11 subtle warning signs that a loved one is struggling with substance abuse

 

Addiction is one of the least understood branches of psychiatry and is still largely a mystery in terms of its causes, as well as potentially effective treatments.

What modern research has made clear in recent years, however, is that addiction should be thought of as a disease – a medical problem and not a moral one.

Read Are South Africans at risk of having an ‘alcohol problem’?

The causes of addiction vary considerably and are often not fully understood. They are generally caused by a combination of physical, mental, circumstantial and emotional factors.

Everyone should educate themselves on the warning signs and symptoms of substance abuse. Remember, addiction can and does happen to anyone regardless of age, race, social status and income.

Here are a few of the most common signs of addiction to watch out for if you suspect someone close to you might be struggling.

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Commonly displaying glazed or bloodshot eyes, sometimes accompanied by changes in the size of the pupil due to constriction or dilation
  • Abrupt weight changes
  • Bruises, infections and scars on the skin, particularly on the face or in areas where intravenous drugs enter the body – the crooks of the elbows or on the feet, for example
  • Deterioration of physical appearance and personal grooming habits.

Behavioural symptoms can include:

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or in school
  • Sudden changes in sleep patterns
  • An unexplained need for money and eventually, serious financial problems, often accompanied by borrowing and stealing
  • Frequently getting into trouble including fights, accidents and trouble with the law.

Psychological symptoms can include:

  • Sudden or unexplained changes in personality and attitude
  • Mood swings, irritability or angry outbursts
  • Lethargy, depression and lack of motivation.

If there is someone close to you exhibiting some of the above warning signs, it is important to be tactful in your approach. It is vital to not come across as condescending and acknowledging that you have your own weaknesses will show that your concern is not a personal attack. It is important to come across as supportive and loving and never attempt to threaten, bribe, or lecture a person into changing their behaviour.

Edited by Stacey Woensdregt

Tell us about how you helped a loved one who may have experienced substance abuse on our WhatsApp group on 079 439 5345.

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