Does someone you love have a drug problem? Whether it’s illegal substances or prescription medication, you can’t force anyone to stop abusing drugs. But there are ways to support their recovery.
The effects of drug abuse and addiction on family and friends
Witnessing someone you care about battle a substance use disorder can be extremely distressing and take a heavy toll on your own mental and emotional well-being. Whether the drug abuser is a close friend, spouse, parent, child, or other family member, it’s easy for their addiction to take over your life. It can pile stress upon stress, test your patience, strain your bank balance, and leave you racked by feelings of guilt, shame, anger, fear, frustration, and sadness.
You may worry about where your loved one is at any given time, their risk of overdosing, or the damage they’re doing to their health, future, and home life. You may be in debt from paying their living expenses, the cost of legal troubles resulting from their drug abuse, or from failed attempts at rehab and recovery. You may also be worn down by covering for your loved one at home or work, having to shoulder the responsibilities they neglect, or being unable to devote more time to other family, friends, and interests in your life.
As despairing as you may feel, you’re not alone in your struggle. A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 found that nearly half of Americans have a family member or close friend who’s been addicted to drugs. Across the Western world, the abuse of prescription pain relievers and tranquillizers has skyrocketed in recent years, creating a public health crisis. (Along with marijuana, they’re now among the most frequently abused drugs.)
Whether the problem is with recreational drugs or prescription medications, drug abuse and addiction can affect people from all walks of life, wrecking families, tearing relationships apart, and destroying lives. But there is help available. While you can’t force someone to tackle their addiction, your love, support, and patience can play a vital part in their recovery. With these guidelines, you can learn to support your loved one’s efforts, set the necessary boundaries to preserve your own health and welfare, and find some stability for both yourself and your loved one.
Understanding your loved one’s substance abuse
People start using drugs for a lot of different reasons. Many turn to substances to cope with the emotional pain of a mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Known as self-medicating, some people may be aware they have a mental health issue but are unable to find healthier ways of coping, while others remain undiagnosed and use drugs to manage specific symptoms.
Other people turn to drugs to change how they feel, to fit in, or to alleviate boredom or dissatisfaction with their lives. Then there are those whose substance abuse develops from a doctor’s well-intentioned efforts to treat a medical condition. Of all the people prescribed opioids to relieve pain, for example, estimates suggest that more than a quarter will end up misusing the drug.
Whatever your loved one’s reason for starting, though, not everyone who uses drugs develops a problem. While the exact causes of addiction aren’t clear, genetics likely plays a role, along with environmental factors. While one person is able to use substances without detrimental effects, another finds even casual use quickly escalates into compulsion and addiction—a very dark hole from which they can feel powerless to emerge.
Recognizing drug abuse in a loved one
It’s not always easy to recognize if a loved one is abusing drugs. In teens, for example, drug abuse can often resemble normal adolescent moodiness. Furthermore, there’s no specific amount or frequency of use that indicates someone’s drug use has become a cause for concern. Whether your loved one is using every day or every month, it’s the adverse impact their drug abuse has on their life that indicates a problem.
Signs your loved one may have a substance use disorder include:
Experiencing problems at work, school, or home. They appear high more often, for example, and take more days away from work or school to compensate. Their work performance or school grades suffer, they neglect their responsibilities at home, and encounter more and more relationship difficulties. They may even lose their job, drop out of school, or separate from a long-term partner.
New health issues, such as changes in sleep schedule, often appearing fatigued or run-down, pronounced weight loss or weight gain, glassy or bloodshot eyes, and forgetfulness or other cognition problems. Depending on the type of drug they’re abusing, they may also exhibit frequent sniffing, nosebleeds, or shaking.
Changes in their mood and behavior. Your loved one may be more secretive and lie about what they’re doing, where they’re going, or how much they’re using. They may be quick to anger or lash out, especially if you try to talk to them about their drug use. Heavy drug users often lose interest in old hobbies, lack energy, and become more moody, withdrawn, and sad. They may even neglect their appearance and personal hygiene, and suffer withdrawal symptoms if deprived of their drug of choice.
Recurring financial problems. Your loved one may run up credit card debt to support their drug use, seek loans, or ask to borrow money without any solid reason. They may even steal money or valuables to sell for drugs.
Everyone who chooses to seek help for drug addiction does it for their own reason. GetOffDrugs.com can help them identify that reason and find solutions that actually work using the latest in virtual counseling. Call 855-942-3433 to learn more and begin the path to recovery.