For Friends and Family

How to Recognize the Signs of a Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorders, often referred to as addiction, are complex and challenging conditions that affect millions of people worldwide. These disorders take a toll on individuals, their families, and their communities. Recognizing the signs of a substance use disorder is the first step towards seeking help and finding a path to recovery. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to identify these signs, and we’ll provide guidance for both individuals who suspect they might have a substance use disorder and for those who suspect their loved ones are struggling with addiction.

How to know if you have an addiction

For Individuals Who Suspect They Might Have a Substance Use Disorder:

If you’re reading this section because you suspect that you might be struggling with a substance use disorder, it’s essential to acknowledge your feelings and concerns. Self-awareness is the first step towards change. Here are some ways to determine whether you have an addiction:

  1. Reflect on your substance use: Take a moment to honestly assess your relationship with drugs or alcohol. Ask yourself whether it has become a significant part of your life, whether you’ve tried to cut down or stop without success, and whether you experience cravings.
  2. Evaluate the impact on your life: Consider how substance use has affected your relationships, job, education, and overall well-being. Are you neglecting responsibilities or engaging in risky behaviors because of your substance use?
  3. Physical and emotional signs: Look out for physical and emotional symptoms like withdrawal when not using, tolerance (needing more of the substance to achieve the desired effect), and a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. These can be strong indicators of a substance use disorder.

What to do if you recognize one or more of the above signs in yourself:

  1. Seek professional help: Don’t hesitate to reach out for help! Calling us is a great first step. We’ll put you in touch with a licensed professional who can determine what type of care is best suited for your situation. From there, you might be referred to inpatient, residential, or outpatient recovery facilities for help. If you are admitted to our outpatient program, you’ll have access to our passionate and highly qualified counselors, therapists, and support staff who will help you through the recovery process.
  2. Reach out for support: Isolation can make addiction worse. Connect with friends or family members you trust and let them know what you’re going through. Sharing your struggle with safe friends and family members can be a significant step toward recovery.

**NOTE: If you are experiencing a crisis, please don’t wait to get help. Contact the Kern County Crisis Services division by texting or calling 988 any time!

For Those Who Suspect Their Loved One Might Have a Substance Use Disorder

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction can be incredibly challenging and heartbreaking. Here are some of the signs to look out for if you suspect someone you love is dealing with addiction:

  1. Observe behavioral changes: Keep an eye out for significant changes in your loved one’s behavior, such as increased secrecy, isolation, neglect of responsibilities, and a sudden drop in performance at work or school.
  2. Physical signs: Pay attention to physical changes like unexplained weight loss, changes in appearance, bloodshot eyes, and uncharacteristic odors on their breath or clothing.
  3. Emotional changes: Be attuned to mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, and an overall change in their personality or interests.
  4. Signs of withdrawal and tolerance: If you notice your loved one experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they’re not using or needing larger amounts of the substance to achieve the same effect, these are strong indicators of a substance use disorder.

What to do if you identify one or more of the 4 signs above in a loved one:

  1. Have an open conversation: Approach your loved one with empathy and concern, not judgment. Express your worries, and encourage them to seek professional help. Be prepared for resistance and defensiveness, but stay patient and persistent.
  2. Offer support: Let them know that you’re there to support their journey to recovery. You can help research treatment options, attend support groups together, or simply be a listening ear when they need to talk.

Recognizing the signs of a substance use disorder is the crucial first step towards addressing the issue and finding a way to recovery. Whether you suspect that you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it’s essential to approach the situation with empathy, understanding, and a willingness to seek professional help. Addiction is a treatable condition, and recovery is possible with the right support and resources. Don’t hesitate to reach out and take the necessary steps to reclaim a healthier and happier life.

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