Tipping Point: 5 Addiction Warning Signs to Look for in Family Members

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 Tipping Point: 5 Addiction Warning Signs to Look for in Family Members

Sponsored by Caron Treatment Centers

One of the most common and damaging misconceptions about addiction is that it doesn’t affect “successful” people.

The truth is: Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Nearly 22 million Americans meet the criteria for a substance use disorder, and this group is comprised of individuals from every point on the socioeconomic spectrum. Many with highly developed careers — whether they are financial brokers, CEOs, lawyers or politicians — often struggle the most with overcoming the shame and denial that can go hand-in-hand with an addiction. 

“Truth be told, though times have changed and we've all evolved, there's still that notion that those seeking addiction treatment will be going to this sterile place around strange, ‘crazy’ people,” said Randal Mullings, D.M.F.T, LMHC director of family services at Caron Ocean Drive — a discreet treatment center in Boca Raton for people characterized by wealth and success.

One of Caron’s main objectives is dispelling this misconception, which is why Ocean Drive’s clients are able to recover in an environment that’s comfortable and filled with people from similar backgrounds. 

“When people of means seek treatment amongst like-minded peers and clinicians at Ocean Drive, they are met with the acceptance, compassion and understanding they need in order to heal,” Mullings said. 

Confidentiality and respect are the pillars of Ocean Drive, which provides a haven for individuals to rehabilitate from addiction and, in many instances, co-occurring disorders. A team of highly educated clinicians tailors each treatment plan to the executive client and their family in order to address their needs and facilitate their recovery process.

The inability or unwillingness to seek treatment for an addiction can present even greater difficulties during the holidays, a time when we reconnect with loved ones whom we haven’t seen in a while. If you’re worried about someone this season, here are some signs that might indicate that your loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder.

Changes in mood or behavior

If you notice a drastic change in mood or behavior in a loved one during the holidays, it may be that they’re using drugs or alcohol to escape negative feelings. When someone is battling an addiction, it’s rare that his or her dependence is an isolated issue. Addictions frequently co-occur with other mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, changes in behavior, such as increased irritation and social isolation, are common signs of addiction.

Poor work performance

Many successful individuals are high-functioning enough to keep their work performance on track even in the throes of an addiction — at least for a time. Some workplaces will turn a blind eye to the symptoms of addiction, especially if the individual continues to be successful and profitable; but this façade can’t remain intact forever.

If you hear that your loved one is exhibiting signs such as tardiness, unfinished tasks, frequent re-scheduling of meetings and unexpected disappearances during the workday, it could signal that they’re struggling with substance abuse. It’s also important to note that even if your loved one’s work performance hasn’t decreased, the negative effects of their addiction could still be spilling over into their personal life. 

Neglecting responsibilities

For high-functioning executives, home life and personal responsibilities are often the first places that addiction begins to rear its head. If your loved one is neglecting responsibilities (such as tasks they promised to complete) or missing social gatherings and holiday events that they agreed to attend, it could be a sign of an ongoing problem. 

A change in routine is another sign to look out for, Mullings said. 

“If you had a family member that was consistent with certain things — let's say they’re always the one to pick up the phone on a Thursday evening and put a phone call in to family to check in, but they aren’t doing that anymore — then that’s a sign that something may be amiss,” he explains. 

Financial problems

The amount of money that goes towards financing an addiction can be insidious and difficult to detect. In addition to the depletion of funds that results from buying the substance itself, your loved one could be struggling with unpaid debts, loss of income, health care costs and legal fees. If you notice any major unexplained changes in your family member’s approach to finances, this could be a warning sign of addiction. 

Changes in health or physical appearance

Addiction inevitably takes a toll on the body. If you notice physical changes in your loved one’s appearance, such as an unsteady step, red eyes or fluctuation in weight, this may be a sign that they’re struggling. Additionally, the health consequences of drug abuse can vary from changes in appetite and heart rate to long-term effects such as heart or lung disease. Mullings notes that close family members are usually the last to notice these changes. 

“Some of that is psychological,” he said. “Denial is so strong. We're often too close to the painting; we can't see it.” 

Seeking treatment for an addiction requires exchanging self-will for vulnerability, which can be especially difficult for high net worth individuals. If you suspect that your loved one is struggling with an addiction, you shouldn’t wait until they hit rock bottom to reach out — even if that means interrupting holiday celebrations to do so. 

“Have the courage to voice your concerns — your action may save your loved one’s life,” Mullings said. “More times than not, the reason clients end up in treatment is because a family member intervened.”

Photo courtesy of Caron Treatment Centers