How to Help Someone with Drug or Alcohol Addiction

by Dana Giblock

Spotting the Signs of Addiction

Friends and family are often the first to notice the signs and symptoms of addiction. However, they may be reluctant to intervene, either because the reality of substance abuse is too painful, or because they’re afraid of driving their loved one even deeper into self-destruction. In many cases, family members don’t interfere with substance abuse because it serves a purpose in the family system. Allowing a hardworking spouse to binge drink on weekends may help the family sustain their income, for example. Keeping an addicted parent supplied with tranquilizers or prescription drugs may help the rest of the household avoid a difficult confrontation.

Physical Changes

For the sake of your own health and the well-being of your family, as well as the health and safety of your loved one, it’s vitally important to respond to the signs of addiction when you notice them. Listed below are a few of the most common physical indications that a loved one has a problem with drugs or alcohol:

·       Changes in appetite or body weight

·       A pale or reddened complexion

·       Bloodshot or watery eyes

·       Pinpoint pupils

·       Shakiness or tremors at certain times of day

·       Poor motor coordination

·       A stumbling gait

·       Changes in sleeping patterns

·       Needle marks or bruises on the arms

·       Sweating without excessive physical activity

·       Unusual body odors

Emotional Changes

Some of the most noticeable red flags involve changes in a loved one’s moods, appearance, or behaviors:

·       Isolation from friends or family

·       Loss of interest in favorite activities

·       Failures at school

·       Poor performance on the job

·       Constantly borrowing (or stealing) money

·       Dramatic mood swings

·       Depressed mood

·       Anxiety and restlessness

·       Uncharacteristic outbursts of anger or aggression

·       Poor hygiene and grooming

·       Secretive behavior

·       Unusual or inappropriate clothing (sunglasses after dark, long-sleeved shirts during the day, t-shirts with alcohol logos or references to drug use)

These physical or behavioral changes don’t always point to addiction. Weight changes, unusual clothing, depression, and self-isolation could be signs of an eating disorder. Self-isolation, weight gain, and mood swings or anxious episodes could indicate that your loved one has a psychiatric disorder. If you’re like most concerned friends or relatives, you’re probably reluctant to jump to conclusions or damage your relationship. However, it’s critical that you take steps to help the person you care about, no matter what their underlying problem may be.

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