Trust Your Gut

How to Tell If Someone Close to You is Suffering from Addiction

Most of us know by now that addiction is a disease and, tragically, that it can be a terminal one. Like any serious disease, catching addiction early in its progression can head off its most devastating effects and help the person suffering from it get healthy.

The all-important question this raises is how to determine if someone close to you is using or suffering from addiction.

While this might seem like an enormously complicated, even intimidating challenge, the truth is three simple steps can help not only determine whether someone is suffering from addiction but also get them the help they need.

  1. Get Informed

The first step is to arm yourself with the single most important tool in the struggle against addiction: knowledge. There is simply no substitute for thorough, honest, and insightful information about the fight against addiction. Resources like,which serves as a critical first stop for millions of people struggling to understanding what addiction is (and what it’s not), will help equip yourself to discern whether someone you know is using or suffering from addiction. But, just as importantly, this knowledge will also give you the ability to help that person take steps towards getting treatment.

  1. Look for the Signs

If you suspect someone is using, the signs will be there—as long as you know how to look for them. General changes in behavior or mood are common. Drowsy, un-engaged or disconnected behavior can become apparent. Slurred or slow speech might occur. Paraphernalia such as spoons, lighters and even syringes or needles can start appearing in strange places.

In most cases, addiction will also bring about dramatic changes in behavior, often causing sufferers to act in ways completely contrary to their personality or nature. Even the most kind, considerate, forthright and ambitious individuals can become extremely manipulative as they lie and maneuver in order to cover up the above tell-tale signs and do whateverit takes to get to the drug of choice.

Highly addictive drugs, like opioids, benzodiazepine, heroin and cocaine, which actually alter the chemical makeup of the brains of people using them, further accentuate these changes in behavior, making them even more dramatic and—if you’re alert to them—evident.

  1. Trust Your Gut

While it might be the most subjective method of determining whether someone you know is using or suffering from addiction, trusting your own intuition can also be the most effective. If you suspect someone is using, they most likely are. By tapping into the tools we all inherently have—most importantly, your intuition—you’ll uncover the answer to the lurking question about whether someone you know is suffering from addiction.

The key to doing this successfully is to never rationalize or explain away your “gut knowledge.” If, for instance, you find yourself saying things like, “I was sure I had $50 in my wallet but then it wasn’t there,” or if you catch a glimpse of what looks like drug paraphernalia, or notice bizarre or erratic behavior in an otherwise level-headed person, don’t brush it off or blame yourself or think “it’s nothing.” No matter how unpleasant or uncomfortable it may be, facing up to what your intuition is really telling you is essential.

If you do come to the difficult conclusion that someone you care about is suffering from addiction, it is your responsibility to do everything in your power to help, whether that is getting them to one of the many harm reduction clinics opening across the country, connecting them with programs and policies designed to reduce overdoses, or finding them a qualified addiction specialist who can determine the best course of action, given their  circumstances and needs.

Because here is the thing: the longer a person is addicted, the more difficult it is for them to stop. Just like with any other disease, whether it is cancer or heart disease or diabetes, addiction has to be diagnosed and treated as quickly, professionally and intensively as possible. And while we are often tempted to think someone else will step in at some other time, the hard reality is that—more often not—we are that person and the time is now.