Addiction rates across the U.S. have steadily climbed over the past few decades, and you would be hard-pressed to find a community, a family or an individual who hasn’t been affected by the epidemic in some way. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is present when someone is unable to stop using a substance or perform a certain behavior despite known consequences.
Addiction is a family disease, and as such we have a role to play in recognizing addiction in our loved ones and helping them get the treatment they need to put their life back on track. The first step in doing this is to keep a watch on your loved one for the following signs:
1. Personality Changes
When someone becomes addicted to a substance, they typically undergo noticeable personality changes. These changes can include:
- Shirking responsibilities like work or school
- Being moody, agitated beyond what’s normal for them and picking fights with your or other members of the family
- Lying and other deceitful behaviors to cover up their drug or alcohol use
- Not participating in activities they once loved, or increasingly poor performance in their hobbies
- Losing old friends in favor of new friends who may also be abusing substances, or in some cases not making any new friends at all
Your loved one does not need to experience all of the above changes in order to be classified as having an addiction. These are merely signs to watch for if you suspect they may be dealing with substance abuse issues, and when you confront them about these changes you should be prepared for potential hostility and fighting.
2. Health Changes
Substance abuse of any kind eventually takes its toll on the body, and if your loved one suffers from an addiction you will likely notice changes to their physical and mental health. Signs to watch for include:
- Sudden and unexplained weight gain or loss
- Unexplained changes in sleeping behavior, such as staying up all night despite having obligations in the morning
- Enlarged pupils or bloodshot eyes
- Shakiness or trembling
- Bad hygiene as well as deteriorating state of hair, nails or skin
- Depression or suicidal thoughts
- Apathy, or a general lack of enthusiasm
If you talk to your loved one about any of the above health concerns, you should be aware that they will likely understate the seriousness of their health issues. If there is no other explanation for the health issues, it is safe to assume that substance abuse and addiction has something to do with it.
Confirming Suspicions of Addiction
Helping someone you love with their addiction issue is never easy. Reasons behind this difficulty can include:
- He or she may not agree that their behaviors constitute a problem
- He or she may not be interested in changing what they are doing
- They may be afraid of the potential consequences of coming clean about their substance abuse– such as losing a job or going to prison
- They may be using substances as a form of self-medication
- He or she may simply be embarrassed
Trust your instincts. Millions of people across the United States suffer from addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs and other substances – but very few ever get the treatment they need. Do not let your loved one be a statistic. Addiction is not a moral shortcoming, but rather a chronic disease that requires treatment like any other.
If you recognize an addiction in your loved one, the best way to help them is to encourage them to seek help at an addiction treatment facility. Compassionate and knowledgeable staff at these facilities can help devise an individualized treatment plan to help your loved one begin the road to recovery and the rest of their life.