Casual substance use can escalate into a substance use disorder or an addiction more quickly than most people realize while it’s happening to them. When left untreated, drug or alcohol abuse will have detrimental effects on the body and mind that get worse over time.
When a drug or alcohol habit gets out of control, the effects are widespread. Typically, substance abuse impacts home, work, school and relationships to the point that daily life feels impossible. In order to avoid a catastrophic spiral in your life or the life of your loved one, look out for these early warning signs of substance use.
Substance Abuse Early Warning Signs
While there are several common early warning signs for substance use in general, each substance impacts the body differently and therefore will manifest in different ways. Here are some things to look out for if you suspect an addiction to alcohol:
- Not being able to recall events while drinking (also called blackouts);
- Repeated conflicts with family members, friends or co-workers;
- Recurring episodes of mood swings, depression or feeling irritable;
- Using alcohol on a regular basis to relax;
- Using alcohol to improve mood and sleep;
- Using alcohol to deal with problems or feel “normal”;
- Having troublesome physical symptoms like headaches, anxiety, sleeplessness or stomach issues when not drinking;
- Having a red-faced and ruddy complexion (which is caused by broken capillaries on the face);
- Trembling hands;
- Bloody or black and tarry stools, vomiting blood or frequent diarrhea;
- Bloodshot eyes, pinpoint or enlarged pupils;
- Nosebleeds that could be caused by snorting drugs;
- Appetite or sleeping pattern changes;
- Sudden weight loss or gain;
- Deterioration of personal grooming habits;
- Loss of coordination resulting in unexplained injuries, accidents or visible bruising;
- Unusual odors on breath, person or clothes;
- Shakiness, trembling, incoherent or slurred speech;
- Drinking alone or drinking in secret.
Early warning signs of an addiction are intense. While a person may not present with every single sign listed above, they will be struggling with enough of them that it is noticeable to a friend or family member.
It’s important to note that for any type of addiction, early warning signs are not better attributed to another medical condition. For example, someone who has been diagnosed with cancer and drinks will also experience aches and pains, vomiting, feeling irritable, etc. However, these symptoms may be a result of the illness rather than substance use. In these scenarios, a professional opinion should be sought.
Early Warning Signs in Lifestyle Patterns
Some of the signs and symptoms of an addiction are more clear-cut than others. While it might be easier to notice the impact of the substances on a person’s body, it can be harder to see how these symptoms are causing ripple effects in that individual’s life. Here are some lifestyle changes to be on watch for:
- Performance in school or work has be negatively affected;
- Responsibilities at home are being neglected;
- The substance use addiction is resulting in dangerous or high-risk behaviors such as driving under the influence, using unclean needles, promiscuity or stealing to obtain the substance;
- Legal problems like DUI arrests, disorderly conduct and so on;
- Secretive behavior;
- No longer participating in extracurricular activities, hobbies, sports or exercise;
- Missing prescription drugs;
- Constantly borrowing money;
- Fixation with music and clothing related to drugs or alcohol;
- Increasing conflicts in relationships such as arguments with co-workers or family.
Assuming your loved one is struggling with substance use based solely on the above lifestyle signs is never a good idea. However, coupled with substance abuse early warning signs it’s a stronger case. If you are worried that your loved one is struggling with a substance use addiction, it’s time for a conversation about starting treatment.
What to Do When You Notice Substance Use Early Warning Signs
Nothing is scarier that seeing early warning signs of substance abuse in a friend or family member. Thankfully, identifying these tell-tale warning signs can help you out. Moreover, any behavior that seems abnormal even if it’s not listed here is cause to address the topic with your loved one.
Once you’ve identified early warning signs of addiction, the next step you’ll want to take it to have a conversation about it with your loved one. While there’s no perfect thing to say, you’ll want to hit on two major points.
- I’m here for you;
- Getting professional treatment is urgent.
While responses may vary, remember that it’s not up to you to get your loved one into treatment. That is a decision only that individual can make. However, you can encourage and support treatment every step of the way.
Getting Help for Substance Abuse
As a parent, family member, friend or coworker, it’s difficult to watch substance abuse problems damage a person you care about. Thankfully, you can pay attention to early warning signs of substance use so that you’re equipped to take the next step in helping your loved one find healing.
At Rehab After Work you or a loved one can get the best intervention available. With a variety of programs and flexible schedule, you’re sure to find something that fits your needs. Get connected today.