Recognizing Addiction in a Colleague, Friend, or Loved one (and What you can do About it)

Addiction typically isn’t something that just shows up overnight, out of the blue, and wearing a big red sign. If someone that you know or care about is struggling with addiction, it can be challenging to read the signs if you, yourself, don’t have a clue what it (addiction) looks like. It’s also a very sensitive subject to broach in the first place, and most active addicts don’t want to be confronted.

In any event, let’s say that you think someone in your life is an addict and it’s causing you to worry. Maybe this is a family member or significant other that you care about. Or perhaps it’s a co-worker or one of your employees. Whomever said person may be, if your involvement with them goes beyond the surface level, then dealing addiction can create a lot of stress. It’s also painful to be around someone you care about when you think or you know that they’re causing themselves harm.

Here are some telltale general signs of addiction (keep in mind that the following aren’t limited to drugs and alcohol):

  • A seemingly sudden pattern of abandoning commitments or responsibilities (e.g., missing work commitments and deadlines, skipping a child’s graduation, etc.)
  • Ignoring the risks of certain behaviors (e.g., sharing needles with other drug users, having unprotected sex with prostitutes and risking disease, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol despite the dangers, etc.)
  • Physical side-effects (e.g., withdrawal symptoms, needing more of a particular substance to feel its effects, chronic fatigue, irritability, perpetual hangovers, etc.)
  • Inability to stay away from a substance or behavior (e.g., a sex addict’s inability to stop having extramarital affairs despite problems in the home, continual drug abuse despite health problems related to the using in the first place, excessive drinking even after being diagnosed with liver damage, etc.)

While a normal, healthy individual can recognize unhealthy patterns in themselves and stop them, an addict usually cannot. When a person is consistently unable to abstain from a behavior or substance, addiction is typically the root cause.

Substance Addiction:

Substance addiction involves everything from drugs (prescriptions or illegal: marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, prescription narcotics, etc.) and alcohol to nicotine. The latter (nicotine) is a nasty habit and can cause all types of health problems, but it’s not necessarily intervention-worthy. That said, worry about the drugs and alcohol first.

Behavioral (or Process) Addictions:

Behavioral addictions, sometimes called process addictions, can range from things like unhealthy sexual behavior patterns (pornography, prostitutes, extramarital affairs), to gambling, to excessive shopping, to overworking. Overeating, undereating, or binging and purging are also addictive behaviors classified as eating disorders. If someone is engaging in any of these excessively, it’s worth paying attention to.

Here are some more specific physical and behavioral patterns to watch out for in your suspected addict friend, loved one, colleague, or employee:

  • Blood shot eyes (drugs, alcohol)
  • Dilated pupils (drugs, namely methamphetamines and other “uppers”)
  • Frequent vomiting (drugs, alcohol, eating disorders)
  • Bad skin, hair, teeth, body odors, and poor general hygiene (drugs, alcohol, eating disorders)
  • Increased tolerance to substance (drugs, alcohol)
  • Sweating, trembling (drugs, alcohol – often associated with substance withdrawal)
  • Regularly lying, cheating, stealing, borrowing money (drugs, alcohol, all process addictions)
  • Extreme weight loss or weight gain (drugs, alcohol, eating disorders)
  • Apathy (drugs, alcohol, process addictions)
  • Depression, irritability, aggressive behavior (drugs, alcohol, process addictions)
  • Memory loss (drugs, alcohol)
  • Slurred speech (drugs, alcohol)
  • Change in sleep patterns or chronic fatigue (drugs, alcohol, eating disorders)

For any of the above, you’ll first want to rule out potential medical conditions before having a conversation about addiction with anyone. Keep in mind that most addicts will downplay or underestimate the severity of their conditions or behavior. This is another red flag.

Make sure that you do your due diligence as well. Try to keep a steady log of behaviors before approaching anyone so that you can be pretty confident that there is truly cause for concern. If you’re dealing with a spouse or a child and you share expenses or utility/phone bills, you can always try tracking changes in spending history on credit card or bank statements, check phone bills for strange numbers, etc. Also, if and when you do decide to have the conversation, please know that it can be difficult. Addicts tend to not only cover their tracks, but are often in complete denial that they have a problem in the first place. They frequently aren’t going to want to be approached, and might become very angry or resentful if and when confronted.

An addiction interventionist can help as well, but can sometimes be met with disdain by the addict. Sobriety maintenance usually begins with an addict actually wanting to get sober in the first place, so if this is a subject you’re going to approach, please be prepared to get shot down. Approach the person with compassion, patience, and remain open. If your attempts to help aren’t successful, know that it’s not your fault and that there’s only so much that you can do. Again, an addict must want to get sober in the first place, but even by just addressing the issue, you may plant the initial seed for someone to think about his or her behavior.

Finally, you don’t have to do this alone:

Kembali Recovery Center is here to help and we’re happy to answer your questions before you decide to have a difficult conversation. Also, if you’ve managed to successfully get through to an addict in need of help, our next intake is right around the corner. We provide the ideal setting for folks to get sober, and we also happen to be one of the most affordable luxury rehabilitation centers in Asia. Contact us today to learn more about our four-week program – it may very well change (and save) a life.

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