Identifying Addiction

How to Identify Whether a Loved One is Struggling with Addiction

You may be concerned that a friend or family member is waging a hidden battle with addiction. How do you determine when someone's drinking has gone from casual to compulsive? How do you recognize the signs of prescription drug abuse? Before you stage an intervention, do the following.

Listen

Addicts talk about their addiction but not in an obvious way. For instance, they may always seem to have a story that involves the substance in question. They may mention the substance in relation to dealing with stress or getting over a bad day.

There are other ways that you can detect an addiction through conversation. Addicts may seem irritable or depressed more often than not, or they may go through noticeable mood swings. Does it seem like they've had a change in personality, attitude or energy levels since before the suspected addiction?

Observe

Common physical signs of addiction include bloodshot eyes, a change in appetite, fatigue, unusual odors coming from their body or clothing and neglecting personal hygiene or grooming. Sudden health problems may arise as a result of the addiction as well.

Addiction tends to prompt isolation. Has the person been withdrawing emotionally or spending a lot of time alone? Does he or she act secretive or give ambiguous answers to questions?

Once addiction progresses far enough, it starts to infiltrate other aspects of life. This could entail declining social invitations, acting impulsively or taking risks and abandoning hobbies the addict used to enjoy.

Ask

If you have reason to believe that your loved one has an addiction, bring it up subtly and gently at first. Ask the person how many drinks she's had at the party or ask how long she's been taking those painkillers. If she seems to be out of control or dangerous to herself, it may be time to approach her about getting help.