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Addiction is a unique challenge in many ways, but there is hope because you can help an addicted friend. For a person living with a substance use disorder, life steadily becomes unmanageable. The substance of choice insidiously climbs their hierarchy of priorities.
At first, the changes may be subtle to the outside observer. Your college-age son becomes more secretive about his activities. He is reluctant to talk about his new friends and decides not to come home over break for the first time. Or he comes home but spends most of his time in his room instead of visiting old friends.
No one wants to believe the worst about someone they love. So, you chalk it up to the typical brooding of a young adult. Maybe a love interest rejected his affection. Perhaps his course load is too much, and he’s feeling overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, more often than not, when a person we care about becomes addicted, it may feel easier to ignore the initial signs. Not only do we want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but we may find ourselves in denial. We fear that accepting that someone has a problem with drugs or alcohol opens up all kinds of awful possibilities we don’t want to face.
It is important to embrace objectivity in this situation, though. Trust your eyes and ears. Trust your instincts. If things don’t seem quite right, you want to pay more attention, not less.
If you find yourself making excuses for worrying behavior or trying to talk yourself out of your suspicions, stop. Take a beat. Decide to be honest with yourself about what you are seeing and feeling.
That doesn’t mean you need to immediately run to your loved one or friend and start making accusations. What it does mean is that it’s time to assess the facts and make a plan. An addiction treatment program should always be part of this plan because it’s the best way to help an addicted friend.
Recognizing the Signs of Addiction
Someone addicted to a substance will almost always try to hide the signs unless they live only among people who are also in active addiction. But no one is capable of concealing every sign flawlessly. Addiction progresses and compromises faculties and judgment making it more difficult to hide the evidence of their behavior.
Remember, addiction means the substance of choice steadily moves up the list of priorities. First, perhaps, the drug or drink edges out hobbies and sports. The next stage usually means pushing people away. Old friends become a hindrance to using if they aren’t also drinking or getting high.
Mysterious new “friends” may appear. School or work is an integral part of most people’s lives. It’s almost impossible for them not to be impacted as using becomes the most important thing.
Money is always part of the equation too. Maintaining a habit gets expensive, whether it’s drugs or alcohol. Being under the influence also lowers inhibitions, leading to careless spending and silly purchases that seem to make no sense.
A person who suddenly doesn’t have money for things that were once important to them may be a red flag. Eventually, that usually progresses to the logical extreme, missed car payments, no money for rent, switched-off utilities.
Bear in mind, none of these are absolute rules. One or two of these signs in isolation may seem like ordinary life challenges. The key is taking every sign in the broader context of a person’s behavior. Everyone’s priorities are a little different. The best approach is to think about the person you know and love. You know what’s always been important to them.
We aren’t talking about one or two priorities changing position here. You can tell when something else is beginning to take precedence in a person’s life, especially when it isn’t out in the open. The addicted person will rarely admit it’s the substance taking priority. You are more likely to notice the change by what isn’t a priority anymore.
Signs and Behavior
There are inevitable consequences to someone shifting their priorities toward their substance of choice. Health and appearance usually drop down on the list of priorities of the addicted person too. Sometimes pride will allow them to hide the signs for quite a while, but eventually, you will see the toll addiction is taking.
In addition to the effects of the chemical of choice, the lifestyle of addiction has an impact. Neglecting nutritional needs. Erratic sleeping patterns. Exercise and sports usually fall by the wayside. It’s not unusual for personal hygiene to go neglected too. Many of these changes in behavior and the use of substances themselves manifest themselves in physical symptoms and signs. Here are some to look for:
- Unexplained weight loss or gain.
- Always looking tired, bags under the eyes.
- Unusually energetic or talkative.
- Unusually lethargic or sleepy, especially “nodding out” at inappropriate times.
- Slurred speech or “nasal” sounding voice, as if their throat is too relaxed.
- Biting or cutting fingernails much too short.
- Facial tics, picking at the skin or constant scratching at itches.
- Glassy eyes or strange pupil appearance (either pinpoint or extremely dilated).
If you observe more than one of these physical symptoms on more than one occasion, it is more than sufficient cause for concern. It deserves your attention. You should consider putting together a plan that will help get your addicted friend get into an addiction treatment program.
How to Approach a Friend About Substance Use
So, you have noticed enough signs of substance use to cause concern. You are ready to approach the person you care about, but where do you begin? The first thing you should do is remember your objective: that the person you love to accepts help. That is the most important thing, not letting them know how frightened or angry or disappointed you are. Remember what your goal is. Always.
Accomplishing that can be a challenge. It will require you to keep emotions like anger, fear and disbelief in check. You want to put logic at the front of your mind; this is why it is so helpful to have a plan that includes an addiction treatment program before you approach someone.
It would be best if you also temper your expectations. Understand that the addicted person may disagree that they have a problem. They may be too ashamed to discuss it. They may react with anger or denial. Expect this. The best thing to do to counter this is to focus on building trust.
Be honest with them about your concerns but avoid guilt-tripping or criticism. It helps to see addiction as what it is: a mental health problem. It is not a moral failing. We must be sensitive to the shame and fear they may feel if we are to help them.
Back to tempering your expectations, this will be hard, but you should not expect immediate change. If you can open a dialog and establish some trust, chalk that up in the “win” column. Just because they aren’t on a plane to a drug rehab in Texas five minutes later does not mean you’ve failed.
The most important thing is opening the lines of communication and establishing trust. You want the person you care about to understand you are on their side in this. It’s you and them versus the addiction. With communication and trust in place, you have a foothold to make progress.
Finding Help for an Addicted Friend
In many instances, you may be able to help an addicted friend accept some form of outside support. Even though an addiction treatment program is the most ideal, there may be a few stops on the way to that drug rehab in Texas.
What’s important is making progress. You need to work with what you’ve got. If they are willing to see a counselor or therapist locally for an evaluation, that’s great! Start there. If they admit they may have a problem, that is a significant cause for hope.
Remember what we said earlier about keeping your objectives in mind, though. Be grateful for baby steps, but also understand that half a solution is no solution at all. Ultimately treatment at a facility like Promises Brazos Valley rehab is going to be the wise decision.
After all, it’s impossible to get too much help for a problem, but it’s easy to get too little. Err on the side of caution. But this does not mean pressuring the person to go to an addiction treatment program in the first conversation.
Every situation is different, of course. Some circumstances are more desperate than others, and drug addiction is serious business, especially in the age of heroin spiked with fentanyl.
Waiting too long for someone to “hit bottom” can have tragic consequences.
We say this not to alarm you but to help you put your own situation in perspective. If you have reason to believe your loved one is in dire straights and there seems no hope of them accepting help, professional intervention is worth considering.
The simple goal of an intervention is to “raise the bottom” by creating conditions where the easiest thing is for the addicted person to accept help. It means ending any enabling behaviors, allowing the full weight of consequences to bear down on them, and even creating new consequences.
It is best to have a professional involved in an intervention, or at minimum someone who isn’t close to the subject. A trained intervention specialist is best, but sometimes a therapist, counselor, or even clergy or a trusted elder can stand-in.
Whoever directs the intervention must hold the line and not relent to or be manipulated by the addicted person. They must coordinate the intervention and help keep all those involved committed to their roles.
It’s not easy. But at the end of a successful intervention, your loved one could be on their way to a trusted treatment facility like Promises Brazos Valley. At that point, it will be clear it was all worth it.
Promises Behavioral Health has been a trusted name for over 20 years. Our new Brazos Valley rehab center is just one of the top-tier addiction treatment programs we offer. If you are looking for drug rehab in Texas or anywhere else, or you just want to talk about how to help an addicted friend, please give us a call anytime at 800.393.0391.