Substance Abuse Signs
Substance abuse affects everyone. Below are some signs to look for in yourself or someone else, along with resources and ideas for intervention that can make a difference in the lives of those who abuse and those who enable them.
Danger Signs of Potential Substance Abuse
- Using prescription medication to excess, with alcohol, or in ways other than prescribed.
- Inhaling fumes or solvents for the “high”.
- Depression, anxiety, loneliness, stress, physical pain, or emotional pain that is not dealt with.
- Overly strong desire by a teenager to fit in with a peer group.
- Using the substance secretly.
- Craving the effects of the substance.
- Not remembering things you did or said under the influence.
- Increased family conflict, withdrawal, and decreased work or school performance.
- Going through the motions spiritually, but not growing.
- Not being able to stop after one drink, or needing that one drink every day.
- An angry desire to exert your independence over parental control.
- Driving when your judgment is impaired.
- Feeling ill the next morning and covering up the reason.
- Trying something once is an experiment. Binging occasionally, or making a recreational habit of getting high is moving in a very serious direction. Some people are genetically much more prone to rapid physical dependence.
Ideas for Substance Abuse Intervention
- Educate yourself.
- Jump in; the sooner the better.
- Pray for clear, swift, non-life-threatening natural consequences, so their eyes might be opened.
- Keep no secrets - tell the truth, talk openly. Protecting reputations enables the problem to continue.
- Rock the boat! Seek counseling, check out underlying medical conditions causing pain, take the keys, call the cops, tell the elders. There is wisdom in the counsel of many.
Enable No More
If you know of someone who is using substances to a self-harming way, don't skirt the topic in the name of a forgiving, forbearing, submissive heart. These are issues that must be addressed. Misapplied grace may only enable a person who desperately needs help. Enabling means to help the addicted person stay in hiding instead of facing the truth. The enabler often rescues them, lies for them, and covers up for them in order to avoid shame and “trouble.”
There are three “rules of addiction” that families and churches get stuck in, and that only perpetuate the problem:
- “Don't talk”: No, the truth must come out! The whole family and support system must talk and figure out how to support each other.
- “Don't feel”: No, feelings and pain must be dealt with, not drowned out with spiritual clichés’ that allow the option of self-medicating.
- “Don't rock the boat”: No, the way to help is often through confrontation, intervention, and applied consequences. Jesus rocked many a boat. We are told to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Love is not a soft, powerless sentiment, but a mighty force that rocks lives.
Other Signs of Enabling (Sinful Forbearance) Include:
- Believing “I'm sorry” when there is no change in behavior.
- Believing that it is somehow your fault.
- Believing you are “the one” who can love them enough to fix, rescue, or save them by patience, love, and logic.
- Keeping secrets to protect them from consequences at school, work, the law, or from their parents.
- Ignoring your own needs to accommodate the other person.
- Having a pharisaical desire to maintain a good image.
Alcohol and drug abuse are is not uncommon, but the stigma often prevents hurting teens, families, and individuals from getting help.
- Recovery.org: Connecting people and families with information and resources to help them recover from substance abuse
- Alcohol and Drug Addiction Support: drug-addiction-support.org
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Teen Challenge: Freedom from addiction for adults, teens and families
- The National Association for Christian Recovery