Are you worried about someone in your life? Maybe you have a friend or a family member or even a coworker who seems to be acting in strange ways. Maybe they have suddenly become less reliable or more secretive or increasingly irritable. Maybe they have asked you for money but been vague about why they need it and when they will be able to pay it back. Maybe you have noticed a whiff of alcohol on their breath or an odd smell coming from their clothes.
What Should You Do?
There is a good chance you have tried to explain away any and all of these things. You don’t want to think something is amiss in your circle of friends, in your family, or on your work team. So, you doubt yourself. You think up possible explanations for things that don’t sit quite right with you. You may have considered asking others if they have noticed anything out of the ordinary. You might even convince yourself to talk with the person in question.
After all, if someone in your life is struggling with drugs or alcohol, you want to help, right? But it may seem impossible to confront the situation head-on. You don’t want to risk the relationship—especially if you are wrong. So what should you do?
It’s a fair question. Let’s start with identifying some of the signs that someone is struggling with a substance disorder. And then we’ll tackle the question of what to do about it.
Spotting Problems with Substances: What to Watch For
Unfortunately, short of seeing the person use drugs or alcohol right in front you, there is not a definitive way to identify when someone you know is battling a substance use disorder. The signs vary and can be tough to spot—and it can be quite difficult to determine whether a particular symptom or sign is due to drug/alcohol use or a result of some other stressor (or stressors) in an individual’s life.
Physical signs of a drug or alcohol issue may include significant changes in weight (gain or loss), a reduced appetite, challenges sleeping, slurred speech, reduced coordination, involuntary shaking, unusually dilated or constricted pupils, bloodshot eyes, and/or a sudden and marked change in hygiene practices.
Similarly, a number of psychological and behavioral signs can point toward a problem with drugs or alcohol. These might include sudden mood swings, reduced motivation and attention to responsibilities, hyperactivity, unexplained anxiety, legal and financial issues, increased conflict in relationships or a change in social circle, and/or increased risk taking.
You may also be aware of a person’s family history related to substance use disorders. Or you may notice an increased tolerance for alcohol or drugs—leading to noticeably increased intake.
Maybe you’ve gone through this list and you’re pretty sure your friend, family member, or coworker is using drugs or alcohol. The next step? Having a conversation—even though it might be hard.
Overcoming Reluctance to Speak Up: How to Get Started
Your reluctance is understandable. You don’t want to be wrong. You’ll be embarrassed, and the person you are talking to will be offended or angry. It probably wouldn’t be too hard to convince yourself you’ve got everything all wrong.
But there’s the thing: even if you are wrong about a potential substance use disorder, you still may be helping someone. After all, the signs we have noted could be connected to a number of other issues, including everything from puberty to an untreated to mental health disorder, from increased stress at work or home to traumatic events. A person struggling with any of those things may truly benefit from a conversation with someone who is concerned about them.
With that in mind, gather your courage and make a start. Note the changes or issues you have noticed lately in a calm, nonjudgmental tone. Be clear that you are concerned and want to help if you can.
Ideally, the person you are talking with will understand your motives and appreciate your concern. Maybe they will be relieved to have someone to unburden themselves to. Alternately, you might be met with denial and anger. But even if that is the case, it is possible you have done something truly important: encouraged someone to take stock of their own situation and consider making a change.
If you remain concerned over time, you may need to have a second conversation, get more people involved, or even hire a trained interventionist. Ideally, the person about whom you are concerned will decide to seek help well before they hit what is commonly known as “rock bottom.” And once they have made that decision, it is time to find a treatment center.
We Are Ready to Help
It might not be easy to talk to someone in your life about their substance use disorder, but it is important. And once they acknowledge that drugs or alcohol are a problem in their life, it is essential to find the right resources for them to get help—including a treatment center like French Creek Recovery Center. With a commitment to compassionate, personalized care that extends beyond a person’s residential treatment, French Creek Recovery Center helps individuals put their lives back together and gives them the resources and confidence needed to start their recovery journey off on the right foot. If you can help them see the problem, we can help them solve it.