If you know someone who has a substance misuse problem, you can make a difference with the right tools and information.
First, it’s important to understand that having a drug or alcohol problem is not a failure of willpower or a sign of personal weakness. Rather, it’s a chronic and complex condition that affects brain function and makes it harder to quit and to “stay quit.”
Here’s how you can spot danger signs and learn to intervene promptly and empathetically.
Watch for bloodshot eyes, coordination problems, large or small pupils, slurred speech and sudden, unexplained weight changes.
People with substance misuse problems tend to have relationship issues and difficulties handling daily responsibilities. Note changes in performance at work or school, abrupt changes in energy (too much or too little), shifts in sleeping and eating patterns, withdrawal from family and friends and a sudden lack of care about personal hygiene.
Substance misuse and addiction can affect mood and personality. Look for unusual mood swings, dramatic outbursts, irritability, fatigue, nervousness, anger, sadness or a lack of motivation.
1. If you see some of these signs and are concerned, confide in a trusted family member or friend.
2. If they agree there’s a problem, contact a mental health expert or social worker, physician or substance abuse professional for guidance. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at (800) 662-HELP.
3. With an expert’s guidance, calmly and empathetically tell the person (when sober) how you and other loved ones are affected by his or her unhealthy choices.
4. Provide suggestions for getting help.
5. If your loved one resists treatment or is not ready to admit to a problem, it isn’t your fault. You may want to consider joining a support group for families of people with substance use issues. Find out more at Al-Anon Family Groups or Nar-Anon Family Groups.