It’s a families’ worst nightmare – realizing a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol. Figuring out if this is the case, can often be challenging. It’s important to figure out if changes in behavior are due to substance abuse or one of a number of mental health issues such as: anxiety, depression, ADD or Bipolar disorder. Many of these can also occur as co-existing disorders, along with the abuse of substances.
If you’ve noticed any changes in behavior that just don’t add up, err on the side of caution, rather than turn a blind eye. Communication is key. Have an open conversation, rather than make them feel as if they have to hide things from you. That being said, it’s important for your loved one to realize this behavior is not ok, and to be encouraged to reach out for help. A family member cannot deal with addiction alone, so it’s often necessary to reach out to a medical professional, such as a psychologist or in extreme cases, an interventionist for help.
There is a long list of warning signs that may indicate your loved one is abusing substances, but here are 15 key WARNING signs:
- Their behavior has become secretive and they lie or change the subject frequently
- Strange smells on clothing or breath
- Changed relationship with the family
- Drastic change in appearance such as weight loss, bad skin and odd marks on their body
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, such as sports and other healthy activities
- Asking for money on a regular basis – running out easily
- Periods of insomnia or high energy, followed by low periods or crashing
- Staying out late
- Mood changes, including emotional instability or volatility
- Depressed or withdrawn mood. Unmotivated
- Hyperactive or inability to focus
- Poor personal hygiene
- Speech difficulties such as – slurred or rapid speech. Cognitive difficulties.
- Disappearance of prescription pills, valuables and alcohol & cigarettes
- Appearance of drug paraphernalia around the house
Should you suspect your loved one is abusing drugs, approach the subject with caution. It’s important they don’t feel as if they are being attacked. Sit them down and have an open and direct conversation. It’s likely they are in denial and won’t believe they need help. Maintain your boundaries but let them know that you care and feel it would be best to seek professional help.