Have you ever wondered if your husband, boyfriend, wife, girlfriend, son, or daughter have a drinking problem? Maybe a drug problem?
You might think that they seem to function pretty well so it can't be a 'problem', right? Or maybe you think they deserve it - that they deserve to feel that bit of reprieve at the end of a long day?
There is a manual where the diagnostic criteria for addiction and mental health disorders resides called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and commonly referred to as the DSM-5 (because the current version is the 5th edition).
The DSM-5 has criteria that determine whether someone's symptoms may indicate that there is a problem and a severity level. Most addiction is classified as such if certain criteria are present:
Alcohol or drugs are taken in a larger amount or over a longer period of time than intended.
There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use.
A great amount of time is spent trying to use or recover from use.
There is a craving, urge, or strong desire to use.
The use is causing issues in fulfilling obligations at work, school, or home.
Continued use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or complicated by use.
Important activities are given up or reduced because of use.
Recurrent use in situations where it is physically hazardous (drinking and driving, using and driving, etc.)
Continued use despite have a physical or psychological problem that is caused or made worse by alcohol and/or drug use.
A tolerance is established.
There are withdrawal symptoms (sweating, high pulse, hand tremors, insomnia, nausea or vomiting, hallucinations or illusions, agitation, anxiety, seizures, etc.).
These are all adapted from the DSM-5. Please know that the criteria vary among substance use, but overall, these are pretty consistent for common substances. (Disclaimer: This list is not meant to diagnose or treat anyone, please see a professional.)
If you are worried about a loved one, I believe that the bold criteria are ones that you might be able to notice in a loved one. In other words, if you are noticing:
Your loved one is struggling to keep a job or is being written up at work
Your loved one is struggling with grades or behavioral issues
Your loved one isn't taking care of their home, dishes are piling up, the grass isn't mowed, etc.
He or she doesn't want to go to social, work, or fun events
Relationships with friends, family, and significant other are suffering because of the use
Anxiety or depression is worsened by drinking or drug use but your loved one uses anyway
If there are car accidents, DWI's and the like, that is a fairly obvious indication that there may be a problem
Withdrawal symptoms can be tricky because shaky hands might be from several things but it is a good indication if you are seeing some of the other criteria
In most cases, if you are concerned, that is reason enough to speak with your loved one. Consider having a conversation with your loved one. If it seems fitting, perhaps he or she might agree to an assessment of their use or at the very least, talk to someone to explore it a bit.
Be kind and considerate. Do not judge or offer your opinion. Be an open ear and show your loved one that you care. You can share how their use is affecting you if you are willing, just do so in a caring and empathetic manner. Alcohol and substance use affects everyone, not just the person using. Be sure to take care of yourself in the process and seek help (support groups or therapy) if you need it. There is absolutely no shame in taking care of yourself!
Take it one day at a time. I believe in you.