5 Signs Your Loved One Could Be Hiding Substance Abuse

In a world where over 21 million Americans are suffering from addiction, early prevention is the first step toward helping a loved one find their way to recovery. Often, those battling with substance abuse will go to great lengths to hide their problems. While they may think they are protecting their families and friends, it only serves to leave them in the dark until it’s too late. Would you know if your loved ones were struggling with drug or alcohol addiction? Here are five signs that someone you care about might be hiding their substance abuse.   

1. Sudden Change in Grooming Habits


Once addiction takes hold of someone most other things take a backseat; this includes personal hygiene. A dramatic change in grooming can be a subtle hint that something is off. If your friend or family member once took pride in their appearance but is now disinterested in their cleanliness and dress, it might be more than a phase. Substance abuse often leads to a neglect of self-care as using and getting more is prioritized over everything else. 

2. Unexplained Financial Issues


While it’s common knowledge that addiction can drain finances, the signs might not always be so obvious. Keep an eye out for frequent borrowing of money, sudden financial crises, or even missing valuables around the house. Often, individuals with substance use disorders will find themselves in financial trouble as they struggle to fund their addiction, sometimes resorting to desperate measures like taking out loans, advancing cash on a credit card, and theft. 

3. Overly Defensive Behavior


We all have bad days and can be prone to temper tantrums but if you’ve noticed your loved one is overly defensive or paranoid when asked about their activities, take notice! Paranoia and hyper-defensiveness is a sign of substance abuse and stems from the fear of being found out. Don’t be surprised if they react with anger, hostility, aggression, attempt to change the subject, make up excuses or just outright gaslight you to cover their tracks. 

4. Social Withdrawal

Some people are naturally more introverted than others but isolation can be a significant indicator of substance abuse. If your once social and outgoing loved one starts withdrawing from friends and family, or your shy family member is all of a sudden reclusive, it could be a sign they're trying to hide their addiction. Pay attention to canceled plans, avoidance of social gatherings, and if they become secretive about their whereabouts.

5. Inconsistent Stories or Excuses


You may start to notice that when questioned about their behavior or where they have been that your loved one creates elaborate excuses or overly detailed stories that just don’t add up. As you pay attention to these inconsistencies, dig deeper. People struggling with addiction frequently fabricate stories to cover up their substance use, leading to a web of lies that can be quite revealing if scrutinized.

What to Do if You Suspect Substance Abuse


Discovering that someone you care about might be struggling with addiction is scary, overwhelming, and can feel very lonely. You are not alone in this though and there are steps you can take to help them:

  • Educate Yourself: You can’t fight an enemy you don’t know. Understanding addiction is the first step. Learn about the substances they might be using, the effects, and the treatment options available.
  • Communicate Openly: Talk openly and honestly with your loved one. Approach the topic of their addiction with empathy and concern. Express your observations without judgment and let them know you're there to support them not punish them. 
  • Seek Professional Help: Treating addiction usually requires a professional treatment program. This is a disease that is very difficult to handle on your own. Encourage your loved one to seek help from a medical professional or an addiction specialist and to consider in-patient rehab
  • Offer Support: Be prepared to support them through their recovery journey. This might include helping them find treatment programs, attending counseling sessions, or simply being there to listen.
  • Take Care of Yourself: Living with or supporting someone through addiction is incredibly physically and emotionally exhausting. Make sure to take care of yourself, prioritize your own mental and emotional well-being and step away if necessary. 

Learn More


Help your loved one and yourself by calling Sunflower Recovery today. Our experienced team of clinicians are here to answer your questions, listen to your concerns, and offer guidance on next steps. Calling is not a decision to admit or a contract. We’re simply here to help. Call us today. 

The Hidden Signs of Addiction