Drug Problems? The 1 Frightening Sign to Watch Out For

It’s scary to think you may know someone who has a drug addiction — but it’s not a far-fetched reality. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic opioid, heroin, and cocaine usage has sharply risen in the U.S. over the years. And over 64,000 people in the country died from a drug overdose in 2016 alone.

So how would you know if someone close to you is suffering? Here are the signs someone is misusing drugs, including one in particular you need to know about.

They have a family history of addiction

A woman lies down in her bed in a fetal position.

A sign that you might have never considered before. | iStock.com

It seems unfair, but the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence says family history is a great indicator of who may be at risk for drug abuse, Recovery.org says. Addiction is genetically linked, and certain genes associated with the addictive process can pass from parent to child. Having a dysfunctional family or a family member with a psychological disorder can also raise the addiction risk.

Not everyone with an addicted family member is doomed, of course, as environment also plays a role.

They’re neglecting work or activities they once loved

A woman sits on a couch looking sad.

Don’t ignore this dangerous symptom. | Tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images Plus

There are a lot of reasons for missing work or other obligations, so a few instances of this happening likely aren’t cause for concern. But Mayo Clinic notes if someone you know continuously misses work for no valid reason, this is a sign. Also, if they’re attending work but they start to look disheveled, they’re constantly late, or their performance suffers, this is also something to watch.

Losing interest in activities they used to love isn’t always a sign of addiction, either. It’s also a symptom of depression. Either way, it’s usually a signal that something’s wrong.

They’re acting out at family and friends, especially those who question them about substance abuse

Man comforting his sad friend.

All their relationships might be on the rocks. | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

As Alta Mira Recovery Programs says, there are plenty of behavioral problems that come along with drug addiction. It’s very common for the addicted person to have strained or damaged relationships with friends and family. And they may even act aggressively when approached about their drug misuse.

Forgetfulness and an inability to pay attention are also common signs. Or, they may become more private and secretive about their doings and whereabouts.

Their physical health is declining

Sad girl looking out the window.

Watch out for these not-so-obvious signs of drug misuse. | Max-kegfire/iStock/Getty Images

The physical effects of drugs vary depending on what type is used, but misuse can do some serious damage. HealthyPlace.com notes drugs can greatly affect the heart and lungs, leading to cardiac arrest or breathing problems. Or, the misuser’s digestive system might be off, which can cause abdominal pain or vomiting. Kidney and liver damage is also common.

From the outsider’s perspective, look for unexplained weight loss, an unkempt appearance, or skin and hair that looks worse than usual.

The 1 sign to watch for: They’re always ‘losing’ prescriptions or seeing multiple doctors for more medication

A hand holding two pills.

Their lives might revolve around getting prescriptions filled. | iStock.com

Prescription drug misuse affects millions in the U.S. — and because most with an addiction obtain the drugs legally, you may not know the signs of a problem. Mayo Clinic explains opioids like Oxycontin, or anti-anxiety meds like Xanax, are often misused. If you notice a friend or family member taking high dosages of a medication, it’s worth asking them about it. Or, if they’re always going to a new doctor and getting continuous refills, this is another sign.

How drug misuse often starts — and it’s not what you think

A man holding pills in his hand.

A time for you to stick by their side. | iStock.com

Let’s make this clear — no one wants to misuse drugs, and addiction is indeed a disease. HelpGuide.org explains many people become dependent on their prescription medications over time, leading to full-blown addiction. And when they lose access to their Rx meds, this can lead them to seek out drugs elsewhere.

The process of addiction is often slow, too. You might have a friend or loved one who doesn’t even realize they have a problem.

How to stage an intervention

A therapy group meeting speaking with a therapist.

Your friends and family will appreciate your help. | Bowdenimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

It might be time to have an intervention with a loved one or friend — and that’s OK. Addiction Center says you should never attempt an intervention alone. Seek out professional help or an intervention specialist to help facilitate the process. You’ll also need a solid group of people to help convince the addicted individual that they need help. Choose friends, family, and loved ones to meet at a specific place and time, and make sure everyone rehearses what they want to say. This ensures the process goes as smoothly as possible.