Pinpointing the signs of substance abuse can be difficult. The following list focuses on seven signs that can help identify when a loved one may be in need of inpatient addiction treatment and how you can get them the help that they need to live a life free from the dangerous effects of drugs and alcohol.
1. Changes In Physical Appearance
Physical changes will vary according to the substance the individual is abusing. Opiate abuse, for example, is associated with pinprick pupils while cocaine, crack, meth, and other stimulants lead to dilated pupils.
Track marks are an unmistakable sign that an individual is injecting drugs. Track marks look like tiny puncture marks along a vein, and they may be infected.
Multiple, unexplained bruises can also be a sign. Frequently, an individual will wear long-sleeved shirts to hide track marks and bruises, even when the weather is hot.
You may notice other physical signs as well when an individual is struggling with addiction:
- bad personal hygiene
- runny nose
- constant scratching
- scabs and sores on skin
- sudden weight loss
- slurred speech
2. Secretive Behavior
An individual grappling with a substance use disorder may not feel the need to hide their drug or alcohol use at first. They become more secretive about their substance abuse as their dependency strengthens.
Once they realize the full extent to which their lives have spiraled out of control, they’re hit with guilt and shame. This leads them to pull away from those previously close to them because they fear being judged.
Secretive behavior may be the most characteristic of all behaviors associated with addiction. Addicted individuals seek privacy in which to obtain and use drugs and will isolate themselves in order to conceal their substance abuse from discerning eyes.
When challenged about physical signs like track marks, they will often make up elaborate lies.
One of the ways that inpatient addiction treatment benefits addicted individuals is by teaching them how to be open and honest in their dealings with others again.
Rehab centers aim to help individuals bring their issues into the light so that the issues can be dealt with. Rehab programs focus on resocialization, which involves residents, staff members, and other members of the therapeutic community.
3. Personality Changes
Addiction causes measurable changes in the chemistry of the affected individual’s brain. Psychoactive substances such as heroin, opiates, crack cocaine, and meth flood the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with motivation and feelings of reward.
When the dopamine flood abates, the individual is left with an intense craving that can only be satiated by higher doses of the psychoactive substance.
Over time, the individual comes to prioritize taking the psychoactive substance over every other activity.
This can lead to personality changes that may include:
- decreased tolerance to stress
- acting out
- high-risk behaviors
These personality changes do not have to be permanent. Much of the work that goes on in rehab programs focuses on helping individuals reprioritize.
Inpatient addiction treatment helps individuals grappling with addiction identify and control situational triggers that may lead them to re-engage in high-risk behaviors that spur relapses.
4. Impaired Relationships
Secretive behaviors and associated personality changes often have a highly destructive effect on personal relationships. In the throes of addiction, substance-abusing individuals start to look at those around them as objects to be manipulated in the quest for drugs.
Lies will be told, and promises will be made and repeatedly broken. These behaviors can have a profound effect on the addicted individual’s loved ones who often start pulling back as a means of protecting themselves.
Once trust has been broken, it can be very difficult to reestablish. This is why addiction treatment often contains a family therapy component.
Even when spouses and family members understand that addiction is a disease, it’s hard not to take addicted individual’s behaviors personally. Rehab centers can be as healing for families as they are for individuals suffering from a substance use disorder.
5. Shirking Responsibilities
Absenteeism is another one of the cardinal signs of substance abuse. In teenagers, it can take the form of skipping classes, cutting school, and forging notes that will allow them to leave school early without parental knowledge.
In adults, it can take the form of absences from work without notification, unreliability in meeting deadlines, and an increase in mistakes and accidents. The economic impact of substance abuse amounts to $442 billion annually.
Early intervention and addiction treatment can be particularly beneficial for addicted individuals because it may be able to stop a downward professional spiral before their reputation is irreparably damaged.
6. Financial Issues
Addictions are expensive to maintain. As tolerance builds, it can be harder and harder for an individual to get high, which leads to spending more and more money on ever-increasing amounts of drugs.
Once those struggling with addiction deplete their own financial resources, they may borrow or even steal from others to support their habits. This further undermines these individuals’ relationships with their spouses, families, and friends.
While alcohol is legal, driving under the influence of alcohol is not. Both the economic costs and the opportunity costs of a DUI can be staggering. The expenses associated with an arrest for the possession of an illegal substance can be even higher.
7. Depression And Anxiety
Addicted individuals often express feelings of hopelessness and suicidal despair. In many instances, this is because addiction causes changes in the brain, which often lead to profound feelings of depression and anxiety when the euphoria of the drug wears off.
For some individuals, however, substance abuse may begin as a way of dealing with underlying mental health issues. Mental illness does not cause alcohol and drug addiction, but some mental illnesses, particularly depression and anxiety, can trigger the use of drugs and alcohol.
Inpatient addiction treatment programs have a medical component. Individuals referred to rehab centers undergo very extensive evaluations for depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.
If a condition is diagnosed, the physician in charge of the addiction treatment facility will customize a medical treatment plan to deal with that condition. Getting adequate treatment for an underlying condition can help safeguard an addicted individual against relapse.
Getting Individuals Struggling With Substance Abuse The Help They Need
Addiction is a chronic disease. That’s why inpatient rehab programs are the most effective way to help an individual stop using drugs, to make sure that individual remains drug-free and, most importantly, to help that individual lead a fulfilling, productive life.
Inpatient addiction treatment offers those struggling with substance abuse a safe environment far away from the stimuli that can trigger destructive behaviors. This is particularly important in the first 90 days of recovery.
The sooner the vicious cycle of addiction can be stopped, the more likely an addicted individual can recover. It’s important to recognize the signs of addiction so that your loved one can get the help they need as soon as possible.
If the signs listed here are familiar to you, contact one of our treatment specialists for more information about rehab programs or for assistance in finding the right treatment program for your loved one.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health