We are taught that an addict can be easily pinpointed just by watching their behaviors. Things like irregular sleep patterns, moodiness, irritability or a change in friends are often cited as signs of a drug addiction. Yet these signs can also signal an underlying depression or personality disorder.
Of course, there are the more obvious telltale signs, such as enlarged pupils, profuse sweating, confusion or slurred speech. Unfortunately, unless we see someone on their high, it can be difficult to see these reactions. Also, some people do very well hiding their addiction, even when they are on the drug.
Another misconception is that addiction is found mainly in teens and young adults. People are led to believe that addiction is a problem in the young, so we may fail to see some of the signs in a family member who is past this impressionable age. Parents will spend years watching over their teens, but an addiction can form at any time, such as after a surgery as a result of taking pain pills or following a life-changing event such as a divorce.
Here are seven of the quieter signs of addiction that everyone should know about.
1. Lack of Quantity Control
As we go on to use more of a substance, we need more to give us the same effect. People with addiction problems will require more alcohol, more drugs. If you notice that Dad fills up his wine glass repeatedly or that Mom is going through her pain meds more quickly, an underlying dependency may be forming.
2. Items Go Missing
Drugs aren’t cheap, so when someone is hooked, they resort to stealing to get the money they need to support their habit. If you’ve noticed that things have gone missing from the home – cameras, jewelry and other high-ticket items – it’s time to take action in determining where these items are going. Also be on the lookout for other financial red flags such as applying for more credit cards or hiding bank statements.
3. Not Telling the Whole Truth
It’s not uncommon for addicts to admit to using a lesser drug when really, they’re using much more. Or, addicts may turn the attention on someone else, saying that a friend is actually the one with the addiction. If your teen admits to smoking pot or puts the blame on someone else, don’t assume the road stops there. It’s important that your family doesn’t get tied up in half-truths.
4. Always Carries a Drink
Alcoholics can’t turn off their cravings, so they instead feed them throughout the day. They may put vodka in their morning coffee or afternoon cola because it’s clear and doesn’t give off a strong odor. Also, it’s a red flag if you see a loved one downing a lot of juice, punch or cola before going out, as this may indicate that they’re getting a ‘head start’ while hiding their behavior.
5. Secretive and Sneaky Behavior
It’s easy to mistake odd behavior for normal teenage rebellion or a mid-life crisis. However, many people can recall seeing an addicted family member arrive to parties late or miss them all together and wish they would have taken these signs more seriously at the time. If you notice your loved one sneaking around or missing parts of special events, it could mean they’re leaving time to get high or sober up.
6. Magic Bottle Syndrome
The first step that we take when we suspect an alcohol problem is checking out the contents in the liquor cabinet. If you notice that the bottles are empty or gone, you’re onto something. But what if the bottles never seem to change? Addicts will try to hide their problem by filling alcohol bottles up with water or ginger ale and replacing prescription pills with other medications. They may also hide beer cans at the bottom of a recycling bin so that others are not suspicious.
7. Lifestyle Irregularities
Stimulants and upper drugs make people hyper and full of energy. Downers do the opposite, and can leave an addict sleeping heavily in the middle of the day. Then there is the pain that never seems to stop – back pain, knee pain and headaches for instance. It’s a definite red flag if your loved one is all over the place in their day-to-day life; sometimes happy and upbeat, sometimes tired and difficult to wake up is not normal.
None of us want to act suspiciously around our loved ones, but it is important to be aware. We also need to let go of our view that addiction only lies in the young. It’s possible for anyone of any age to formulate an addiction, and being informed can help us identify a deeper problem if and when erratic behavior pops up.