5 Warning Signs That a Family Member is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

By  //  May 1, 2023

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About 46 million Americans struggle with drug addiction, according to research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Unfortunately, drug or alcohol abuse can have devastating effects on an individual’s wellness, leading to depression, conduct problems, and personality disorders. 

If you suspect a relative is struggling with substance addiction, it’s vital to offer support and help them seek treatment. But first, you must be able to identify warning signs of drug and alcohol abuse. 

5 Warning Signs of Drug or Alcohol Abuse by a Family Member

  1. Behavioral Changes

If your family member’s behavior has changed dramatically and they are acting out of character, this could be a sign that they are abusing drugs or alcohol. It is common for substance abusers to be easily irritated or agitated by small things. 

In addition, a family member abusing drugs or alcohol may become increasingly withdrawn or isolated and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. They may also experience extreme euphoria followed by intense depression. While most behavioral changes may be subtle initially, they can become increasingly noticeable over time.

  1. Financial and Legal Problems

Funding substance use on a daily basis can be expensive, making a family member struggling with addiction spend a lot of money on buying drugs or alcohol. With time, these individuals may begin to experience financial problems, such as unpaid bills, unnecessary loans, and missed payments. 

Moreover, drug or alcohol abusers may develop criminal behaviors, sometimes ending on the wrong side of the law. These could include theft, violence, or driving under the influence. Legal issues could significantly impact a family member’s life, resulting in loss of employment, fines, or imprisonment. 

  1. Changes in Physical Appearance

One common and easily noticeable sign of drug and alcohol abuse is a sudden change in physical appearance. For example, a substance abuser may lose or gain weight, develop dark circles under the eyes, or experience frequent nosebleeds. 

It’s also common for family members struggling with drug and alcohol abuse to ignore their personal hygiene. They may stop being concerned about their hair, clothes, or oral hygiene. 

  1. Neglecting Responsibilities

A family member struggling with drug or alcohol abuse may begin to neglect their work, school, or home responsibilities. For example, they may miss crucial deadlines, skip appointments, or neglect household chores. 

At work or school, a substance abuser may show poor attendance and a dwindling performance, which could make them lose their job or drop out. Unfortunately, neglecting responsibilities can cause domino effects, such as depression, strained relationships, violence, and financial hardships.

  1. Secretive Behavior

Drug or alcohol abusers may become guarded about their activities and relationships, which can push them to try concealing their substance abuse from loved ones. As a result, they may start spending more time alone, away from home, or with family members. 

It is also common for a family member abusing drugs or alcohol to become evasive when confronted about their character. Secretive behavior can indicate guilt, shame, embarrassment, or a desire to maintain control over addiction. 

Treatment Options for Drug or Alcohol Addiction

There are various treatment options for family members struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. However, it is best to work with an experienced expert from your region who can suggest a personalized treatment plan based on an individual’s needs. For example, if you live in Fort Wayne, counselors at Fort Wayne Recovery Center may provide your loved one with a specialized plan they need to overcome their addiction. 

Treatment options for substance abuse could range from detoxification to therapy and medical care. Support groups are also available to offer the necessary peer assistance your loved one needs to recover. 


Identifying the warning signs of drug and alcohol abuse is crucial to helping your loved one seek the help they need. If you notice any of the above five signs in a family member, approach the situation with empathy and understanding.

Also, offer your support and encourage them to seek professional help, as early intervention can make a significant difference in their recovery journey.