In the United States, there is a substance abuse crisis. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 70,000 deaths caused by drug overdose in 2018.
This number has only been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, provisional data from the CDC shows that 2020 is set to be the deadliest year on record for drug overdose deaths, with estimates putting that total well above 81,000.
It’s a side effect from the pandemic many experts saw coming thanks to the never-ending uncertainty and isolation that most Americans struggled with during the crisis. For many people, there was a negative effect on our mental health that will not simply go away as social distancing guidelines ease and businesses reopen.
If you are concerned that a friend or family may be struggling with substance abuse triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some signs to look out for, including:
- Changes in their behavior. You know your friends and family best and may easily be able to see when they aren’t acting like themselves. This may include exaggerated efforts to bar family members from entering their space or being secretive about their whereabouts. It can also manifest as significant changes in their relationships with others.
- Changes to their inner circle. Often, when a person is struggling with substance abuse who they spend time with will change. This may include the introduction of new people into their life, as well as an abandonment of friends and family members that once made up their inner circle.
- Problems at school or work. Your friend or family member may be frequently missing school or work or have a sudden disinterest in their performance or grades.
- Physical health issues. When individuals are struggling with substance abuse, they may notice changes in their physical health such as a lack of energy or motivation, as well as weight loss or gain.
- Changing sleep patterns. If your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, you may notice a change in their sleep habits. This may mean they are sleeping less or sleeping more.
- A shift in emotions. Drug abuse and addiction can result in seemingly significant personality changes for an individual. They may be more emotional or more volatile or may become less interested in the things they once loved or ignoring important responsibilities.
- Sudden money issues. You may notice that money has been stolen or your loved one may suddenly start asking you to borrow money. You may also notice items have gone missing if the individual is trying to sell those items, so they have money for their substance habit.
If you believe that your loved one could have a substance abuse problem, the first step is to get support for them and yourself. This is not a problem that you will be able to fix on your own. There are groups that can help you learn how to cope and that can help you manage the necessary steps to get your loved ones the help they need.
You should also take the time to educate yourself about addiction so that you can ensure that you are not enabling their actions and to ensure that you have realistic expectations about how you can help them.
Finally, when the individual is ready, be there for them and help them navigate their journey to recovery. This may mean working with them to identify the right inpatient or outpatient treatment program, such as Los Angeles IOP, that can get them the professional help they need.
The road to sobriety is often difficult, but when you know what signs to look out for, you can help your loved one who may be struggling with substance abuse.