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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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