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Before Rock Bottom: Seeing and Addressing Addiction

Before Rock Bottom: Seeing and Addressing Addiction

Addiction in any form—alcohol, opioids, cocaine or other substances—affects more than 21 million Americans. It can destroy lives, marriages, friendships, careers, health and more. While it often takes someone close to us getting hurt to see and acknowledge the pain of addiction, it can be addressed—before it’s too late.

Look For Signs

When someone has a substance use/addiction issue, you may first notice subtle signs such as changes in:

  • Personality and Mood: An individual might becomewithdrawn or depressed, hostile or angry; have little motivation; and/or unable to focus or are hyperactive.
  • Behavior: Look forchanges in his or her relationships with family and friends, loss of interest in school, work or other activities, becomes secretive, make excuses or displays low energy or tiredness.
  • Hygiene and Appearance: Smoke or other unusual smells on breath or clothes; messy appearance—more so than usual; poor hygiene; often red or flushed cheeks; burns or soot on fingers or lips; track marks on arms or legs, often hidden with long sleeves, even in warm weather.
  • Physical Health: Often sick, tired or lethargic; speech issues (slurred or rapid-fire); nosebleeds or runny nose not associated with allergies or a cold; sores or spots around mouth; sudden weight loss or gain; skin abrasions or bruises; frequent sweating; seizures or vomiting.

If you suspect someone has an addiction, you may question whether you are overreacting, but it is better to err on the side of caution. Taking action early, rather than waiting for someone to “hit rock bottom,” can help with recovery, including reducing the intensity, disruption and anxiety associated with treatment.

Ignoring the problem, on the other hand, can lead to issues for the individual, such as damaging relationships with loved ones, public embarrassment, medical emergencies, job loss and arrest—or even death. You, as the individual’s family member or friend, also may suffer from headaches, backaches, digestive issues, depression, and anxiety and panic attacks due to the stress of worrying about your loved one.

Steps You Can Take

If you think someone you know may be suffering from addiction, there are steps you can take to help:

  • Observe: Look for the signs and symptoms noted above.
  • Share: Talk with other family members and friends about your observations and see if they have noticed it, too.
  • Contact: Seek advice from a substance use or mental health professional, physician, guidance counselor or other professional. Be prepared to discuss any patterns you see, frequency of use, type of use and negative impact of the use.
  • Protect: Make sure you and your family are safe from harm, both physical and emotional. If you feel there is a threat, develop a safety plan. If the person becomes violent, call the police.
  • Address: Have a conversation with your loved one about your concerns.

How to Have the Conversation

As you confirm your suspicions, addressing the individual is a critical step in getting them the help they need. Here are some tips for how to have the conversation:

  • Wait: Have the conversation when the individual is sober. Make sure you are not under the influence either.
  • Schedule: Set aside some time to be alone to have a conversation that is not rushed. State your concerns and listen to their side, too.
  • Tell: Make sure your loved one knows you care about them and tell them about your observations and concerns. Stay clear of speculation and assumptions.
  • Follow-up: This is not an overnight process and may require additional conversations. Be patient, positive and consistent.

As you have these conversations, see if they are willing to talk to a professional. A professional can evaluate the situation, screen the individual and recommend a course of action, which may include structured treatment. We are here to help guide you through this. We not only see addiction, we treat it: with dignity and respect.

To learn more about our behavioral health programs and services or to make an appointment, call 440-816-8200.