The signs of addiction are not always immediately apparent. The more dramatic manifestations like overdose, car accidents or arrest present an obvious red flag.
What about the more subtle signs of addiction? How can you tell if your child or your spouse is addicted? What are the clues that may mean someone you care about is struggling with drugs or alcohol?
Luckily, there are some key things we can watch for. Denial is often a problem when it comes to people we care about. We do not want to believe the worst about them. We dread addressing the problem head-on. We may be afraid of how the person will react if we confront them. If we are going to help, however, it is essential that we put these things aside.
Here are some signs of addiction you can look for:
1.) A sudden need for secrecy.
Everyone deserves privacy. However, if a person suddenly seems to require a lot more of it, that can be a warning sign of an addiction. A person who stays out late night after night and is evasive about explaining where they have been and with whom may be in trouble with drugs. New acquaintances whom they try to keep you away from seeing or meeting can be a sign they are using drugs or alcohol, too.
2.) Unexplained financial problems.
A drug habit usually gets expensive before too long. For example, you might notice that someone who is drinking to excess will often spend irresponsibly and run up bar tabs. A person who suddenly seems to be out of money or sells their most prized possessions may be wrestling with addiction.
3.) Changes in appearance could signal an addiction
Drug and alcohol abuse takes a toll on our bodies. Both the chemicals themselves and the lifestyles associated with using them may be seen in a person’s appearance.
Some appearance changes you might see include:
- Sudden changes in weight (loss or gain)
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Pale or sickly complexion
- Neglecting personal hygiene such as letting teeth go or skipping showers
These personal appearance changes can all be signs of an addiction.
4.) Changes in behavior.
A person who is battling addiction is bound to deviate from their usual behavior. They will usually attempt to conceal this. However, there are things to watch for.
Opiate addicts frequently “nod out” while under the influence. Nodding out means a person’s eyes close and their head drops involuntarily as if they are struggling to stay awake. This may be accompanied by yawning and excessive scratching and itchiness.
People who are addicted may exhibit unusual mood swings. They might become irrationally angry when asked simple questions.
People who abuse stimulants often become overly talkative and fidgety. They may bite their nails excessively or scratch and pick at their skin, especially their arms and face.
Note any unusual new behaviors along these lines that seem to arise suddenly and without explanation.
5.) Dramatic change in priorities.
Addiction takes up more and more of a person’s life as it begins to grow. Someone who has an addiction will often lose interest in things that used to matter to them. Though they will usually try to conceal it, the drug or drink becomes their top priority. So much so that they may reject people, even close friends who don’t fit into their addiction lifestyle. Hobbies, sports and creative pursuits may fall by the wayside as the drug or drink becomes the most important thing in their life.
Getting Help for Someone Who Has an Addiction
As always, you must exercise common sense in trying to evaluate the signs that someone has an addiction.
One of these warning signs alone may have an innocent explanation. However, if someone you care about is exhibiting several of these potential signs of addiction, it should be cause for concern.
Remember, your goal is to help the person, so it is important to take care in how you approach them. Angrily confronting someone with a list of grievances is likely to elicit denial and shut down the conversation before it can begin. The best approach for nearly everyone is to be delicate, but firm. It should be clear to the person that your number one concern is their health and safety. They should not feel as if you are being harshly critical or judging their character.
Try not to make it personal. At the same time, you can not sugar-coat the seriousness of addiction. If it is clear the person is using drugs – if they admit to it or there is incontrovertible evidence – then you must not let it go.
Most of all, you want to keep the lines of communication open and make sure the person feels comfortable reaching out to you for help when they are ready.
At Harmony Healing Center, we understand the emotional roller coaster ride that can accompany addiction. Not only for the addict but for the people who care for them. We can help you navigate these troubled waters. Give us a call or reach out for a chat. We will get you moving in the right direction.