Signs That a Loved One May Have a Substance Abuse Problem or Addiction

Substance addiction plagues many people. Not everyone who engages in substance abuse inherently has an addiction, but the practice of substance abuse can lead to addiction. The reality of being addicted comes as a shock for most sufferers and the people in their lives.

Many emotions come with the reality that you or a loved one suffer from substance addiction. Most people have difficulty determining whether or not there is a problem.

Addiction involves many factors beyond just being a drug user. Not all situations require a drug treatment program. Rehabilitation programs and support groups are the most common forms of treatment.

If you or your loved one portray any of the signs listed, it could mean you or your loved one are experiencing or are on the path to a drug or alcohol problem.

1. Loss of Interest/Apathy/Complacency

This characteristic isn’t pervasive, however it is noticeable. If someone who is typically active in certain activities, hobbies, talents, skills, or general interests suddenly stops, this could be a warning sign that something is wrong.

This issue may not mean these activities are no longer necessary to them. The problem lies in their focus on their substance abuse problem, snuffing out time spent on other things.

They may also feel apathetic toward issues that used to concern them. Their concern for their loved ones can taint.

2. Physical Signs

These are noticeable signs, and there are many of them. Some of these signs include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Itching
  • Injection marks
  • Puffy face
  • Unusual skin color

If any of these signs become routine, there may be a problem. Sufferers may try to hide these symptoms. If they have become complacent, they may no longer care about hiding the signs.

3. Appearance 

Regular drug abuse can change someone’s physical appearance. An addict may lose or gain a great deal of weight. Eating habits and times may drastically change.

If apathy has set in, a person who used to care about their appearance may suddenly no longer care. Someone may also change the clothes they wear. If you or someone you know notices any of these signs, there may be a problem.

4. Discovering Drug Paraphernalia 

Several drugs require a tool for their use. Some of these items include:

  • Pipes
  • High Heat or Torch-style lighters or lighters with colored residue on them
  • Bongs
  • Burned spoons
  • Razor blades
  • Cutting surfaces (mirrors or glass)
  • Hypodermic needles
  • Cut straws or rolled up bills

Some other items are not paraphernalia but could be signs. Eye clearing wash or eye drops. This product is used for bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils. Many people own this product that does not have a drug problem. Constant use of these products in itself is not a guaranteed sign, but in conjunction with other items or behaviors listed may be.

5. Mood Swings

Many things can cause mood swings, and many people experience them regularly. Life changes can cause these, such as changing schools or going through a divorce.

But, if you or a loved one portrays significant changes without apparent cause, it could be a sign of a problem. For instance, if you or someone you know is typically very calm much of the time but suddenly becomes hyper and anxious, something may be going on.

Someone who is typically very happy could suddenly become depressed.

Erratic mood swings from one part of the spectrum to another is another sign of drug abuse or possible mental health issue.

6. Reclusive Behavior

Substance abuse is often very isolating, so the sufferer withdraws from those around them. Some of the signs of withdrawal include:

  • Becoming very private about their life
  • Spending a lot of their time in their room
  • Locking the door to their room when they leave
  • Seeming closed off when questioned

If someone shows any of these symptoms, they may be hiding a sincere problem.

7. Changes in Routine

If someone suddenly changes their behavior, there is likely a problem. These changes could stem from behavior connected to substance abuse. Some of these changes include:

  • Not going to work
  • Cutting class
  • Withdrawing from home life
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Increase in medical conditions, which can cause the prescription of addictive drugs

8. Behavior Changes

Behavior changes can be some of the most apparent signs of addiction. Erratic behaviors specifically are noticeable. They are potentially dangerous, sometimes causing violent actions. People often become violent when going through substance withdrawal, and others are the cause of drug abuse.

This issue becomes complicated when you combine substance abuse with a co-occurring mental health disorder. Someone who is typically depressed might have those feelings amplified with drug abuse.

Additional red flag behaviors include

  • Suddenly being overly sensitive
  • Defensiveness and aggression
  • Becoming verbally or physically abusive

9. Sleep Changes

Sleeping habits may become erratic. Some of these changes include:

  • Sleeping too much
  • Sleeping very little
  • Oversleeping
  • Change of sleep schedule
  • Sleeping odd hours

Any or a combination of the signs could be cause for concern.

I can help!

Addiction counseling offers a safe, confidential environment that offers the support you need to face the problems you have today.

For adults dealing with substance abuse/addiction, I also offer group therapy as well as support for family members, adolescents and for children dealing with addiction /substance abuse within the family system.

Get the help you need from a trained counselor today.

At Lisa Rogers Counseling, I offer evenings, weekend appointments via Telemental Health (Online Counseling-Virtual/Video Conference and Phone Sessions).