Is a loved one showing signs of addiction this holiday season
Many people like to let loose
during the holiday season. Taking time off, seeing family
and friends, going to parties — these are all opportunities to have one drink
too many. But there's a difference between overindulging and alcohol misuse. If
you're concerned that a loved one might be showing signs of addiction, whether
to alcohol or drugs, you need to look at more than just one evening.
If you have never seen or experienced
addiction, you might be surprised at how different it can look in different
people. Successful professionals
can have serious drinking problems. College students with high GPAs can
have issues with stimulant misuse. If you're wondering whether someone close to
you has a substance
use disorder, it's important to put your preconceptions of addiction aside.
According to guidelines from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate drinking is defined as:
- One drink per day for women
- Two drinks per day for men
The CDC defines a drink as a
12-ounce beer or hard seltzer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce pour of
Heavy drinkers are defined as
women who have eight or more drinks and men who have 15 or more drinks per
week. Most heavy drinkers aren't addicted to alcohol. They're just drinking
more than is ideal for their health. However, people who drink heavily are at a
higher risk for developing alcohol use disorder over time.
Many legal substances can be
misused and lead to addiction. Medications to treat pain, anxiety, and
attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder can all be helpful tools for people
with various medical conditions. They can also be addictive when not used as
prescribed. While not addictive in the same way, medical marijuana (legal
in Ohio but not Indiana) can also be misused. "Recreational" use of
substances such as cocaine, hallucinogens, methamphetamine, and heroin is never
safe and can quickly lead to overuse and addiction.
Physical signs and symptoms of
drug or alcohol misuse or addiction might include:
- Bloating or weight gain
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Loud outbursts or laughter
- Sleepiness or frequent naps
- Slurred speech
- Smelling like alcohol
- Smelling like mints or mouthwash all the time
- Sniffling, runny nose
- Stumbling or lack of coordination
Withdrawal symptoms might indicate
a person is physically addicted to drugs or alcohol and can include:
- Acting anxious or depressed
- Extreme irritability
- Increased sweating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shaking or trembling hands
There are many signs of drug
misuse or addiction, and not every person with a problem will show all of them.
However, behavioral signs might be indicators that something is wrong, even if
you cannot pinpoint any physical indications. Signs of addiction can include:
- Acting unusually energetic or talking excessively fast
- Acting secretive (and not because they're trying not to reveal what's in a gift bag)
- Asking to borrow money for vague or unspecified reasons
- Avoiding close physical contact, such as hugs
- Changes in friends or social activities
- Eating less than unusual or nothing at all
- Increased tolerance to alcohol
- Issues with work performance
- Lying about consumption and other general dishonesty
- Making excuses to drink at inappropriate times (mimosas first thing in the morning, flasks at movies)
- Mood swings
- Poor hygiene
- Pressuring everyone else to drink so their use will be less noticeable
- Problems with anger or violence, especially if they have only suddenly become noticeable
- Reckless behaviors, such as unprotected sex
- Showing a lack of interest in activities or hobbies they typically enjoy
- Unusual sleep patterns
These aren't the only indicators
that something might be wrong. In general, however, changes in personality and
increasing personal problems are signs of substance misuse.
Most people with drug or alcohol
addiction don't start off as daily, heavy users. If you suspect a family member
might be struggling with substance abuse, you don't need to wait until they face
serious consequences to talk to them. While not everyone experiencing alcohol
or drug addiction is ready to seek help for their problem, discussing your
concerns can help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration recommends starting conversations with an open mind, rather than
staging an intervention. Try the following tips:
- Ask open-ended questions, such as, "What do you think might happen if you quit?" and "How would you like your life to be different?"
- Be supportive, not critical. Attacking people can shut them off from hearing what you have to say.
- Practice active listening. Repeat what the person says back to them, so they feel heard.
- Summarize your conversation with a potential action plan. Ask if you can help them investigate treatment program options or simply whether it's OK to follow up in a few weeks.
Keeping an open and nonjudgmental line of
communication can be crucial. Deciding to get help for addiction is often
a process, not something that occurs suddenly.
It can be hard to deal with a family member facing addiction. They might not be able to recognize the extent of their problem or how it affects the rest of the family. Recognize that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. Most people with substance use disorders can't stop on their own. If your loved one is severely addicted to alcohol, it can even be dangerous to stop, as alcohol withdrawal can cause seizures. Reid Health behavioral health professionals have the experience necessary to help your family member find a treatment option that works.
If you or a loved one is
struggling with addiction, Reid can help. Find a behavioral health provider with our outpatient