How to spot addiction in your friends

When a person’s body becomes dependent on a drug or alcohol, you may see some of the following symptoms:

  • Sleeping problems
  • Needs more drugs or alcohol for the same effect
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug or drinking
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Addiction impacts every area of a person’s life. The individual will seek out and use drugs or alcohol even as the substance use negatively impacts health, relationships, and daily functioning. The behavioural changes that result from addiction are often the first signs of a problem that loved one’s notice. The following behavioural changes may occur:

  • Blackouts or memory loss
  • Frequent arguments and fights
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Using drugs or alcohol to relax, improve mood, or aid in sleep
  • Drinking alone, in the morning, or in secret
  • Using substances more than intended or in spite of saying they won’t
  • Neglecting friends, family, or activities that were once enjoyed, such as sports or hobbies
  • Engaging in risky behaviours
  • Telling lies
  • Unexplained injuries or accidents
  • Neglecting hygiene, grooming, and clothing
  • Borrowing or stealing money with no explanation as to what the money is for
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  • Pipes: These can be made from various materials, including wood, glass, ceramic, plastic, and acrylic.
  • Water pipes or bongs: These are often made of glass, and draw the smoke through water to cool it before it is inhaled.
  • Miniature spoons: Spoons are often used to dissolve drugs in liquid before they are injected.
  • Chillums: These are cylindrical pipes used to smoke marijuana
  • Injection needles: These are used to inject certain drugs like heroin or crushed prescription painkillers (after the crushed substance has been mixed with water).
  • Cigarette papers: These are used to roll joints filled with drugs that are then smoked.
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Individuals spend more time with others who engage in substance use and neglect relationships with family and friends. Loved ones may notice that the individual is less social or secretive about how time is spent. New friends may appear in the individual’s life, with little explanation as to how they met.

Work or school performance typically declines when a person is addicted to substances. A student who previously performed well in school may experience a drop in grades and appear less concerned with schoolwork. Job performance may suffer, and an individual may have frequent problems with co-workers or supervisors.

Substance addiction frequently occurs with other mental health disorders, particularly depression and anxiety. If your loved one suffers from a mood or anxiety disorder, they may attempt to self-medicate with illicit drugs or alcohol. Since various mental health conditions put individuals at a higher risk for addiction, monitor your loved one for signs of substance abuse.

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The following can help you talk with your friend:

  • Don't try to talk when your friend is drunk or high. It's also a good idea to meet in a quiet, neutral place. But not at a bar or any place else that serves alcohol.

  • Talk about the effect your friend's drinking or drug use has on whatever the person cares about most, such as career or children. Your friend may not be concerned about their own situation. But they may care deeply for their children and what the problem may be doing to them.

  • Be prepared for a variety of reactions, from sadness to anger. Think through how you will respond to each reaction, including exiting the situation if it gets out-of-hand.

  • Be aware of treatment or recovery resources available in your community. Find the local phone number for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Learn what treatment resources are available in your area by calling your counties Office of Substance Abuse Services or searching the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's treatment locator.

  • If your friend doesn't want to go to AA or NA, talk with other people who know and care about your friend to see if they have other ideas. Also consider getting support for yourself, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. These are networks of support groups for family and friends of people with substance use disorders.

If you are concerned about a loved one and think they may have problems with addiction then please do not hesitate to contact our Treatment Advisors. They will talk you through all the options for treatment and how you can get the best help.