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Spotting the Behavioral Signs of Drug Addiction

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Behavioral signs of drug addiction
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Millions of Americans live with addiction, and millions more love someone who does. It can be hard to watch someone you care about as they submit to their addiction and suffer the devastating consequences that come along with this condition. Addiction does not simply affect a person’s physical health. It can wreak havoc on their mental health, financial stability, and social life. These behavioral signs of addiction can make it hard to function in daily life and keeps people from accomplishing their goals.

Most people want to help a loved one who lives with addiction, but it can be difficult to know where to start. The topic of addiction can be emotional and it might feel hard to know how to talk about it.

The first step to helping someone struggling with an addiction is to recognize that there is a problem. Many people in the throes of addiction may not be able to identify there is a problem, or may not know what to do if they are aware of their addiction. In many cases, an intervention from concerned friends and family can push people to get the life-saving treatment they need.

How to Recognize Behavioral Signs of Addiction

Addiction has physical symptoms and behavioral ones. Some of the behavioral signs of addiction include:

  • Mood changes: Someone who is generally even-tempered might suddenly be irritable. A person who usually has a lot of drive and energy may appear lethargic or drowsy.
  • Changes in activity: Your loved one may stop doing daily chores, including taking care of their personal hygiene. They may fall behind at work or school, or fail to contribute to the household or community.
  • Changes in sleep: The person may sleep a lot or go long periods without sleep. They may appear sleepy all the time.
  • Lying: Someone who used to be trustworthy may be caught in lies about where they are, who they are seeing, and where money is going. They may also be involved in illegal activity.
  • Isolating: People struggling with addiction often begin to spend less time with others or change their social circle completely.
  • Loss of coordination: They may appear clumsy or uncoordinated, or have slurred speech.

One of the biggest indications of addiction is that the person goes through a drastic change of some sort. It could be a change to their mood, a major change to their appearance–such as a significant weight loss in a short period–or a change in their personality or character.

Early Behavioral Signs of Addiction

Most people become addicted to drugs or alcohol after starting to use these substances to self-medicate, or recreationally. The earlier you can recognize behavior that indicates addiction, the sooner you can intervene and get your loved one the help they need. Some early behaviors that might suggest someone is in the early stages of addiction include:

  • Using substances after a traumatic event: If someone begins drinking or using drugs after the death of a loved one, an assault or violation, or another major loss, they may be attempting to numb the pain of trauma. Without getting the help they need to manage their difficult emotions, they may continue to rely on drugs or alcohol. This can quickly turn into a physical dependence or addiction.
  • Needing substances to socialize: You might notice your loved one using drugs and alcohol to feel more comfortable in social situations, and then more often to get through daily social interactions.
  • Only spending time with people who are using substances: If your loved one begins to pull away from old friends and start spending time only with others who are using drugs or drinking, it could indicate an unhealthy relationship with substances.
  • Hiding their drinking/substance abuse: Someone might have shame about their drinking or drug before losing control of it. They may attempt to hide how much or how often they drink or use drugs. You might recognize that they are drinking more than they say or find evidence that shows they use or drink more than you previously thought.
Behavioral signs

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What to Do If You Notice Behavioral Signs of Addiction

First, it is important to stay calm and avoid blaming or shaming your loved ones about their substance use. Doing so would probably result in them pulling away from you or hiding their behavior even more.

First, find a time when you can talk calmly to your loved one about what you’ve noticed. Listen to what they say and offer support if they open up to you. Offer to help them find the treatment they need.

Many family members or concerned friends stage an intervention for someone who is struggling with addiction. This involves a group of the person’s loved ones gathering together to tell the person how their addiction has affected each of them. An intervention usually focuses on asking the person to enter treatment immediately. Friends and family members can plan an intervention on their own or hire a professional interventionist to support them through the process.

Find Help for Yourself or a Loved One

If you or someone you love requires treatment for addiction or support at any stage of recovery, reach out to the staff at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment. At Woburn, we believe that anyone can recover from addiction if they get the right help. That is why we offer a range of addiction treatment programs that can be tailored to meet your unique needs.

If you need life-saving addiction treatment, don’t wait another day. Call us today to speak with one of our admissions counselors.

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Medically Reviewed By

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC Clinical Director
Learn about Inessa Maloney

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC has been dedicated to the mental health and substance abuse field for a decade, providing her expertise to guarantee quality and accuracy.

  • Specializes in outpatient services with a focus on substance abuse
  • Expertise in reality-based therapy, CBT/DBT, and motivational interviewing
  • Holds a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling
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