While we all lead busy lives, it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on around us. This is critical whether it is our own family members, friends, colleagues or employees. That’s because we might see the signs of addiction that someone may need our help but are too afraid to ask or admit that they are suffering with an addiction.

Often a person doesn’t ask for help because they can already see your indifference to them. They may already know you can’t or don’t want to see them. Too often when drunk driving accidents occur or an overdose happens, everyone is in shock. No one can believe the person they know and love was involved because they didn’t see the signs of addiction.

We can help stop many of the deadly events from happening to those we love and to any potential victims just by being more aware of the possible signs of addiction. Here are 10 warning signs of addiction:

1. A drastic change in appearance

These dramatic changes include drastic weight loss, strange smells on breath, dilated pupils and blood-shot eyes. This also includes a lack of hygiene where you can smell they haven’t showered or washed their clothes or brushed their teeth. But remember, the change does not have to be dramatic.

It may be long times of hair not being combed or fixed. This could be like hair left frizzy all the time now when it used to be smooth, or hair not dyed and fix on a previous schedule (if graying). Suddenly, they are not dressing well for work anymore. It’s the change that needs to be observed. If someone used to bring muffins in to the office every Monday morning for the last two years and suddenly they don’t anymore, something is wrong. Find out what it is.

2. A loss of interest in activities, including daily needs

This behavior includes losing interest in food, sleep, work, exercise and socialization. If a person starts to become antisocial, then this could mean they are depressed.

Push a little harder to get them to join in. Or, better yet, be available for them to talk to you. It’s much easier to help someone who is depressed before you see they are hiding something related to an addiction.

3. Forgetfulness or memory loss

All memory loss may need to be checked out even though it can relate to many thins. The forgetfulness or memory loss may not explainable because it relates to deep stress or some other factor (like depression). If the memory loss is combined with other signs on this list, it could be a sign of a drug or alcohol addiction.

Again, it is easier to help someone early on. Talk to them, ask questions, and listen to them before something more serious happens. Forgetfulness and memory loss are especially suspicious if a person starts having periods where they can’t remember where they were or what they were doing.

4. Solicitation for money or missing funds or belongings

If a person is regularly asking you for money and doesn’t have a specific reason or you realize that money or personal belongings have gone missing, then you might want to investigate further. When this behavior becomes apparent usually the trouble is already past a simple help. But, you can help. Immediately alert someone before this gets worse.

5. Secretive behavior

When they withdraw from you and their social circle plus stop sharing information about where they are going, what they are up to, and who they are with, you should have been talking to this person more. And, you should have been asking questions before it got to this point. But, it’s time to start asking questions anyway. This is when you need to start paying even more attention to find out why they are shutting people out.

6. Different friends and activities

A sign that there might be an addiction risk is when you notice that a person (especially if this is your child) has a whole new group of friends. Plus, they are doing different activities. While this may happen as a person grows and develops, there is also a possibility that they have found other people who are reinforcing or introducing a possible addictive substance.

In a situation where you are moving to a new area while the child is in junior high or high school, the illegal smokers, alcohol users, and illegal drug users are the welcoming committee. And, they are much kinder and accepting to all people.This will put your child in danger if they do not have a strong home support system.

7. A wide range of emotions

If you see that a person is beginning to have an increased number of outbursts, has become more irritable, or has wide, erratic mood swings, there could be a problem related to physical and mental withdrawals from drugs or alcohol when they are not being able to use at that moment. These problems can also appear as a result of their dependency on a substance. This range of emotions can also involve a roller coaster of energy. For example, the person is hyperactive one moment and lethargic the next.

Deanna Rampton relates the following story to illustrated this point: “Arriving late one night to stay with a friend, we came quietly in because it was 2 a.m. I noticed a light on in the garage. Assuming she had left it on by accident, I opened the door to turn off the light. There was her husband with his legs hooked up into the attic opening and he was doing curl-up/sit-ups as fast as anyone I have ever seen in my life. I stood there aghast. ‘Hi,’ he says cheerfully as he continues the sit-ups at the speed of light. A couple of clues here: It was 2 a.m. The sit ups were abnormally fast. He had a cheerful demeanor but was not stopping for a breath — or hug. Did I say two in the morning? I went in, unpacked a couple of things, washed my face and got ready for bed and read for a little while. I opened the garage door and there he still was doing sit ups – just as fast – he looked over at me and said, ‘Hi.'”

When you feel something strange — it is. This dearest of beloved persons died later of an overdose, but not before ruining many many lives, including children. I knew what it was then. I tried to get help from his family. No one would hear me. ‘Oh, it would not be him! He is too good and too kind.’ Are YOU listening when someone tells you something you don’t want to hear about your loved one, friend, or co-worker? If someone talks to you about your own loved one, please listen, watch, and, most importantly, act.

8. Unexplained health or medical concerns

Certain drugs begin to cause health or medical issues. For example, there might be  nosebleeds with cocaine (and a few other substances) and headaches with alcohol (and a few other substances. There are skin issues with meth (with meth the skin issues usually show up as a rash which those in the trade call “speed bumps.” Lots of cavities begin showing up. Other concerns might be the sudden appearance of tremors or seizures.

9. Paranoia or other behaviors associated with mental health issues

If a person starts to develop a sudden fear of others or starts talking about strange things that don’t make any sense, it’s important to address these situations quickly. While it’s possible they may be having mental health issues that were previously not seen, this is also a sign of certain drug use that impairs certain cognitive abilities that mimic mental health issues.

As quoted above, Deanna observed, “He asked me the next day to look at his rash to see what it might be. I gave my suggestion that he should probably see a physician (I knew a professional would recognize the rash).”  Later, that day he told his wife (who had been standing there when he asked me) that “I was being nosy and trying to trip him up. Feels weird, looks weird, sounds weird — may be paranoia.”

10. Disappearances

Disappearance relate to secretive behavior and anti-socialism. You may find that you suddenly can’t get a hold of a person for days. They stop texting or calling. Or, they don’t FB, Instagram or Snapchat after you have sent them a particularly wonderful meme. This might mean they are in hiding, ashamed, distressed, and depressed. If this happens, then it’s the time to find them before they get lost in their drug or alcohol abuse.

Many addicts begin to distance themselves from their loved ones or people they are living or working with. They do this on a physical level. It may involve opting to stay on the street, at someone else’s house, or with others that share their addiction. That sudden unreliability in a person could be a serious sign they need help.

Be Proactive About Signs of Addiction

If you see a few of these signs of addiction, it may be time to approach that person. Before staging an intervention to encourage them to seek treatment,  it’s a good idea to just talk to them one-on-one. Doing so may help to not scare them or make them run, shut-down, or feel like they are bad. Listen and don’t accuse them. Offer help, and there may be a better chance that they will open up with you rather than deny.

All help for a person in this situation requires action work. Stay involved and remain strong for them. There may be those that do not want your help, which means you may have to let go. If you don’t know any more about tough love other than the word, don’t mess with it. Seek a professional who can give you direction on how to apply it.

Do What You Can

What you can focus on is the fact that you took the time and tried to help. You don’t want that person to really have an excuse to give up – because they had no one. They have you. When that person you care about is ready to get help — truly, you are the one they will contact because they know you are the one who actually cared and reached out.

In the end, each person has to admit their own addiction and take responsibility for getting the help they need – but with your help – they don’t have to do it alone.


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Gloria Horsley

Dr. Gloria Horsley is an internationally known grief expert, psychotherapist, and bereaved parent. She started "Open to Hope" to help the millions in the world with grief. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Nurse Specialist, and has worked in the field of family therapy for over 20 years. Dr. Horsley hosts the syndicated internet radio show, The Grief Blog which is one of the top ranked shows on Health Voice America. She serves the Compassionate Friends in a number of roles including as a Board of Directors, chapter leader, workshop facilitator, and frequently serves as media spokesperson. Dr. Horsley is often called on to present seminars throughout the country. She has made appearances on numerous television and radio programs including "The Today Show," "Montel Williams," and "Sallie Jessie Raphael." In addition, she has authored a number of articles and written several books including Teen Grief Relief with Dr. Heidi Horlsey, and The In-Law Survival Guide.

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