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3 Major Types Of Substance Abuse Warning Signs And How You Can Help

3 Major Types Of Substance Abuse Warning Signs And How You Can Help

You’ve noticed things are off with your loved one. Some changes are obvious, others not so much. You’re beginning to suspect substance abuse and you want to help, but you’re at a loss. What do you do?

Familiarizing yourself with the warning signs of substance abuse is a crucial first step. Know the three types of signs—physical, behavioral, and psychological—and how to spot them.

1. Physical Signs

  • Disregard for personal appearance: disheveled look, unkempt hair, etc.
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Unusual odors on breath, clothes, or body
  • Slow or impaired coordination or speech
  • Use of eye drops to hide red and bloodshot eyes, dilated or smaller pupils
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep changes: insomnia, sleeping too much

Substance abusers show a mixture of these signs of drug use, but some physical signs will depend on the type of drug. For example, marijuana produces euphoric feelings, difficulty concentrating or remembering, and an increased appetite. Synthetic drugs may cause hallucinations, vomiting, chest pains, or confusion. Users may suffer panic attacks, become unusually sociable, or have a spike in energy. An extreme symptom is psychotic or violent behavior. Drug users snorting or inhaling drugs often have red or runny noses and/or nose sores.

2. Behavioral Signs

  • Secretive behavior: lying or hiding where they’re going, avoiding visitors
  • Withdrawing from family or friends or a drastic change in relationships
  • Financial difficulties: repeatedly asking for money without an explanation or a vague or unlikely reason, missing money and/or valuables
  • Poor work or academic performance, repeatedly calling off or skipping work without notice, loss of interest in work, significantly lower grades
  • Paranoid behavior
  • Changes in friend groups, activities, and interests
  • Risky behaviour: getting into fights or accidents, being arrested, engaging in illegal activities, etc.

3. Psychological Signs

  • Sudden change in personality
  • Mood swings, acting out, irritability, or agitation
  • Lethargy or absentmindedness
  • Anxiety or fearfulness for no apparent reason
  • Bouts of hyperactivity, periods of laughing or giddiness

Different drugs can have different effects on people. For more information on signs and symptoms related to specific drugs, visit Mayo Clinic’s website.

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How To Support Your Loved One

It’s also possible that the substance abuse problem may be obvious to you but not to your loved one. It’s important to show your support in ways that show you care. Substance abuse and addiction are very complicated and painful for those suffering from them. Although your desire to help is sincere, your loved one may not see it that way. Remember to be cautious and sensitive. Here are just a few suggestions.

What To Do

Talk To Your Loved One

Explain that you’re concerned in a non-judgmental way. Be honest but not aggressive when you cite specific things that have been worrying you, such as unexplained financial difficulties or a withdrawal from family and friends. Be prepared—it’s not uncommon for users to get irritated or defensive when confronted about their condition. On the other hand, they may be so deep in denial that they’ll just blow off your concerns or make up excuses. Offer to get your loved one help. Whether it’s taking them to a doctor, going along to a substance abuse meeting, or helping them find a substance abuse recovery program, it’s important to demonstrate your support during this rough time.

Be Realistic

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You can only do so much on your own, and you can’t control your loved one’s actions. Ultimately, users need to accept responsibility for their addiction. Recognize your limitations. You aren’t a professional; you are a concerned loved one.

Take Care Of Yourself

Supporting a friend or family member who is suffering from substance abuse can be an emotional and draining process. You need support, too. Establish a support system that includes friends and a professional, like a counselor. Keep yourself safe. Don’t put yourself at risk by getting into dangerous situations like following your loved one to a drug deal or party.

Define Your Boundaries

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Taking your loved one to a weekly appointment is reasonable; repeatedly bailing the user out of jail is not. In fact, enabling destructive behavior only impedes progress. In the long run, giving money to people suffering from substance abuse or getting them out of trouble only hurts them more. Sometimes, the best way for them to learn needs to be the hard way.

What Not To Do

Threaten Your Loved One

Physical threats and psychological mind games are not methods for curing your loved one’s struggle with substance abuse. Threatening to disown your loved one for not getting clean or just attending rehab is far from healthy, and resulting to physical violence only creates more problems. Making them feel guilty for their addiction can also be psychologically damaging. Some users already feel as though they’re beyond help, so pouring guilt on them will only make them feel worse and increase risks of suicide.

Take Away the Drugs

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When you hide or throw away a user’s drugs, you’re making the problem worse. It’s not only detrimental to your relationship, but it can be fatal. Your loved one will turn against you and most likely go to extreme measures to get more.

Blame Yourself

It’s easier said than believed, but it’s important to remember that you are not responsible for your loved one’s actions. It’s not your fault. Make sure you’re available for your loved one should it come time to lend a shoulder, but don’t feel as though it’s your job to bail your loved one out of jail or cover up mistakes the user has made as a result of the addiction.

Do you suspect a loved one is suffering from substance abuse? The professionals at High Focus Centers are here to help you both. We provide individual, family, and group counseling as well as in-patient substance abuse recovery programs. Contact us for more information on how to get the help you need!

Featured photo credit: Credit: craigCloutier via imcreator.com

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Dan Gellman

Director of Marketing for High Focus Centers

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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