The signs of drug use can be subtle and creep up so slowly that it may be difficult to identify whether a loved one is in trouble. Addiction experts say that addiction typically begins with recreational use and then expands from there. Over time, in some people, what may appear to be a harmless behavior can progress into a regular and compulsive need for drugs or alcohol.
Complicating matters further for family and loved ones—hiding a drug or alcohol problem and/or denying there’s an issue are common behaviors among people with substance use disorders. In many cases, family and friends are left to suspect something is wrong but can’t put a finger on the precise cause. Meanwhile, it’s not long before the tragic consequences of a drug or alcohol addiction start to unfold, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
The good news is that there are a number of telltale warning signs that, once known, can help family members intervene before an addiction escalates. We’ve consulted a number of questionnaires and surveys that indicate warning signs during addiction. The quiz below is for anyone concerned about a loved one’s relationship to drugs and alcohol, who wants more clarity about whether their loved one may be struggling with addiction. Whether it’s a spouse, teenage child, or family member, we hope this quiz encourages you to consider their behaviors, and open up a line of dialog with them about your concerns.
Scoring for the test is based on how many signs of addiction you’ve seen and the severity of them. The quiz is not meant to be a diagnostic tool, as only a trained professional may provide that service. It is purely meant as a guide to encourage consideration of the potential warning signs you are facing. Your responses and the results of the quiz are a tool for you alone and will not be passed along to any database.
Understanding Why It’s Important to Look for Signs
There are many common ways that people hide a drug or alcohol problem. Someone who is struggling with addiction will go to any length to hide their addiction problem and its effects on their life. They will deny and downplay, all while hiding alcoholism or drug abuse. Many times the substance abuse will completely destroy their relationships and finances before anyone truly understands what is happening. This is why it’s helpful for friends and loved ones to know the signs of a hidden addiction.
Here are some signs of addiction to look for:
- Financial difficulties
- Secrecy or solitude
- Change in social circle
- Abandoning hobbies and activities
- Challenges in relationships
- Mood swings
- Changes in appetite
If you are noticing any of these signs, take the Signs of Addiction quiz above to score the degree of concern.
Statistics of Use
Drug and alcohol abuse are not as uncommon as many believe. Consider the following statistics when evaluating the seriousness of addiction:
- According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, approximately one in every 10 Americans is struggling with drug abuse.
- There are approximately 70,000 yearly drug overdose deaths in the U.S., with opioids accounting for the majority.
- More than 21 million people are reported to have a substance abuse issue, although less than 10 percent of them receive treatment.
- More than 90 percent of people with an addiction began consuming alcohol or using drugs before the age of 18.
- About 20 percent of people who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders develop a dependence on substances.
- Drug overdose deaths have more than tripled since 1990.
- Nearly 90 thousand people die as a result of alcohol every year in the U.S.
The statistics are staggering and indicate a serious cultural concern. If concerns about drug or alcohol abuse arise, take the Signs of Addiction quiz to confirm whether the issue is serious enough to seek professional help.
I Think My Loved One Has a Substance Use Issue. Now What?
Anyone who has ever loved someone struggling with an addiction has wondered what they can do to help— yet only rarely will an addicted person welcome an outstretched hand that offers help to seek treatment. It’s more often the case that an offer of help meets resistance, denial, and even anger. But don’t let this be cause for giving up on an addict. People with addictions who enjoy support from family and friends have a greater chance of overcoming addiction.
While it’s natural to feel sad and angry when a loved one destroys their life and health with drugs or alcohol, strive to refrain from threatening or criticizing. It is unrealistic to expect immediate change. People suffering from addiction will deny that they have a problem and they will resist changing their behaviors and actions.
Usually, they feel ashamed and disappointed in themselves, (although they may not admit it). There may be an underlying issue that’s feeding their addiction and that they are unwilling to discuss at this point. They may have reached a place of helplessness. Consider these pointers:
Many times trust has been broken between the person struggling with addiction and their loved one. The first step toward meaningful change is to re-establish trust. Avoid nagging or lecturing, as this erodes trust and confidence. Yelling and name-calling will also push the needle in the wrong direction when a person is trying to convince a loved one to seek help for addiction. Consistently communicate a willingness to support and help and use loving gestures and language.
Seek Help for Yourself
Engaging regularly with a person with an addiction can take a toll on mental health. Taking the steps to help a loved one through addiction is stressful and requires support and encouragement. Just as in an airplane, passengers are instructed to place oxygen on their faces first, loved ones of addicts must also prioritize self-care in order to be effective in their quest to help.
Practice Strong Communication
Although witnessing the adverse effects of addiction is a painful process, change is exclusively the choice of the person with the addiction. Change is more likely to occur when communication is open and honest. Refrain from making threats, criticizing and chastising.
Be Involved in Treatment
Once a loved one has agreed to treatment, remain involved. It may be tempting to think that the hard part is over, but in fact, it has just begun. While your loved one is in treatment, keep working to maintain trust and open communication. If your loved one identifies ways that you have contributed to their addiction, listen with an open mind and make any changes that may benefit the treatment process. It is also important to respect their privacy and refrain from discussing their treatment.
Witnessing the signs of addiction or abuse in a loved one can be devastating, but with prompt intervention, the right outreach, and professional medical treatment, you may be saving the life of someone you love.