Addiction is a destructive force that takes a huge toll on individuals and society. It can cause personal suffering, lost productivity, and emotional toil for family members, friends, and other loved ones. In 2019, around 35.8 million adults in the United States used an illicit substance, and around 20.4 million had a substance use disorder (SUD).
Luckily, you can prevent and treat addiction. Whether someone has just started using drugs or is already addicted to a substance, intervening can be key to their recovery. As a friend or loved one, you can help them make changes to their behavior and lifestyle and encourage them to seek professional support.
The sooner you can talk to someone about their drug use, the better. Unfortunately, people often try to hide their substance abuse and harmful habits. They may be afraid of the social stigma, the legal consequences, or feel shame about their behavior.
People using substances do, however, typically exhibit visible symptoms. If you know what you are looking for, you can often spot the signs of drug use and intervene before the problem intensifies further. Here are a few signs to watch out for.
Pinprick pupils happen when the black part of the eye becomes smaller than usual - often to the size of a pinprick. It can happen as a result of increased light, certain medicines, and taking certain drugs. If you notice your loved one has pinprick pupils without changes in lighting, it may be a sign of drug use.
Pinprick pupils can be an effect of any substance that slows the body and brain down. The most common of these are sedatives like opioids or benzodiazepines. These include:
Unexplained Behavioral Changes
Unexplained changes in mood or behavior can also be symptoms of drug use. If a loved one suddenly starts behaving differently without explanation, it could be because they are abusing a substance. They might act withdrawn, depressed, exhausted, or hostile.
Drug use can also cause rapid changes in mood, and users can suddenly become very angry, very upset, or completely euphoric. These extreme mood swings may happen under the influence of the drug itself, as a withdrawal symptom, or as a result of a condition that develops from drug use like depression. Mood swings can result from a range of substances, including stimulants, benzos, alcohol, and opiates.
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Addiction is a disorder characterized by the compulsive seeking or using a drug regardless of its negative consequences. As someone becomes physically dependent or addicted to a substance, they often begin to seek it in higher doses or more frequently. Maintaining a habit is expensive, and this may leave the drug user lacking in money for necessities, in debt, or struggling with other financial problems.
A loved one may continue to misuse drugs despite the financial difficulties it causes. If your loved one has unexplained financial problems that they seem unable or unwilling to solve, it could be a sign of drug abuse.
Drug misuse often comes with feelings of shame. If your loved one is using drugs, they may try to hide it from you and friends and family members. This may result in unexplained disappearances while they are acquiring drugs, taking drugs, and recovering from their effects. Depending on the type of drug and how it is being used, these disappearances can last from a few hours to several days.
Of course, it is normal for your loved one to want to spend some time alone; however, if they are regularly going off by themselves and are unable to offer convincing explanations for where they’ve gone, it may be a symptom of drug use.
If you are worried that your loved one is using drugs, find a quiet moment and talk to them about it. Let them know you are not there to judge them; you just want to help. Communicating with care and compassion encourages your loved one to speak openly and honestly, and if they are abusing drugs, you can help them access the support they need.