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Over the last decade, substance abuse has become a growing problem in the United States. Statistics may seem grim, but right now, there is more hope than ever. Studies are conducted all the time to help us better understand this disease, and treatment facilities are offering new and improved treatment options to help combat chronic substance use.

As more people become affected by substance use disorder (SUD), more information becomes available to recognize warning signs and symptoms in oneself and in others. This knowledge is essential in helping individuals achieve long-lasting success and sobriety.

The Prevalence of Substance Use

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 59.3 million people aged 12 or older used illicit substances in the past year. Opioid use, in particular, has been on the rise in recent years, especially dangerous synthetics like fentanyl

The NSDUH also found that, out of the people who have past-year usage of illicit substances, 41.1 million were in need of treatment. However, only four million people actually received any substance abuse treatment in the same year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health, leading many to use substances to mask the pain or cope with the effects. Overdoses hit an all-time high in 2020, and, according to the CDC, nearly 92,000 people died from a drug-involved overdose during this time. These numbers are staggering, but there is hope. 

Physical Signs of Substance Abuse

If you are worried that your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, you may want to know what signs to look out for. Keep in mind that substance abuse knows no bounds, and people from all walks of life can struggle with this deadly disease.


When a person is using too much alcohol or if they are alcohol-dependent, they may exhibit troubling signs. It’s extremely important to note how dangerous and risky it can be to go “cold turkey” when quitting alcohol. Alcohol is a dangerous substance, and withdrawal can lead to seizures and even death.

If you are concerned that your loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, some signs to look out for may include:

  • Rapid weight gain or loss
  • Constantly feeling sick, or pronounced stomach problems
  • Redness in the face
  • Liver issues
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, such as body tremors or vomiting

Illicit Drug Use

If you think that your loved one is using illicit substances, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service lists some universal signs to look out for, no matter your age, gender, or creed:

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
  • Runny nose or sniffling
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
  • Unusual odors on breath, body, or clothing 

Additional Signs of Substance Abuse

When a person is struggling with a SUD, physical indicators are not the only signs to look out for. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one important sign of addiction is that a person continues to use drugs despite the consequences it is bringing to their life.

If your loved one is suffering from addiction, they may no longer do the things they used to love or care about responsibilities like work or school. They may have lost interest in hobbies, rack up legal problems, get into fights easily, or even stop caring for their personal hygiene and physical appearance. 

Some additional concerns may include:

  • Feeling an urge to use drugs constantly
  • Increased interpersonal conflict
  • Increased isolation

When to Seek Help for Yourself or a Loved One

If your loved one is exhibiting signs of SUD, it’s best to be compassionate with them and listen with an open mind. Arguments and hostility can only worsen the situation and cause your loved one to shut down. You may also want to research different treatment options or seek out a family support group that truly understands the struggles you’re experiencing. 

Fortunately, there are many treatment options available for you, your loved one, or anyone else struggling with substance use. 

Inpatient Detox

Detoxification services are administered to individuals who are experiencing mild to severe withdrawal symptoms after they attempt to quit substance use. Inpatient detox is a form of residential treatment where you will have 24/7 access to clinical care and emotional support. Oftentimes, medications are administered to individuals to make the withdrawal process more manageable.

Detoxing on your own can be dangerous and even deadly. This is why it’s important to seek out proper treatment that will help you find lasting success in your recovery and beyond.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

After detox is complete, outpatient treatment becomes the next best step in one’s recovery journey. Unlike inpatient programs, outpatient treatment programs are structured so the individual can live at home and receive treatment regularly throughout the week. Quality outpatient addiction treatment programs will put you, the individual, first. They will help you create your own treatment plan that is tailored to your unique needs, and give you life skills training to help you re-enter daily life. 

No matter which path you choose, make sure that it’s the one best suited for you. Know that if you do not achieve sobriety after one treatment program, it does not mean that treatment has failed. Oftentimes, it means that treatment must be adjusted to fit your ever-changing needs. 

Nearly 60 million people were reported to have used illicit substances in 2020, while 41.1 million of them were classified as needing treatment. It’s no secret that substance abuse has been on the rise for many years. Fortunately, treatment is more readily available than ever. If you or a loved one is suffering from substance use disorder, it is absolutely vital that you know and understand the warning signs and symptoms to watch out for. At Lighthouse Recovery Texas, we have a “family first” philosophy that keeps the family informed throughout each and every step of the treatment process. Addiction affects the whole family, so we make sure to include the whole family in the plan for treatment. Our family therapy sessions will help you repair and strengthen familial bonds, and individual sessions will help you find long-term sobriety. Give us a call at (214) 396-0259.