Signs Your Loved One is AddictedDestin Recovery Addiction Treatment Center
Warning signs that a friend or family member is abusing drugs
Symptoms can only be experienced by the person with the addiction, whereas signs can be observed by other people. You can never know what someone else is experiencing unless they tell you, so if you are concerned that someone else may have an addiction, look for signs as well as for symptoms.
Drug and alcohol addiction don’t all of a sudden just appear. It typically starts with recreational use, and over time, in some people, repeated use can progress into a need to use regularly (abuse) – even though it puts one’s health, safety, relationships, career, education and finances on the line. Over a period of time the addicted person feels compelled to compulsively seek out a substance due to very strong cravings.
As you probably know, it can be very difficult to recognize early on that your friend or family member is involved in drugs or another addictive behavior. You should also know that your loved one is unlikely to admit to a problem. Addicts tend to cover their tracks. But there are a variety of signs that you might be seeing now – even ones you may have brushed aside, not wanting to believe that an addiction could be at play. See how many of these common warning signs of addiction, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that your loved one may have…
Addiction takes away the ability to choose to stop, even if your loved one desperately wants to.Roland Reeves, MD
Physical warning signs of drug abuse
- Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
- Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
- Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
Behavioral signs of drug abuse
- Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
- Unexplained need for money or financial problems; may borrow or steal to get it.
- Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
- Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
- Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)
Psychological warning signs of drug abuse
- Unexplained change in personality or attitude
- Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
- Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
- Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out”
- Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason
Warning signs of commonly abused drugs
- Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss.
- Depressants (including Xanax, Valium, GHB): Contracted pupils; drunk-like; difficulty concentrating; clumsiness; poor judgment; slurred speech; sleepiness.
- Stimulants (including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth): Dilated pupils; hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go long periods of time without eating or sleeping; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.
- Inhalants (glues, aerosols, vapors): Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; lots of cans/aerosols in the trash.
- Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP): Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.
- Heroin: Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light; needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite.
Warning signs of teen drug abuse
While experimenting with drugs doesn’t automatically lead to drug abuse, early use is a risk factor for developing more serious drug abuse and addiction. Risk of drug abuse also increases greatly during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce. The challenge for parents is to distinguish between the normal, often volatile, ups and downs of the teen years and the red flags of substance abuse. These include:
- Having bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils; using eye drops to try to mask these signs
- Skipping class; declining grades; suddenly getting into trouble at school
- Missing money, valuables, or prescriptions
- Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn, angry, or depressed
- Dropping one group of friends for another; being secretive about the new peer group
- Loss of interest in old hobbies; lying about new interests and activities
- Demanding more privacy; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around
Take a Closer Look
If your loved one is your spouse, a minor child or a friend or partner who lives with you, you may have access to bank and credit card statements, phone bills and pay stubs; all may contain useful information to confirm absenteeism, cash withdrawals or unusual spending patterns. Be sure, too, to look over your shared phone bills; there may be a pattern of outgoing or incoming calls, 800 or 900-numbers that look suspicious – and you may decide to call those numbers yourself to find out more about your loved one’s behavior if you’re not sure:
Start a journal. It can help to start recording when your loved one leaves for his/her job or classes and when he/she return and to check activity on computers you share. By simply checking the browsing history on a shared computer, you can gain a lot of insight into what your loved one may be up to, whether that may mean online gambling, video gaming, pornography or excessive shopping, for example. That said, many addicts learn to hide their behavior well, so you may find that he/she has cleared their browsing history, so it isn’t easy to find out details of how they spend their time online.
Trust your instincts. Investigate if you suspect there is a problem based on other signs you’ve seen over time, especially if that behavior is worsening. It’s best to have solid information, as much as you can, before you talk to your loved one; without some factual information, you may be swayed by your loved one’s likely denials. Remember, addiction is a disease that causes people to act out of character; simply put, addicts will lie and cover their tracks so they can keep using. But by having evidence in front of you, it will be easier to see through lies or attempts at deception.
Be aware of suicidal behavior. If you find out that your loved one may be contemplating, planning or attempting suicide, call 911 immediately. Another resource is the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at (800) 273-TALK. If your friend or family member is experiencing withdrawal symptoms from stopping a drug or alcohol, it’s wise to seek medical attention as soon as possible, as certain medications and drugs can cause dangerous side effects when stopped cold turkey and should be medically monitored.
Make an appointment with a medical professional. Even if you don’t have any emergency medical concerns, it’s still a good idea to reach out to a doctor or counselor for proper screening for addiction. If a professional confirms your suspicions of a drug addiction, mental health problem, compulsive behavior or process (behavioral) addiction, your loved one’s physician may be able to advise him/her one on treatment. You may also decide to enlist the help of an interventionist who can guide you through the process of confronting your loved one about his/her problem; this can be particularly effective in getting the person you love into treatment as soon as possible and on the way to a healthier, sober life.
Sources: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.); Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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