From the Desk of Rudy L. Troyer, LCSW

It is oftentimes difficult for family members to identify signs that a loved one is abusing alcohol or drugs. There are various factors that attribute to this difficulty, the main one being denial. The term denial is frequently belabored into (or more appropriately out of) clients who are in treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism. Simply stated, denial is an inability (whether conscious or subconscious) to see reality as it really is. For the addicted person, it may sound like: “Depression is really my problem, not the booze or the cocaine,” or “You’re overreacting, it’s perfectly reasonable to enjoy drinking.”

Unfortunately, denial does not stop with the addicted person, it usually severely affects the family as well. We are all wired to want to believe that the people we love are okay, if this weren’t so, we’d fall apart with anxiety. Addiction and alcoholism hijack this tendency to the point where the family can become blind (either consciously or subconsciously) to the real problem.

Below is a list of common signs, symptoms, and risk factors that are typically associated with someone who is abusing alcohol or drugs:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Missing work or school
  • Often sick with flu-like symptoms (this could be a sign of pain pill or heroin withdrawal)
  • Dilated pupils or bloodshot eyes
  • A sharp change in demeanor or personality
  • Withdrawal from hobbies, interests, or life passions
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased anxiety or depression
  • A sharp change in sleep patterns (either increased or decreased, depending on the type of substance)
  • A refusal to take an alcohol or drug screen
  • Legal charges (DWI or Possession)
  • Inability to account for changes in spending habits
  • Stealing
  • Elevated liver enzymes (alcohol)
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Having Blackouts
  • Track marks
  • Finding drug paraphernalia (pipes, rolling papers, straws cut in half, scales, etc.)
  • Traditional therapy and medication management not being effective for mental health symptoms
  • A family history of addiction or alcoholism
  • A history of trauma
  • A history of social problems, low self-esteem
  • Friends, other family members, or co-workers voicing concern about the person’s alcohol or substance use
  • Decrease in work or academic performance
  • The person’s life starts to “revolve” around alcohol or substance use
  • Finding drugs or alcohol that the person has hidden
  • Re-currently catching the person in lies.

This list is not exhaustive. If you feel a loved one has a problem with alcohol or drugs, please call for help!