Know the Signs of Substance Use Disorder

Home / Addiction / Know the Signs of Substance Use Disorder


Know the Signs of Substance Use Disorder

woman sitting on bed with her head in her hands - signs of substance use disorderIt is no secret that a substance use disorder can upend a person’s life. But sometimes people who are struggling try to keep those struggles a secret from others—or even from themselves. It is important to know the common signs of substance use disorders so that you can identify when you or someone you love might need help.

What Is Substance Use Disorder?

Before we dive into the signs, however, let’s be clear about what a substance use disorder is. A substance use disorder is a brain disease that can develop for a variety of reasons and which causes a person to become dependent on drugs or alcohol. There is no cure for a substance use disorder, but via treatment, ongoing care, and intentional strategies in recovery, sobriety can be achieved and maintained.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the indicators that someone—perhaps you—have a problem with drugs or alcohol.

Warning Signs: The Pull of Drugs or Alcohol

Some of the signs of a substance use disorder are experienced directly by the person struggling. For example, they might have strong urges that seem to demand their attention and occur several times a day. When these urges strike, it may seem impossible not to take drugs or drink alcohol. This can be true of illicit drugs or of prescription drugs that a person continues to take even after a medical issue has been addressed.

Over time, they may discover that they must take more and more of a drug to achieve the same effects. Even when a person realizes that they are suffering physical and/or psychological harm as a result of their drug use, they may feel compelled to keep using—especially if they experience symptoms of withdrawal when they try to stop.

Warning Signs: Maintaining the Supply

Maintaining a stash of drugs or alcohol is a clear sign of a substance use disorder. And some individuals find themselves going to great lengths to do so. For example, if a person is addicted to prescription drugs, they may engage in a practice known as “doctor shopping“, going from physician to physician in order to acquire an ongoing supply.

Other ways of maintaining a supply may involve building a new social circle made up of people who can provide access to drugs or alcohol. These “friends” may charge for that access; many people find themselves spending money they cannot afford to support their habit. That, in turn, can lead to a pattern of lying and/or stealing to acquire drugs or the money to get them.

Warning Signs: Changes in Behavior

The signs of substance use disorder we have mentioned so far may be hard to spot in others because, as we have noted, people go to great lengths to hide their struggles with drugs and alcohol. But other changes in behavior are easier to recognize.

For example, a person with a substance use disorder may become less engaged with their friends and family, recreational pursuits they have previously enjoyed, or even with their job or schoolwork. They may undergo drastic changes in their sleep patterns—resulting in either much more sleep or far less sleep than was their previous norm. The same is true of their eating habits.

In some cases, a person’s personality may seem to undergo a significant change, and ongoing moodiness may become an issue. There may be a noticeable increase in risk-taking behaviors—driving under the influence, risky sexual encounters, a propensity for fighting, and more—that can lead to other significant problems. And there may be clear physical changes as well, ranging from significant weight gain or loss to recurring bloody noses, bloodshot eyes, tremors, and/or neglect of personal hygiene.

All Signs Point Toward the Need for Treatment

What should you do if you or someone close to you is showing signs of substance use disorder? The key to overcoming the challenges posed by drug or alcohol use is seeking treatment, including detoxification and rehabilitation. At Seabrook, we have the expertise and compassion necessary to help you or your loved one achieve sobriety. Our commitment to a continuum of care ensures that you will have the support and resources you need to maintain that sobriety as you start your recovery journey.