Recognizing the Signs of Substance Use Disorder

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Substance use disorder can be sneaky. Despite the devastating effect it can have on a person’s health and livelihood, many people don’t even know they have it. Others go for years in denial without being treated for it. Then there are those who have been diagnosed and know they have SUD but try to hide it—from co-workers, loved ones, even spouses and partners. Sometimes for years.

Like I said, it’s sneaky.

Which means if you know a person with SUD, you may have a life-saving role to play in helping him or her get better. This guide can help you in that effort.

When a loved one or friend has SUD

First of all, how can you be sure it’s SUD? That’s a tough one because it’s not always clear-cut. Even medical experts sometimes struggle to make a definitive diagnosis. But there are clues. Physical signs may include bloodshot or glazed eyes, abrupt weight changes, changes in hygiene, and sleeping too little or too much. Behavioral signs often include increased aggression, changes in personality, lethargy, depression, changes in habits or priorities, or a sudden change of social network.

If you’re pretty sure it’s SUD, your best move may be to urge your friend or loved one to schedule a visit with their primary care physician or urgent care provider. Note: An important side effect of this visit is that it takes the pressure off of you to fix the situation or diagnose the problem, neither of which you need to do, by the way. Above your pay grade!

Maybe you’re wondering, why go to a PCP or urgent care and not an addiction treatment center as a first step? Two reasons. First, a PCP or urgent care visit can almost always be done via telehealth, which makes it quick, easy, and efficient, and therefore a step your loved one or friend is more likely to take.

Second, seeing a PCP or urgent care provider is a lot less threatening than contacting an addiction treatment center. Best to push that hurdle back to a later date. Meanwhile, your loved one can get the ball rolling with a simple medical checkup.

If you do decide to help your friend or loved one look into addiction treatment, I applaud you for that. Just keep your expectations realistic, and don’t be surprised if you get pushback. If you do get the green light to help, a good place to start is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website. Click the “Find Treatment” tab at the top left, and search for places nearby. All the centers on this site are vetted, so they’re reputable.

Lastly, stay optimistic with this comforting thought: SUD is treatable and beatable. It’s getting a lot of study these days, more and more treatment information is becoming available, and treatment protocols are slowly but surely improving. The key is for people to get help.

When a co-worker has SUD

If you have a colleague at work who may be struggling with SUD, and you care enough to want to help, I applaud you. You are a good person. Getting involved in this kind of thing is never easy. SOURCE

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On December 24, 2020

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