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How to Spot the Warning Signs of Substance Abuse

Thanks to opioid addiction making national headlines in recent years, Americans are slowly gaining a new level of understanding when it comes to substance use disorders. 

Despite the fact that nearly 20 million Americans report having a problem with substance use, there may be many more who are on the brink of developing a full-blown disorder. That’s why knowing the warning signs can make all the difference.

At Southlake Counseling, under the expert direction of licensed therapist Kimberly Krueger, our team specializes in treating substance abuse — in both teens and adults. We understand the many effects that addiction and dependency can have on a person.

If you’re concerned about your own substance use or that of a loved one’s, here’s a look at some of the signs that a substance use disorder may be present or developing.

Red flags on the outside

While the image of a haggard person on a park bench with a brown bag may pop into your head when you think of substance abuse, the fact is that many people hide their use very well. They suit up each day and go to work or school, going to great pains to hide any outward signs of their use.

That said, there are still some red flags that you should be on the lookout for, including:

Again, these outward symptoms are generally not enough to go on, as even the common cold can bring on many of these same physical symptoms. But, if these symptoms persist and they’re combined with marked changes in behavior, they can be a large red flag.

A problem in the brain

What makes a substance use disorder tough to spot in others — at first — is that many of the changes take place inside the person’s brain, as neural pathways form that favor drug and alcohol use. The most clear signs that a problem is developing is when the person experiences:

A drug or alcohol problem essentially hijacks a person’s brain, centering the person’s thoughts around the substance. The problem is that you can’t read another person’s thoughts (unless you’re evaluating yourself).

To help determine whether a loved one has a problem, you can watch for outward behavioral changes, such as:

As we mentioned, drugs and alcohol can take a person hostage, so if your loved one is exhibiting negative behaviors that simply don’t fit with their personality, it could be a sign that addiction has taken hold.

Getting help

We feel that substance use disorders are a disease of the mind, body, and soul, which means there’s no definitive checklist when it comes to determining whether a problem exists. But there are some very clear signs that shouldn’t be ignored, and often the best way to recognize these signs is to have a specialist assess them.

We understand the many effects that a substance use problem can have on a person’s mental and physical health, and our caring team leaves no stone unturned when it comes to evaluating your loved one’s (or your) health.

To get started, we urge you to contact one of our three locations in Charlotte, Hickory, and Davidson, North Carolina, to set up a confidential consultation today. You can call or request an appointment right on our website.

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