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How to Identify Addiction In Your Loved One

Disclaimer: Elise Ho, aka “Dr. Ho” is a Holistic Health & Life Coach. Dr. Ho is NOT a medical doctor, licensed therapist, lawyer, or a bevy of other things. Products or services that Dr. Ho believes in are the only ones that she recommends. Dr. Ho may receive compensation, product, or an affiliate commission on anything you see on this site. This is a personal Website solely reflecting Dr. Ho’s personal opinions. Statements on this site do not represent the views or policies of any organization with which I may be affiliated.

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How to Identify Addiction In Your Loved One.


Identify addiction and the signs of it and you can help someone who is in need.


Heroin, marijuana, narcotics, alcohol and cocaine, all of these substances have one thing in common – they can lead to addiction. Although people have different risk factors, addiction can still affect every one of us. For some this addiction is less harmful, for example, they may be addicted to their iPhone, but for others, they can become addicted to hardcore drugs that wreck their bodies, their minds, and their lives.

Addiction is never pretty and we need to raise awareness of its signs and symptoms so we can reach out and get people the help they need to recover, at a treatment center for alcoholism or something similar. Keep on reading to familiarize yourself with this information because you may need it one day.


So what is an addiction exactly?


Before we dive in it seems only best to discuss the exact meaning of addiction. Addiction refers to a brain disorder of compulsive participation in mood-enhancing stimuli.


identify addiction


When does something become an addiction? 


You may be wondering, what line can be drawn between overindulgence/recklessness and addiction? The difference between being addicted to alcohol and just being overindulgent and reckless is that the addicted person will not be able to stop when they want. Conversely, the non-addicted person can call it a night when they think they’ve been drinking a bit too excessively. 


When an addicted person is low on money they will do everything in their power to get alcohol, they may even steal money or beg in the streets meanwhile a non-addicted person will have no problem waiting until his wages come in for him to get some more beer. 


A non-addicted person will be able to stop when their doctor tells them how badly the heavy drinking is affecting their liver, however, the addicted person will continue despite knowing and understanding the damage their behavior can cause. A non-addicted person can admit they have been going overboard with the alcohol while an addicted person will resort to denial


Common signs that will help you to identify addiction


Of course, everyone is an individual therefore signs and symptoms of addiction may vary between people but nonetheless here are the most common ones.


Pathological symptoms


By ‘pathological’ we are referring to symptoms exclusively of the mind. An addicted person may have frequent mood swings, for example, they can become irritated at mild things or feel sad for one moment and then happy soon after. 


The person’s temper may increase. Little things could potentially cause them to explode with rage. They will not have the level of emotional control that healthy people have. Addicted people can find it hard to brush something off their shoulders and may resort to violence in certain situations. If you believe that you are interacting with an addict, bear in mind that they can have anger issues. Therefore it is prudent to try not to give unnecessary criticism. As well, remember to be tactful with your words. 


Addicts typically get poor sleep. They may be up until 2 am drinking until the bar closes or they may be too high and ecstatic to fall asleep when it’s time to. Taking weed during the day can make you feel extremely tired which results in the user taking frequent naps during the day (this disrupts their natural sleep schedule and keeps them up at night). If you don’t share a home with the person – look for dark circles under the eyes as this is often a sign of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can cause other symptoms to manifest such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and like mentioned above, mood swings and anger problems. 


A major pathological symptom of addiction is paranoia. Drugs can damage the brain, and a damaged brain paves the way for psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is categorized by hallucinations, delusions (paranoid delusions are common). Many studies have demonstrated how drugs can induce psychosis. Younger people are at a higher risk of experiencing paranoia from taking these drugs. Watch how the person is acting, do they seem tense and scared? Do they make statements that suggest they are feeling paranoid?


Addicts typically deny that they have an addiction.


When a loved one naturally becomes concerned for their wellbeing and tells the addict that they think they have a problem – the sufferer will become defensive. A lot of addicts can’t even fathom the idea that they have a problem, and how dare you think there is something wrong with them, they are insulted by your concern essentially. Some truly believe they have as much self-control as anybody else. They claim to be able to easily quit. However, they don’t want to quit (because they are addicted). Someone who is not an addict can reason and accept that they might have a problem. We suggest you kindly and respectfully address the substance problem with the individual and watch out for signs of denial. 


The addict may appear to be on edge all the time. They may struggle to relax and may feel irrational anxiety about a lot of things. Talk with the person and try to get an idea of how they are feeling and why they are agitated. Because substance abuse alters the brain, the person may react irrationally to situations in which a healthy person would deem unworthy of a strong emotional response. They may also be agitated because they are worried about how they will pay for their next bag of cocaine or if the police are onto them. 


A prevalence of other mental disorders may be a clear sign that someone you love has a secret addiction or is heading for an addiction. A depressed, anxious, and stressed person is more likely to turn to drugs to cope with their problems. You’ll want to get these people the help they need as soon as possible. This is true regardless of whether you know addiction has emerged or not. Mental health issues can be just as life-ruining as addiction. Vice versa, substance abuse has the power to cause these conditions.  


Behavioral symptoms to identify addiction


This refers to the actions of the person. 


The person may appear extra secretive and could lie again and again. Know that they are not trying to hurt your feelings – they likely just feel ashamed. 


In young people, you’ll notice a significant decrease in school achievement. The young person could be failing to attend class, listen in class, and do their homework – their grades will drop as a result of this. This goes for work too, for example, a colleague may take regular days off, show up late frequently, and may not be as productive as they used to be.


Addiction can cause a lot of people to withdraw from their social life and responsibilities. A father may decline his parental duties like watching his Son’s soccer game or picking his child up from school. An adolescent may also lose interest in hanging out with his friends. 


Sometimes the addicted person may try to stop the addiction themselves (providing they are not in denial). They may try and try but often keep on failing. If you notice a friend keeps trying to cut down on cigarettes but always goes back to smoking offer to find help. Breaking addictive behavior is important and often requires professional help.  Stopping the abuse is not something they can easily do alone. 


Physical symptoms that can also identify addiction 


Hygiene and appearance may slowly become worse. The addicted person can stop caring about what they look like. They may not brush their hair, shower, or make an effort with clothing. Some people are naturally a tad bit lazy and don’t particularly care about how others perceive them but if the symptoms have lasted a long time or are not typical of the person it could be a sign of addiction or another illness such as depression.


Disrupted sleep patterns are a physical symptom of addiction. Complaints about being tired may be prevalent. They may be on sleep-inducing pills due to insomnia. 


Other physical signs can include weight loss, dilated pupils, bloodshot eyes, and a puffy face. Track marks may be visible where needles have been injected. You may also notice a strong smell of alcohol or weed.


Long term consequences of addiction


The following are some of the signs of addiction.


  • Domestic issues
  • Strained relationships 
  • Losing jobs
  • Trouble with the law
  • Debt 
  • Homelessness 
  • Suicide
  • Health complications 


Where to get help?


The treatment of addiction benefits from an experts help. People suffering from addiction benefit from therapy to overcome their condition. 


Enterhealth is an example of a service an addicted person would need to seek out. The organization treats addictions to substances such as alcohol, opioids, marijuana, sedatives, and stimulants. A professional psychiatrist trained in addiction treatment will work with the sufferer over some time. Treatment will be at either a residential or outpatient facility. Treatment will be ongoing or until they have fully recovered and reclaimed their lives.


For more on emotional health:

Depressed Teen and 4 Warning Signs You Should Watch Out For. Teenage hood usually comes with a lot of expectations and demands. This can cause quite a bit of angst.
Depressed Teen and 4 Warning Signs You Should Watch Out For.
Finding Emotional Balance
Finding Emotional Balance During Difficult Times

Please use the comment section below to share your tips, questions, and/or thoughts about this post.

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Naturally Yours,
Elise Ho
Ph.D., D.N. Psych.
Behavioral & Mental Health Specialist

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24 thoughts on “How to Identify Addiction In Your Loved One”

  1. Blair Villanueva

    Little vices can lead to addiction. Anything that is excessive that creates further issues isn’t a good one. Best to keep our family members and friends aware that we are always around if they needed help.

  2. We have had a couple of people struggle in our circle of family and friends. It’s easy to identify the symptoms if you know what to look for, and if you think of it. Sometimes it takes us by complete suprise because we didn’t even consider it!

  3. These are very helpful tips to identify addiction as most of us don’t know what to look for. It’s the first step in what will likely be a long journey to recovery.

  4. I truly believe that professional help is the best way to deal with addiction! I know a few and without any professional help, it can go really bad:( This is a great post!

  5. I love the helpful information contained in this post. It’s really best to be on the lookout for drug addiction in the family so that we can address it early on.

  6. The Treatment of addiction is not easy for those who deal with any addiction. They seek help gladly Enterhealth organization. They did a great job of helping people who are suffering from addiction. I hope they can help more people to Treatment will be ongoing or until they have fully recovered and reclaimed their lives.

  7. I lost a close friend a few years ago who had been struggling with drug addiction. I had no idea that he was using drugs until a couple of months before he passed away – he only admitted it to me when he got in some trouble with the law and asked for my help. He decided he was ready to enter an inpatient treatment program, but there were no beds available at any of the centers in our area. He died while he was on the waiting list to get help. I really wish I had seen the warning signs earlier. He didn’t have most of the classic ones, but the increasingly irrational behavior and a bit of paranoia were definitely there.

    1. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I’m also saddened that he was on a waitlist. When an addict is ready for help our society needs to do a better job of providing it.

  8. This is going to help so many family members of addicts. It can be tough to tell when someone is addicted to a substance if they haven’t gone down the path so much that they’re obviously making bad choices and wasting away.

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About The Author

Dr. Elise Ho

Dr. Elise Ho

Dr. Elise Ho is a Holistic Health & Life Coach with a special interest in emotional health, life alignment, and energy flow.

Elise will partner with you to align your mindset, your energy, your home and your career so that you can live your life's desire with freedom and love.

Elise offers 30 years of experience and multiple certifications and degrees including a Ph.D. in Natural Health and a doctoral degree in Naturopathic Psychology.