An addiction to drugs or alcohol doesn’t simply develop overnight. Addiction can start as simple experimentation with a substance or even a doctor’s prescription. When the individual begins a pattern of regular repeated use, a dependency is formed. This causes the person to compulsively seek out their substance of choice — despite jeopardizing their careers, relationships, health, safety, and finances. This also has the potential to result in serious behavioral changes in the person as well.
It can be difficult to recognize the early signs of addiction in a loved one. It’s also important to be aware that your friend or family member may be very defensive and unlikely to admit they are struggling. However, there are a number of signs that you may be able to recognize if you suspect that a person you care about is dealing with an addiction.
Identify the Initial Signs
In the early stages of a substance abuse issue, an individual may not display the signs of a full-blown addiction. Remember, every individual is different. Early addiction signs vary from person to person. It also depends on the type of substance being abused. However, some common early warning signs of addiction include:
- A family history of addiction
- Seeking out situations where the substance is present
- Episodes of binging
- Slight changes in behavior
- Increased tolerance
- Frequent cravings
Take a Closer Look
The first step in getting help for your loved one is being able to recognize the physical, emotional, and mental signs of addiction. Again, the degree of intensity varies from person to person and depends on a variety of factors. This includes the type of substance used, the length of addiction, and the amount of substance used each time. Be vigilant and aware when it comes to your loved one. In addition to the initial early signs, your loved one may show signs such as:
- Hanging around with a new group of friends
- Secretive behavior
- A shift in attitude, motivation, and mood
- Abnormal changes in sleep patterns
- Poor performance in school or work
- Loss of interest in things that once brought joy
- Neglecting relationships
- Participating in risky situations
- Ignoring the negative consequences of their actions
If these signs sound familiar or apply to your loved one, you may be wondering how to move forward. Before confronting a loved one about their possible addiction, take a moment to develop a level-headed approach.
Another way to potentially identify signs of addiction is to pay close attention to your loved one’s physical health. Addictive substances are detrimental and could lead to a swift decline in health. Some signs to look for include:
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Constant illness
- Unexplained injuries
- Sweating, trembling, vomiting
- Bloodshot eyes
- Memory loss
- Unhealthy looking hair, skin, teeth, and nails
It’s important to eliminate any possible medical conditions that could be the reason for someone’s health decline. If there is no other explanation, there is an increased chance that this could be signs of addiction.
Gather the Facts
It’s understandable to feel hurt, angry, or helpless when your friend or family member is struggling with addiction. Addiction does not just affect one person, it has an effect on everyone around the individual as well. It’s critical to have your facts straight so that you have the best possible approach with confronting your loved one. Some of the ways you can gather facts and your thoughts are by:
- Keep a journal. Starting a journal to record the signs that your loved one is displaying, as well as other details you find suspicious, is a great tool to have when you discuss your suspicions with your loved one. Jot down patterns that your loved one displays, such as recording when they leave for their job and when they return. By paying close attention to these details and having them in a journal, you have factual details on your side.
- Trusting your instincts. If you suspect that your loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, you likely have a reason. In order not to be swayed if your loved one tries to convince you otherwise, have solid information based on other signs you’ve noticed over time.
- Be aware of suicidal behavior. In many cases, those suffering from addiction also struggle with co-occurring mental health disorders. If you feel as though your loved one is displaying suicidal behavior, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Seek help. Even if there are no emergency medical concerns, it is still a good idea to contact a professional to discuss how to best help your loved one. Unless you have dealt with addiction yourself, it can be difficult to understand what your addicted loved one is going through. Talking with a professional and forming a plan together can be an extremely effective way to get treatment for your friend or family member.