Addiction is a long-term, chronic disease that thrives in the shadows of a person’s life. At first, it can be fairly easy for a person to conceal the signs of his or her drug or alcohol abuse. As addiction progresses, however, often over the course of years but for some much sooner, more and more drugs or alcohol are needed to make a person feel “normal” due to their increasing tolerance. It’s at this stage that the signs of addiction become easier to spot.
As a family member of someone who is struggling with addiction, it can be challenging to discern what constitutes addictive behavior. It can be even more difficult to approach your loved one about the behavior you’re observing. For family members who want to or have taken this step, denial is often a complicating factor. Someone in the midst of a battle with drugs or alcohol is almost certain to deny that any problem exists — especially at first.
Every day at Feinberg Consulting, we work with families to break the cycle of addiction. Our first step is the intervention process, which allows a person who is struggling with addiction to choose a path of healing over the suffering of addiction.
The list that follows, “6 Signs Your Family Member Needs A Drug or Alcohol Intervention,” offers examples of what active addiction can look like. It’s intended to provide the confirmation a family often needs before it moves forward in getting their loved one the professional help he or she requires.
1.) Engaging in Risky or Dangerous Behavior
Addictive behavior is any kind of behavior that’s not consistent with a person’s typical personality. Once their actions reach the level of “risky” or “dangerous,” however, the intervention process often needs to be fast-tracked.
Common examples include operating a vehicle or dangerous machinery while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It also includes supervising children or young adults while inebriated.
Is a family member consistently avoiding family events or not “going out” as they once did? This is a telltale sign of addiction that’s typically accompanied by a series of excuses for his or her behavior.
People who are struggling with addiction often complain of not feeling well due to headaches, stomach aches, and other minor issues that become increasingly difficult to explain over time. As addiction worsens, it may be difficult for people who are struggling with addiction to remember their excuses for not attending an event.
3.) A Worsening Appearance or Medical Problems
The general appearance of someone who is struggling with addiction is likely to change over time, as their main focus in life becomes obtaining the drugs they need to support their addiction. They can shift from being sharp, careful dressers to looking sloppy and wearing clothes that are wrinkled or soiled.
They may also lose or gain a significant amount of weight or look “puffy” in the face. Their eyes can become glassy or bloodshot. Their pupils may look like pinpoints (a sign of opioid use) or dilated (a potential sign of benzodiazepines or cocaine use). They can even nod off in the middle of conversations or events.
Over time, real medical problems can and do develop due to addiction. This goes beyond complaints about how a person is feeling. They can start to develops colds, viruses, and infections more easily. In serious cases, diseases like diabetes can worsen, as well as liver, kidney, and heart problems.
4.) Financial Distress
In the midst of active addiction, finances almost always become an issue. The costs of substance abuse start to add up, leading people to ask for or borrow money.
The concept of enabling, especially as it relates to finances, is hugely important for families who are struggling with addiction to understand. To learn more, read our article: “How Do I Know If I’m Enabling?”
5.) Angry Outbursts
One second they’re a pleasure to be around; they next they’re nearly intolerable. Emotions will frequently swing up and down for someone who is struggling with addiction depending on how much of a substance they have in their system, their level of withdrawal, the severity of their hangover, etc.
The slightest mention that substance abuse may be a problem can cause an angry and or even violent reaction that’s totally out of character for them.
6.) Legal or Work Problems
Possession. DUI. These two legal issues represent paramount clues that addiction is present and needs to be addressed. They are opportunities for families to interrupt active addiction before things get any worse.
Poor performance at work can also be an important sign that addiction is starting to control someone’s life. If a person is constantly struggling to show up for work on time or missing days of work without an apparent reason, addiction is often to blame.