (called concurrent/co-occurring disorders), and mental disorders can even be substance-induced.
- A drastic change in friends or activities. The break in routine and relationships could be related to drug and alcohol use. The aspects of substance abuse related to personality and mood may result in an increase in interpersonal conflict. Additionally, substance abuse often results in risky behavior and trouble at work or school, which could also contribute to changes in social behavior.
- Memory loss or forgetfulness, such as blackouts from overconsumption of alcohol or experiencing an unusual number of mistakes or lapses in memory as a result of substance use.
- Changes in sleep and nutrition are common signs of drug and alcohol addiction. So, it’s no surprise that reestablishing a healthy body rhythm is an important step in practicing recovery.
- Unusual patterns of speech or movement. Be aware of speech or movement that is faster, slower, or more slurred or clumsy than normal, as such changes are side effects of certain drugs.
- A noticeable decline in health. Drugs and alcohol can leave visible traces. Sudden weight loss or gain, bloodshot eyes, abnormally-sized pupils, and discoloration of skin, teeth, or fingernails can all be signs of drug use or abuse. These signs vary by the type of addiction, so the kinds of physical symptoms your loved one exhibits may give you some insight into the nature of the substance abuse problem.
Where do we go from here?
If these signs are familiar to you, your loved one may be struggling with addiction. The good news is that addiction treatment centers like Waypoint Recovery Center have more knowledge about how addiction and recovery work than ever before. Addiction is now viewed as a matter of health, and that opens up so many options and resources for you and your loved one. Waypoint develops individualized treatment plans for clinical assessments, individual therapy, family therapy, group therapy, alumni services, continuing care, and a comprehensive intensive outpatient program. This kind of holistic, strengths-based care means that the whole person—the person you see and know—is being treated, not just the “addict.” Their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well as their personal strengths all matter to the plan of treatment.
Addressing a loved one’s addiction can be a painful experience, but your involvement could be a crucial part of their recovery. Your compassion has a real impact on their journey. Continue to seek out resources and discover your own part in your loved one’s recovery, and know that, by doing so, you are already making a valuable contribution to their health and well-being.
Related articles from Waypoint Recovery Center:
- What to Expect During Family Visitation
- Changing the Language of Addiction: Terms to Avoid (Part 1)
- Changing the Language of Addiction Part 2 – Terms to Consider
- Can DBT Help with Substance Abuse?