Allen Wellness & Medical Center

How Can I Tell If A Loved One Is Struggling with Substance Abuse?

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Sometimes, it can seem hard to know for sure when someone you love is struggling with substance abuse. After all, most people who struggle with substances have many ways of covering their tracks, making it harder to detect.

Still, there are some telltale signs that you can’t miss if you’re looking for them. Dr. Evan Allen of Allen Medical & Wellness Center in Henderson, Nevada, explains more about how to recognize it when your loved one is struggling with substance abuse.

How do we define substance abuse?

Substance abuse is a medical term used to define the use of mind-altering substances without medical justification. This can refer to all different types of substances, from alcohol to more extreme examples like heroin or methamphetamine. 

Another very common pattern is that someone becomes addicted to opioids after receiving a legitimate prescription for them, such as after surgery or injury. Not only are these legally-prescribed medications designed for pain relief but they’re also very addictive.

Many people find that they still crave the drug even after their legitimate prescriptions have run out. They may turn to other means to get it, such as obtaining prescriptions from multiple providers. Some people even turn to heroin because it’s often easier to obtain.

Signs of substance abuse

The signs of regular substance abuse are both behavioral and physical. You may notice some of the following signs:

Frequent energy changes

If your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, you may observe wild swings in their energy levels. They may just want to sleep all the time when they’re suffering from withdrawal. 

They probably won’t want to leave the house. But when they manage to obtain the substance, they might seem to have suddenly gotten a burst of energy. This is a common part of the cycle of substance abuse.

Sudden weight changes

When your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, you may notice some significant weight changes. Substantial weight loss is more associated with drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, and even heroin. 

Alcohol abuse is more difficult to detect from weight because sometimes heavy drinkers don’t lose a lot of weight. Instead, they may be more likely to develop a lot of weight in their midsection leading to a “beer belly”.

Poor judgment

Especially if your loved one used to show pretty good judgment and now they don’t, it could be a good sign that they’re struggling with substance abuse. Common errors in judgment can look like the following behaviors:

  • Lying, even about inconsequential things
  • Stealing, either from you or from stores
  • Staying out excessively late or well past curfew, if applicable
  • A noticeable change to the worse in their hygiene

If they seem to be making poor decisions, especially if they’re out of character, it could indicate substance abuse issues.

Financial troubles

Addictions are notoriously expensive and few people can easily afford to maintain them. They may have to steal money or maintain relationships with unsavory people to enable their habit. If they can’t seem to pay their bills or you wonder about how they can afford them, it could suggest another sign of substance abuse.


Addicts frequently feel shame and guilt about their addictions. They may know that they have a problem, which results in them pulling away from the people they love. If the person you love has started spending an uncharacteristic amount of time alone, it may be caused by their feelings of shame about their habits.

If you suspect that your loved one has a substance abuse problem, they deserve to receive help. Substance use disorders are very treatable. Contact Dr. Evan Allen of Allen Wellness & Medical Center today or request an appointment online.