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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Signs Your Loved One May Be Addicted

signs loved one addictedPopular stereotypes of drug addicts involve the person being unemployed, engaged in criminal activity, male, minority, homeless, disheveled, dirty, and basically standing out like a sore thumb in mainstream society. However, many drug addicts are in fact very difficult to identify and will not possess many, if any, of these stereotypes. The shame of addiction and stigma associated with being an addict can act as a powerful barrier to someone coming forward to ask for help, causing them to do whatever it takes to keep up appearances and avoid their addiction being revealed. Many people still think of addiction as a moral failing, in spite of overwhelming evidence that has proven addiction to be a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry” (ASAM). These stigmas can cause shame and embarrassment for the addict, and cause them to retreat further into secrecy around their addiction.

That being said, how can you find out if your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol? I would venture to say if you are asking yourself this question right now, chances are you’ve already witnessed behaviors in your loved one indicative of substance use, and your instincts may be right. I’m certainly not advocating contempt prior to investigation, but the fact is we are dealing with a cunning, baffling disease that will cause the user to minimize, deny, rationalize, and stop at nothing to hide the problem. Sometimes, all you will have is a “gut feeling,” and that feeling may be enough reason to take a closer look at what is actually going on with your loved one.

If your loved one is chronically addicted to drugs or alcohol, this means they are at the point where they must continue to use in order to function in their daily lives. This also means they desperately need help, as they’re at the point that they can’t stop on their own, even if they desperately want to. Even at this advanced level of addiction, a person may not display overtly obvious signs that they are using. Often, they may be able to continue working and maintaining relationships for a period of time without a problem being detected. However; it us usually only a matter of time before they start experiencing consequences of the substance use that affect them physically, legally, socially, and in their relationships.

Overt signs your loved one may be using drugs or alcohol include agitation and irritability, intense mood swings, periods of either sleeplessness or seeming to sleep all the time, slurred speech, “nodding out,” injection marks, glassy or blood shot eyes, and enlarged or constricted pupils. Other obvious signs might be if valuables or household items are missing or if the person seems to always need money in spite of earning enough money to self-sustain.

Periods of depression, anxiety, and euphoria are also common symptoms of substance use. The individual will fluctuate between craving, using, coming down, and contemplating their life situation - all of which greatly impact a person’s mood.

Other, more subtle signs could include: smell of drugs or alcohol, use of fragrances to mask the odor, changes in appetite, drowsiness, increased tolerance of drugs or alcohol, impaired or fixed concentration, and decreased coordination.

Another hallmark sign that a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol is that they will likely make themselves scarce. Where they once participated in family and social events, they may now avoid these interactions, as they interfere with the person’s using and also provide more opportunity for their habit to be discovered.

If you suspect your loved one is struggling with addiction, please get help immediately. You don’t have to confront this situation without support, as there are trained professionals that are well-equipped to offer guidance, intervention, and placement in treatment. Remember, you are not alone! Alcohol and drug addiction is more widespread than it has ever been, with the reasons people become addicted as varied as the population that struggles with this disease. DON’T beat yourself up trying to analyze every detail from your loved one’s past and identify why they started using or where you went wrong. That’s a rabbit hole you have no business going down right now, as it won’t help matters whatsoever. DO get them help and let the trained professionals take it from there!

American Society of Addiction Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2017, from http://www.asam.org/

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