Harder to Hide
The signs of addiction are often very subtle—especially in the early stages of a substance use disorder. This means that in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, they can be easy to miss.
One unexpected effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is that quarantine restrictions have made it easier to spot potential signs of a drug or alcohol problem in your loved ones. When you’re spending more time together at home, subtle changes in behavior become more apparent.
Potential Signs of a Substance Use Disorder
The symptoms of addiction vary from person to person and depend to some extent on what substance is being abused. However, some general signs that suggest a person may have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse include:
- Having trouble carrying on a conversation
- Struggling to remember the details of past conversations
- Being unable to complete simple daily tasks like cooking a meal or doing laundry
- Lack of motivation or interest in activities once previously enjoyed
- Struggling to control their moods around others
- Complaints of headaches or nausea
- Unexplained cough or sniffles
- Seeming ill one moment, then fine the next
- Poor personal hygiene, with bad breath and bloodshot eyes
- Pupils of the eyes seeming smaller or larger than normal
- Erratic sleep patterns, such as staying up all night or sleeping excessively throughout the day
- Making vague excuses to leave the house for “essential” errands
- Being excessively worried about going to doctors’ visits or refilling prescriptions at the pharmacy
- Being overly protective of certain areas of the home where it would be easy to stash drugs or alcohol
- Receiving secretive calls or texts throughout the day
- Becoming angry or defensive when confronted about their behavior
The more of these symptoms of addiction you notice in your loved one, the more likely it is that they are struggling with a substance abuse problem. Refer to our post How to Know if Your Loved One Needs Rehab for additional guidance.
Don’t Brush Aside Your Concerns
If you think your loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, the worst thing you can do is to ignore your concerns. If your assessment is correct, the problem will not go away on its own. Addiction is a chronic illness with environmental and biological triggers. Without treatment, a person’s symptoms of addiction will become progressively worse.
Addressing the issue openly, honestly, and without judgment is the best approach. In Enabling vs. Helping: How to Handle a Loved One’s Substance Use Disorder, we discuss the importance of taking prompt action to address a drug or alcohol problem.
Plan a time to talk when there are no distractions. Often, morning is the best time to discuss your concerns because this is when your loved one is most likely to still be sober. Here’s how you might start the conversation:
“I’ve noticed you’ve been acting differently, and I am worried about you. [Outline specific areas of concern that suggest drug or alcohol use.] COVID-19 has caused a lot of changes for everyone, but I am concerned that your drug/alcohol use might be the sign of a more serious problem. How do you feel?”
Regardless of how your loved one responds, do not attempt to minimize their feelings or shame them for their behavior. For example, if they say that they are drinking more than usual because they are worried about the possibility of losing their job, do not say they have nothing to worry about because their boss loves them. Express your understanding that this is a scary and confusing time, but stress that you want to help them stay safe and healthy.
Getting Treatment During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Your loved one might be worried that seeking treatment during a pandemic is not an option. However, as an essential business, St. Joseph Institute for Addiction’s drug and alcohol addiction treatment center will remain open regardless of what other restrictions are implemented throughout Pennsylvania. We are accepting new clients, subject to screening procedures designed to protect the safety of both our staff and those who are seeking treatment. You can be confident that we are following all recommended CDC precautions for infection control to ensure the safest possible environment.
Making the decision to get help for a substance use disorder is a big step, but our caring and compassionate staff members are here to provide your loved one with the evidence-based care they need to start their recovery journey. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, but we remain committed to helping those in need build the foundation for a future free from the burdens of substance abuse.