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How to Recognize Addiction in Family & Friends

Updated: Sep 13, 2020

This article sheds light on substance abuse and its damaging effect on mental health, family, and friends. Guest writer, Heather, shares signs and symptoms of addiction, substance abuse, withdrawal, and where to go next. If you enjoyed this article or have questions for the guest contributor, head to the comments section at the bottom of the page, or check out her 'About the Author' biography and get connected! -Kay, Rose-Minded

how to recognize addiction in family and friends, substance abuse warning signs

Addiction is a sneaky disease. It can either be extremely obvious or be hidden in the shadows. Drug and alcohol addiction doesn’t just take over someone’s body, but inhibits their mind too. It is extremely common for individuals suffering with an addiction to be considered “a different person” by their loved ones. Luckily over time, we have been able to determine signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction. It can be hard to look at a loved one and think they could be struggling with an addiction, but the faster we realize the symptoms, the quicker we can get them the help they need.

When individuals begin using, they tend to make the drugs or alcohol their focus and will do whatever they have to do to get it. This can often get them in trouble as they might engage in risky behavior like driving illegally under the influence to get their substances. It is unfortunate, but these dangerous behaviors can get our loved ones locked up behind bars. Sometimes, this sense of urgency for their next fix can cause them to neglect responsibilities and relationships. They may make excuses for skipping school or work. It isn't uncommon for their relationships to become strained because they might get frustrated, have a lack of trust with others, and fight with the loves they love the most. Although it is tough, we have to remember that our loved one is still there, they are just trapped by the demon of addiction that is controlling them.

If your loved one is obvious about their substance abuse, you might be able to notice if they have built up a tolerance to their substance. If they used to drink 3-4 drinks at dinner regularly, but now they drink 5-7, one could assume their tolerance has increased, causing them to need more in order feel the same influence. When addicts don’t get the help they need, they can continue to push their bodies to the limit. When they lose control of their substance abuse, it can hinder their body, lives, relationships and more. When it becomes a mental and physical addiction, it is even tougher to quit. This is seen in withdrawal. If a user even tries to cut back their use while their body is dependent on a substance, they might experience the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety

  • Shaking

  • Depression

  • Sweating

  • Restlessness

  • Nausea

  • Insomnia

how to recognize addiction in family and friends, substance abuse warning signs

Withdrawal is extremely dangerous, and if your loved one has decided they need to stop their substance abuse, they should enter a rehabilitation program to ensure they are conducting a healthy and safe detox with the help of medical professionals.

There are many symptoms of substance abuse that can be observed. Some observations you might be able to notice are the following. There are certain disorders that can make one experience these symptoms completely sober; mental and physical health disorders can cause these symptoms as well as substance abuse.

  • Loss of physical hygiene

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Unusual sleep patterns

  • Increase/decrease in nutrition

  • Balance issues/instability

  • Passing out

  • Bloodshot eyes/inconsistent pupils

  • Impaired speech/coordination

You may the one you love isn't doing the same activities they used to do. They might have played soccer every day, and all of a sudden, they stopped. If they replaced their favorite sport with a drug of choice, the drug can overpower them and become the main activity conducted everyday instead of activities they used to enjoy. We all have changing interests, but if your loved one stops being themselves and you have a hunch or gut feeling, along with the suspicion they might be a user, you might want to discuss it with them.

Sometimes users are aware they have a problem, but they do not know how to get help. They can also deny an addiction because they believe it doesn't exist. It is important to reach out to them and try to maintain a close relationship. They might be your best friend, but also might be too ashamed to admit they need help. Even if they know they have a problem, by not getting the help they need they can cause detrimental damage to themselves and the ones around them. Some of the following might occur if they do not start a journey towards recovery:

how to recognize addiction in family and friends, substance abuse and mental health
  • Mood changes

  • Personality and mood changes

  • Financial instability

  • Jail time

  • Anxiety and paranoia

  • Depression

  • Death

  • Loss of friendships

  • Ruined relationships

It can be tough to accept that a loved one is struggling with an addiction, let alone determine if they are dabbling in bad behavior based on warning signs. By reading blogs, recovery quotes, or talking to a specialist, you can determine if your loved one needs to enter treatment for their addiction. Getting an individual into treatment is a crucial step in their journey towards recovery.

The staff at Landmark Recovery is ready to help you. Whether your loved one needs help with drug or alcohol abuse, we have specialists ready to make a customized plan just for them. With our help, you can live the life you have always dreamed. Help your loved one begin their recovery journey today.

About the Author- Heather Valsan

Heather Valsan is a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Grand Canyon University. Heather has always been passionate about helping people struggling with mental health disorders, and she worked in the psychiatric and substance abuse field for 10 years. With the growing need for education on addiction resources, Heather combined her nursing knowledge with two of her great loves, communications and writing. She is the host of Recovery Radio, a podcast about substance abuse that provides expert advice from industry leaders in the addictions field. When Heather is not working she enjoys spending her time with her two young children and binge watching Netflix documentaries.


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