It is not always easy to recognize early indications of an emerging substance use disorder in a family member. Your loved one is unlikely to admit to a problem. People in active addiction tend to hide their substance use. But you might be observing a number of signs now—even ones you may have dismissed, not wanting to believe that addiction could be behind the changes observed.
One of the earliest signs is often a shift in mood, attitude, and motivation. Is your loved one irritable and seemingly unmotivated? Do they seem lethargic or depressed? Are there dramatic changes in habits or priorities? Are you noticing secretive behavior? Are you confronted with strange excuses or blatant lies?
Is your child suddenly getting failing grades at school? Is your loved one not going to work or has suddenly lost interest in once-favorite pastimes and hobbies? Are they avoiding family activities?
Drug and alcohol misuse will eventually manifest in physical symptoms. Have you ever noticed bloodshot eyes? Has your loved one on occasion been obviously intoxicated?
Does she often look sick with an unusually pale complexion? Have you noticed strange body odors or trembling hands? Is he unable to recall events because of intoxication?
If early warning signs are dismissed or overlooked, more serious indicators could emerge.
Once a severe substance use disorder develops, the addicted person will spend a lot of time obtaining drugs or alcohol and engage in recurrent use of substances in physically hazardous situations.
Consequently, your loved one might get involved in criminal behavior such as theft and burglary. He might be arrested and arraigned in court. Your loved one might now be driven by pronounced and overwhelming craving for drugs or alcohol.
Other serious indications include involvement in motor vehicle accidents while intoxicated, borrowing or stealing pain medication from friends or family, stealing money from family members, hiding drug paraphernalia or alcohol in the house, and track marks indicating chronic intravenous drug use.
If a number of warning signs and serious indicators are present, your loved one might require addiction treatment. Many people are hesitant to confront a family member over a suspected substance use disorder, but often it is the intervention of loved ones that get people into treatment who otherwise would not try to go into recovery.
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