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How Do I Know If My Loved One Needs Help?

Often, family and friends wonder if a loved one needs help with an addiction. Thus, recognizing the signs of addiction can be vital to saving a life.

Recognizing If A Loved One Needs Help

Not all who use drugs become addicted, and addiction doesn’t always include the excessive consumption of an illicit substance. Consequently, it may be hard to determine whether or not a loved one needs help. Moreover, the signs and symptoms of addiction can vary from person to person. A person’s weight, lifestyle, genetics, and the substance they are addicted to can affect what symptoms they exhibit. Nonetheless, recognizing the signs of addiction can be vital to saving the life of a loved one.

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Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.

A substance use disorder (SUD) is characterized by a person’s addiction to drugs or alcohol and their inability to stop, despite the physical or social harm the addiction may cause. Many times, addiction begins with the recreational use of substances but turns into dependency as the body becomes reliant on the substance to function or feel normal. As an addiction continues and increases in severity, the toll of maintaining drug cravings will present itself in various ways.

Below are common physical symptoms and social signs to look for if you suspect a loved one needs help.

Physical Signs Your Loved One Needs Help With Addiction

High Tolerance

A sign of alcoholism in particular, an individual who needs to drink or use more and more to get the same effect is an indication of addiction.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Once someone with an addiction stops taking their substance of choice, symptoms of withdrawal may begin. These can be dangerous, even fatal, without medical supervision. Symptoms include mood swings, insomnia, inability to focus, bad temper, trembling, diarrhea, constipation, sweating, hallucinations, and seizures.

Red Eyes

Many illicit substances give people red eyes when taken, or in the absence of taking them.

Weight Loss

Changes in eating habits can lead to malnourishment and weight loss as the individual prioritizes drugs or alcohol over food.

Skin Problems

The abuse of substances like Meth or Crack Cocaine can leave an individual with rashes, scabs, or scarred skin (commonly self-inflicted). The effects of alcohol abuse can result in hepatitis and the yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes.

Strange Odors or Body Smells

New and unusual smells may be a sign of poor hygiene or the residue of a substance. Smoking Marijuana, as well as the production of Meth and Cocaine, produce strong, lingering odors.

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Social Signs Your Loved One Needs Help With Addiction

Disregarding Responsibilities or Routines

As drug or alcohol dependency grows, securing the next “hit” of a substance can be more important than everyday duties, like cleaning.

Neglecting Relationships

As their addiction worsens, individuals often neglect family and friends out of guilt or shame, or because they are too intoxicated. They are also more likely to spend time with others who are also abusing substances.

Taking Risks

Substance abuse is a risky behavior in itself; it often begets even riskier (or criminal) behavior like drunk driving, sharing needles, or stealing.

Legal problems

For people who haven’t faced much legal trouble, a sudden increase in tickets or court appearances can indicate a deeper problem.


Lying can be one of the surest ways for a loved one to detect that something is wrong. Those suffering from addiction may hurriedly change the topic when addiction is brought up, or directly lie about their whereabouts or activities to protect their substance abuse.

Financial issues

Addictions are costly to maintain. The cost of addiction for many substances can exceed a single-family income for a year. Continuously asking to borrow money, selling personal property, or sudden changes in finances could be signs of an addiction.

Mental Signs Your Loved One Needs Help With Addiction


The abuse of drugs and alcohol is often correlated with depressive disorders. If a loved one seems unable to shake off a low mood, or is no longer partaking in activities they once enjoyed, substance abuse could be the culprit.


Not only can abusing substances make the user feel stressed out, the symptoms of withdrawal can also manifest as anxiety. Users may also worry over how they’ll secure more of a given substance or have fears over being caught or punished for their use.

Low Self-Esteem

Having an addiction can severely impact one’s self-image. If a loved one seems to be showing signs of poor self-concept and low confidence, it could be because they’re grappling with an inner existential crisis caused by drug or alcohol addiction.


Drugs and alcohol can wreak havoc on a user’s brain and mood, resulting in frustration and even anger. If a loved one is flying into fits of rage, especially if this behavior is uncharacteristic, it could be a sign of substance abuse.

When Your Loved One Needs Help But Won’t Get It

Typically, an individual with a SUD can recognize the physical and social changes that imply they might have an addiction. Yet, it is the nature of addiction that prevents individuals from admitting their behavior to others or quitting. Outwardly, they will deny any symptoms of addiction and, instead, obsess over maintaining their substance supply. This is why it is so crucial for loved ones to not only be able to distinguish the signs of a possible addiction, but also reach out and make a change.

Get Help for Your Loved One Today

Recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction is possible for everyone. To learn more about addiction treatment options, contact a rehab provider today.

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