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How to Identify a Substance Use Disorder in a Friend or Family Member

Written By: Harris House

Category: Addiction, Blog

Father carrying a child on the beach.

Substance use disorder can occur in the best of families.

No one wants to think that a family member or close friend is suffering from a substance use disorder. However, this is very much the reality for millions of Americans. And the sooner the problem is brought into the light, the sooner your loved one can start on the path toward recovery. Which begs the question: What specific signs and symptoms should you be looking for if you suspect that someone in your life may have a substance use disorder?

Here’s a closer look at why the involvement of friends and family is important, along with what to look for when trying to determine whether a loved one has a potential problem with drugs or alcohol.

An Equal Opportunity Affliction

While some people are more at risk for substance use disorder than others, it’s important to remember that drug and alcohol addiction can strike people from all walks of life. In many cases, tolerance and dependence can happen so quickly that users themselves haven’t even realized that they’re afflicted. By that time, it’s often too late for people to help themselves.

This is one of the reasons substance use disorders are so insidious. It’s also one of the reasons friends and family members often play a vital role in the healing process, which cannot begin until the problem is acknowledged and addressed.

Substance Use Disorder Signs and Symptoms

Couple cuddling.

Substance use disorder can affect anyone, even close family members.

Substance use disorder is accompanied by a variety of signs and symptoms. These can be both physical and behavioral.

Physical symptoms typically manifest in changes to appearance, including the following:

  • Bloodshot and/or glazed eyes with dilated or constricted pupils
  • Sudden weight gain or weight loss
  • Changes to personal hygiene, such as wearing dirty or inappropriate clothing
  • Skin changes
  • Dental issues
  • Changes to sleep habits, including sleeping too little or too much

It’s important to note that these symptoms may vary depending on the substance and method used.

Conversely, behavioral symptoms refer to how a person acts as well as to their habits. These changes occur because many drugs impair the brain’s normal functioning, and may include the following:

  • Increased irritability and/or aggression
  • Chronic lateness and/or not showing up for personal and professional obligations
  • Lack of energy and/or lethargy
  • Depression
  • Socialization changes and/or changes in a person’s social network
  • Significant changes in priorities and/or habits
  • Defensiveness when a
  • Involvement in illegal activities, such as stealing and driving under the influence

One out of every twelve Americans has had a substance use disorder, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The takeaway? Not only is someone within your familial or social network likely to have a problem, but your intervention may be the key to helping them recover.

Another important part of the process? Finding the right addiction treatment program. Harris House is a leading alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in the St. Louis area for more than 50 years, Harris House offers individualized treatment programs designed to support addicts and their loved ones on the road to recovery.   Call us today to learn about admissions.

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