You’ve likely heard about the opioid epidemic on the news or read about the big increase in alcoholism after the COVID-19 pandemic. The bottom line is that deaths due to overdose hit all time highs in the United States, with nearly 107,000 deaths in 2021 alone. And this is to say nothing of the people struggling with life-threatening health issues due to alcohol use.
According to a 2021 report, more than 46 million Americans aged 12 and older struggled with a substance use disorder in the preceding year, and our goal is to stop this struggle from ending in death. All too often, we hear about how an overdose death came as a surprise and that no one knew there was a problem.
To avoid being blindsided by a loved one’s substance use disorder, the team here at NAD in Georgia, under the direction of Dr. Krishna Doniparthi, takes a look at three big warning flags.
Bear in mind, these are red flags from your perspective, not the person who may be in the throes of a substance use disorder.
When a person has a substance use disorder, they can go through extreme highs and lows, sometimes several times during the day. For example, you may encounter a moody and surly loved one who is replaced quickly by a smiley, chatty person who seems to be on top of the world.
These mood swings can be extreme, which is what leads to the erratic behavior. Your loved one can go from curling up on the couch to buzzing about with boundless energy, and then back again.
These highs and lows generally follow their use — they’re down when they crash and the drug and alcohol is wearing off. Then, they’re up when they use or drink again. And the cycle keeps going round and round.
When a person has a substance use disorder, it’s no exaggeration to say that their entire existence is hijacked. Their brain is rewired to obsess over using, and that becomes their sole focus. In order to cater to this priority, people with substance use disorders often isolate themselves so they can have their privacy and steer clear of judgment.
This means your loved one may forego social engagements and spend more time alone in their room. This can even go so far as feigning sickness to avoid going to school or work.
Many people with substance use disorders undergo physical changes. For example, losing weight isn’t uncommon as people use or drink instead of eating (or they feel too sick to eat).
You may notice a paler, less healthy complexion, as well as bloodshot eyes, Or, maybe you notice that your loved one is sweating and shaking.
Your loved one might also develop unexplained injuries, such as a black eye from falling or bruising elsewhere on their body.
The most important point here is to notice any and all changes — behavioral, physical, social — that just don’t fit with the loved one that you know.
If you suspect that your loved one may be struggling with a substance use disorder, please contact our office in Alpharetta, Georgia, to figure out next steps. To get started, click here.