When left untreated, substance abuse can wreak havoc on a person’s life. This makes it all the more important to take notice when a friend or family member develops a problem, as you may need to intervene to hopefully convince them to get the help they need.
While substance abuse is sometimes obvious, it’s easy to overlook red flags just because you don’t want to believe it. If you suspect that someone you know may be abusing alcohol or drugs, here are the four most common signs to look out for.
They Are Using the Substance More and More
Substance use is almost always something that gradually spirals out of control. No one starts out drinking a bottle of vodka or taking 20 Vicodin pills every day. They begin with smaller amounts, and as they get used to their substance of choice, they need more to feel the same effects.
Eventually, it gets to the point where use has turned into addiction. The user must then continue taking the substance simply to feel normal.
If you’ve noticed a person increasing their usage, either through higher amounts or more frequent use, that’s a key indicator of addiction. You’ll obviously only spot this if they use the substance around you, but even if they don’t, you can often tell that they’re using because of their actions. For example, if they are always going somewhere private while you’re hanging out, they could be doing so to use.
They’re Hanging Out with New People or Isolating Themselves
Substance abuse often involves changes in a person’s social life, and it can manifest itself in two ways.
The first is when the person starts spending more time with a new crowd. It’s natural for addicts to hang out with other addicts, and if you notice that the person you know has built some unhealthy relationships recently, then that’s a red flag.
Addicts may also isolate themselves from their friends and family. This can be due to the shame of what they’re doing, and because they don’t want to get caught. Or, it could simply be because they want to keep using and can’t do that while they’re with those people.
They’re Becoming Irresponsible and Unreliable
When a person is in the early stages of substance abuse, they may be able to balance everything and keep their life running relatively normally. Despite what’s wrong, they can still work and fulfill any familial obligations.
This doesn’t last forever, though. Over time, the desire to use alcohol or drugs will override just about everything else in the addict’s life. They’ll start to put using ahead of all their other responsibilities in life. That could mean that they show up to work late or don’t show up at all, or that they stop taking care of their family. If they have a significant other, they will likely neglect that person because they’re too focused on using.
They’re Exhibiting Reckless Behaviors
This ties into what was mentioned above about the substance being more important to an addict than anything else, including their own health. Addicts are far more likely to engage in risky behaviors, in large part because the substance use has affected their decision-making skills.
One of the most common warning signs you’ll see here is when a person drives under the influence, which is a sure sign that they have a problem. Another common problem is when the person goes to work or school after using.
Addicts also tend to be reckless with their finances. At first, they’ll just spend disposable income on their substance of choice. Eventually, they’ll progress to using all their money, and often other people’s money, on a fix.
The worst thing you can do is ignore a warning sign of a person’s substance abuse problem. The sooner you catch the problem, the easier it is to help them solve it. Keep an eye out for those common signs if you feel a loved one may have developed an addiction.