A substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex condition that can influence almost every aspect of a person’s life, but recognizing a loved one’s “off” behavior early on can be difficult. A SUD is usually a hidden problem, and refusal to acknowledge it can keep an individual in their cycle of usage longer. Twenty-three million Americans are currently using alcohol and or other drugs, but only one in ten of them (2.6 million) receive treatment. That leaves many people struggling with a substance use disorder who are not receiving help.
It is never easy to consider that your spouse, child or loved one may have a SUD. You may have noticed or dismissed behavioral changes in the past or perhaps even suspected they had a problem, but you were unsure exactly what to look for. There are various warning signs to tell if someone has a SUD.
#1. Experiencing Sudden Mood Swings, Irritability or Angry Outbursts
Mood swings are a common symptom for many people suffering from SUD. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, chemicals impact the brain, and substances impair the way people think and make decisions; therefore, it is harder for someone with a substance problem to reason or control their impulses. You may even notice your loved one lashing out when questioned about possible substance use.
Signs of mood swings your loved one might have include:
- Angry outbursts
- Being more volatile
- Being unpredictable
- Feeling more melancholy and depressed
- Feeling lethargic
- Experiencing paranoia
- Being inattentive
#2. Engaging in Secretive or Suspicious Behaviors
Many people who struggle with a substance use disorder strive to keep their usage a secret. They could be experiencing feelings of shame, worrying you may disapprove, contemplating legal consequences, or they could be concerned about the negative stigma associated with addiction.
Secretive or suspicious behaviors your loved one might exhibit include:
- Hiding where they are or who they are with
- Making unexplained phone calls
- Making unexplained cash withdrawals
- Having unexplained injuries
- Concealing their phone
- Concealing their computer screen
#3. Experiencing Sudden Physical Changes
Substance use can alter your loved one’s appearance. These physical changes will become more noticeable to you and others as it continues. Drug and alcohol use can also negatively impact the immune system, leading to contracting more illnesses.
Common physical changes your loved one might have include:
- Bloodshot eyes and abnormally sized pupils
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Deterioration of physical appearance
- Unusual smells on breath, body or clothing
- Tremors, slurred speech or impaired coordination
#4. Experiencing Financial Problems or Needing Money Unexpectedly
While many people experience financial hardship at some point in their lives, substance use is expensive and impacts one’s finances. If you notice that your loved one is experiencing sudden, unexplainable financial issues, they may be dealing with a SUD. The economic burden of a SUD is one of many reasons why treatment should be sought out.
Examples of financial problems your loved one might have include:
- Not explaining certain cash withdrawals
- Creating a new bank or online account
- Not paying bills
- Frequently asking to borrow money
- Taking or stealing money
- Spending money rapidly
#5. Experiencing a Sudden Change in Friends, Favorite Hangouts and Hobbies
Isolation is one of the most significant factors working against recovery. Your loved one could be afraid of failure, vulnerability, what people think about them, and again, the negative stigma associated with substance use. This could cause them to begin removing or minimizing their social interactions with others.
Signs your loved one may be starting to withdrawal socially include:
- Withdrawing from family members
- Ignoring old friends
- Lack of interest in favorite hobbies
- Lack of interest in former hangouts
Helping Your Loved One Overcome a Substance Use Disorder
First and foremost, it is imperative to recognize and admit the problem. The next step is to seek out help and guidance. Many treatment options are available, but you need to find the best alternative for your loved one.
Treatment options can span from seeking a medical professional for a precise diagnosis, residential treatment, therapies, counseling and more. However, initially setting up an appointment with a medical professional to conduct a proper screening is a valuable option to confirm your suspicions of drug or alcohol usage.
Check out these tips to provide help for your loved one:
- Write in a journal. Record your loved one’s unusual behavior, like leaving a job and skipping classes, experiencing significant mood swings, etc. Keeping a log of their suspicious activity will verify their behavior and actions. If you suspect a problem, it is best to accumulate as much information as possible before talking with your loved one.
- Trust yourself. While your loved one may be in denial, you might know there is an issue. Listen to your instincts and seek out a medical professional for further assistance.
- Be aware of suicidal tendencies. Withdrawal symptoms from stopping drug or alcohol use can leave your loved one with dangerous side effects. If you find out your loved one is contemplating, planning, or attempting suicide, call 911 immediately. Your loved one should be medically monitored and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Remember, a SUD is a disease of the brain. Many believe in the negative stigma associated with a SUD. Substance use disorder is a condition your loved one needs to learn to manage by setting boundaries and standing by them.
- Encouragement. Encourage your loved one to seek help. Do some research to provide them with local treatment options. Be supportive but do not make excuses for them. Be optimistic about their journey through recovery and provide them with support along their journey.
We are Here to Help Those Struggling With a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) | Seneca Health Services
Are you or someone you care about struggling with mental health or a SUD? Seneca Health Services is here to help. We are passionate about providing accessible, affordable services to adults, children and adolescents with a mental illness, a developmental disability or a SUD.
If you choose to receive treatment from Seneca Health Services, our team of psychiatrists, social workers, therapists, nurses, case managers and other professional staff will work with you to ensure the specialized treatment you receive meets your individual needs and goals. If you or someone you know needs help, please do not hesitate to contact the Seneca office nearest to you or use the link provided here.
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