Many families find themselves in a situation where they feel that one of their loved ones may have a problem with substance abuse but are unsure about the reality of the situation. This can be a scary time as the family may have strong suspicions that something is drastically wrong, but they don’t know exactly what that is. It can often be difficult for families to accept that fact that their loved one may have a substance abuse problem, but there are certain signs that you can look out for which are strong indicators that substance abuse may be an issue.

While these signs and behaviors do not mean that your loved one definitely has a substance abuse problem, they are good indicators that your family member may need help. While any one of these warning signs can be explained by issues other than substance abuse, if your loved one is struggling with many or all of them then the likelihood that they have a problem is quite significant.

  1. Withdrawing from family and friends: If you notice your loved one distancing themselves from their family or friends this can be a cause for concern. Often times people who are struggling with substance abuse will harbor feelings of guilt and shame that they associate with their drug use, causing them to pull away from their family and friends. If you have a loved one who is normally very social and suddenly begins to pull away from their close relationships, this could be a warning sign for substance abuse.
  2. Financial problems: Substance abuse can be a significant contributor to financial problems. If your family member is showing signs of financial difficulties then substance abuse may be a possible cause. Clear signs of this are when they are asking multiple family members for loans on a regular basis or are having trouble paying things like rent. While this doesn’t always mean someone is using drugs or alcohol, it is a very common issue for those with substance abuse.
  3. Lack of motivation: Noticing that a family member is no longer motivated or taking interest in the things they normally liked is one of the most common first signs of substance abuse. This may at first seem like something as simple as your loved one having a “bad week” or a “bad month” but as time continues on these feelings can continue to worsen. Things like being unemployed with no ambition or drive to look for a job or staying in the house for days at a time are usually telltale signs that something is wrong.
  4. Sudden physical changes: Substance abuse can lead to significant physical changes as well. While this may not be one of the first signs that your loved one may be struggling with substance abuse, by the time they start to show signs of things like excessive weight loss or other physical illness it is a pretty good indicator that something is seriously wrong. Drugs and alcohol can have seriously negative impacts on a person’s physical health and these changes are often the most recognizable signs of substance abuse in people that are close to you.
  5. Rapid changes in behavior/emotions: Rapid mood swings or drastically different behaviors can also be clear signs of substance abuse issues. If your loved one is normally emotionally stable but begins to show rapid changes in their emotional state this may be a warning sign that they are struggling with substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol have a powerful effect on a person’s emotional state and continued abuse of them can commonly cause emotional instability which is why this is such a common warning sign for substance abuse.

If you have a loved one who is displaying more than one of these warning signs then they may have a substance abuse problem. If you suspect that this may be the case it is usually important to share your concerns with other family members before confronting the person you suspect of having the problem. If multiple family members share the same concerns as you then it may be appropriate to contact a professional interventionist and look into options for substance abuse treatment programs.