Families struggle with addiction today at alarming rates. Unfortunately, addiction can impact nearly any member of a family. If you are concerned that a loved one is struggling with addiction, you need to know how to recognize the signs so that you can get them the help they need.

Know the Stages of Addiction

Addiction does not necessarily occur overnight, but it may be difficult to determine when your loved one moves beyond an experimental phase or social or casual use of substances to full-blown addiction. If you learn the stages of addiction, you will be better equipped to help your loved one handle his addiction before it becomes debilitating or life threatening.

In the early stages of addiction, your loved one especially may be drawn to one activity or substance. This means that your loved one will seek out situations where the activity or substance is present and more than likely change his behavior to take part in those situations. Your loved one then likely will binge on those activities or substances and lose control. Alienation follows the early phase of addiction, as your loved one will push away friends and family who care about him. Be aware of missed phone calls, ignored texts, and a refusal to interact with family or friends.

Addicts also experience declining health, and you may notice they are experiencing constant illness, injuries, or chronic fatigue. If your loved one is an addict, he may experience emotional and mental health issues, such as aggression, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Later stages of addiction include personal, professional, or legal problems and other negative impacts on his life. Finally, addicts will deny the severity of their addiction and make excuses.

Be Aware of Personality and Behavior Changes at Certain Times of Life

Sadly, family members of nearly any age may become an addict. Your younger loved ones can have difficulty during their teenage years that can lead to addiction. It can be difficult to recognize addiction in teens because personality and behavior changes related to substance abuse mimic typical adolescent behavior. However, there are some changes in teens that can indicate they are struggling with substance abuse that you should be cognizant of if you suspect they are using. For example, if the teen has frequently broken curfew or goes out every night, it may be a sign of addiction. Teens who actively avoid eye contact, clench their teeth, chew gum or mints to cover their breath, or use over-the-counter solutions to reduce eye redness and nasal irritation may be struggling with addiction. Addicted teens also lose interest in their extracurricular activities and hobbies, make endless excuses, laugh for no reason, and have periods of sleeplessness or high energy followed by longer periods of sleep.

Be Aware of Struggles with Sexuality and Gender Identification

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) teens are at a higher risk for addiction than their straight peers. If you know that your loved one is struggling with his sexuality or gender identification, you need to know how to recognize the most common signs of addiction in order to help him. If your LGBTQ teen or loved one is experiencing violence or discrimination because of his sexuality or gender identification, he is at a higher risk for becoming an addict. And, if the teen’s parents do not accept his sexuality or gender identification, he is at an even higher risk of using illegal drugs. Overall, if your LGBTQ teen is exhibiting signs of depression, stress, or anxiety, you should get him help before he starts showing signs of addiction as well.

Most addicts deny they have a problem, so they will not reach out for help. That is why you need to be able to recognize the signs of addiction in your loved ones and then get them the help that they need.