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Identifying Drug Use in a Friend or Family Member

Although it affects millions of American families, drug use rarely fits the picture portrayed in movies and television. It’s easy to think that all users are violent, erratic or visibly out-of-control. The truth is many people suffer in silence, putting up a normal face to the world as their condition comes secretly to take over their lives.

As with any disease, the key to successfully treating Substance Use Disorder is to identify it early. For friends and relatives, this can lead to uncomfortable confrontation, particularly when the evidence of a problem isn’t obvious or stereotypical. And while it can be difficult to step in, it’s a risk that’s worth taking.

To better prepare you to have that conversation, we’ve put together a list of some of the most common early signs of drug use.

Changes in Behavior

Behavioral changes associated with drug use can be subtle. As a parent or partner, you are in a better position to notice them early — trust your gut and, if you suspect something is wrong, pay close attention for further evidence. Some things to look for include:

  • Mood swings, irritability or other personality changes. Intense high drugs like cocaine and ecstasy take an emotional toll on users — be aware if someone you care about starts acting noticeably different with no explanation.
  • Disturbed sleep and unpredictable routines. Most of us are creatures of habit. If a loved one starts sleeping less, leaving the house at odd times or missing work or school regularly — without offering a convincing explanation — it may be a sign of drug use.
  • Financial issues. Drugs are an expensive habit. As dependence increases, it will take a financial hold on the user. Be on the lookout for sudden unexplained bank withdrawals, frequent requests for loans or other suspicious behavior.

Physical Changes

In its later stages, a Substance Use Disorder will begin to show itself in unavoidable ways. Even if your partner or child is good at covering up their drug use, there are certain physical symptoms that cannot be hidden. These include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Scars or track marks on their arms

Physical symptoms will vary according to the type of drug, of course. The important thing is to be on the lookout for uncharacteristic, unexplained changes.

Getting Help

If you suspect someone you care about has a drug problem, 7 Summit Pathways can help. We specialize in compassionate, evidence-based treatment for all types of Substance Use Disorder, and offer extensive resources for friends and family members. Get in touch today to find out how to take the first steps — we ARE what works.