The Signs a Family Member is Abusing Drugs

signs someone is on drugs

Struggles with addiction affect millions of Americans and their family members every year. Addiction is often called a family disease because the harms it causes stretch far beyond the individual, leaving virtually no one untouched. If you have a family member abusing drugs, you no doubt wonder what you can do to help them overcome their addiction. The journey to sobriety looks different for everyone, but the first step is knowing the signs of addiction to encourage your loved ones to get the help they need.

What Causes Addiction?

Research suggests there are several potential root causes of addiction. Unfortunately, years of research into addiction’s underlying causes and potential risk factors have not provided a specific or single cause. However, these studies suggest several potential risk factors may, either alone or combined, contribute to an increased risk of developing an addiction during one’s lifetime. These risk factors include underlying mental and medical health conditions, trauma history, genetics, and environment.

As many as 50% of individuals who seek help for addiction or a mental health condition struggle with dual-diagnosis disorders. This means they simultaneously experience addiction and mental health symptoms, although they may not realize their connection. People diagnosed with a mental health condition often turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of coping or self-medicating to manage and reduce the intensity of their symptoms. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol only offer short-term relief, and larger, more frequent doses are required to maintain comfort. Self-medication can quickly lead to tolerance, dependency, and addiction.

Separate research studies into the causes of addiction suggest genetic or biological factors may be responsible for up to 50% of one’s risk of developing a drug or alcohol addiction. Genetics or your “biological gender” (meaning your gender at birth) may increase your overall risk of addiction. Also, environmental factors (influences from your surrounding environment) such as housing, family dynamics, quality of life, stressors, trauma, financial stability, friends, and social interactions play a significant role.

What are the Signs a Family Member is Abusing Drugs

If you are worried about a family member abusing drugs, it can be hard to know how severe their addiction is. Although addiction is a dangerous illness, with help, your family member can overcome drug addiction and start over, free from the physical and emotional challenges drug abuse can cause. The signs of a drug use disorder may be difficult to notice, but if you see any of the below, it is crucial to seek help.

Signs of drug abuse generally take three forms; physical, behavioral, and psychological. The physical signs of addiction are usually easier to notice than others because they are often visible to family and friends. For example, your family member may begin to neglect personal hygiene, change their diet, or lose weight. You may also notice bruising on their hands, arms, and fingers (depending on the substance), bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, body sores, and dental problems.

In addition to physical changes, you may also notice behavioral and emotional changes in your family member. Many behavioral changes depend on the substance or substances your loved one uses and how much or how often they use. Examples of possible behavioral changes include loss of interest in hobbies or activities, increased negativity, mood swings, lack of energy, and notable difference in temper.

You may also see changes in their mental health, such as increased depression, paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, and other symptoms that are often confused with or directly coincide with a mental health condition. Other signs your loved one is abusing drugs include:

  • New or worsening financial problems.
  • Legal problems related to drug use.
  • The presence of drug-related paraphernalia in their home or vehicle.

How to Get a Family Member into Rehab

Drug addiction affects more than just the user. When a family member struggles with a substance use disorder, everyone in the family also experiences varying degrees of challenge. Addiction hurts family, relationships, work, and social interactions. If you have a family member who struggles with drug addiction, it is not uncommon to feel worried, frustrated, and helpless to know how to get them the help they need to get well. Fortunately, there is help available for your loved one. Although addiction is a chronic condition, it is treatable with support from a New Jersey addiction treatment program like Epiphany Health and Wellness. Whether your loved one’s treatment needs are best met in a New Jersey partial hospitalization or outpatient environment, we will work with your family to ensure they can safely and successfully begin their sobriety journey. To learn more about our programs and treatment options, contact us today.


  1. FastStats. Published October 21, 2022. Accessed November 26, 2022.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published June 6, 2018. Accessed November 27, 2022.
  3. Robinson L, Smith M, Segal J. Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Mental Health – Published November 21, 2022. Accessed November 27, 2022.
  4. Mosel S. Is Drug Addiction Genetic? American Addiction Centers. Published October 21, 2022. Accessed November 27, 2022.
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