Substance use occurs on a continuum, and not everyone who uses drugs or alcohol abuses or is dependent on them. However, there are risks and potential negative consequences associated with drinking alcohol and/or using drugs. Below are some signs that you may be negatively impacted by your current substance use.
Signs of Substance Abuse
- Absence from work/school/social engagements
- Increasingly withdrawn or secretive about one’s activities
- Financial difficulties
- Legal problems
- Disrupted sleep
- Relationship issues
- Irritable or argumentative
- Difficulty coping with stress without using drugs or alcohol
- Brain fog and confusion
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Avoiding discussion of the topic
- Feeling frequent shame about current substance use
- Change in eating habits
- Overly energetic or lack of energy
- Weight loss
- Dilated pupils or red eyes
- Excessive sniffing and runny nose
- Looking pale or malnourished
On Campus Resources
The Loyola Counseling Center provides assessment and short-term individual counseling for students whose substance use is mild to moderate. Due to the complex nature and health risks related to substance abuse, comprehensive assessment and treatment recommendations are necessary to ensure that an individual engages in the most helpful, ethical, and supportive care for their needs. This may include connecting students with additional campus or local resources.
- Alcoholics Anonymous: free support groups for alcohol abuse based on the 12 Step Recovery Model
- AL-ANON: free support groups for family/friends of an individual struggling with substance abuse based on the 12 Step Recovery Model
- Narcotics Anonymous: free support groups for drug abuse based on the 12 Step Recovery Model
- SMART Recovery: free support groups that support recovery from addiction
- Maryland Addiction Recovery Center: assessment and treatment for substance abuse, including intensive outpatient and inpatient treatment
- Kolmac: outpatient recovery treatment
- Adult Children of Alcoholics®/ Dysfunctional Families: support for adults raised by a parent struggling with or who has struggled with substance abuse
- Sober Grid: Free app for Iphone and Android. Sober Grid is a mobile sober community and is a personalized resource for tracking and sharing progress with others, while giving and receiving support. It also offers 24/7 live peer coaching.
- Nomo – Sobriety Clock: Free app for Iphone and Android. The app offers everything from an encouragement wall, to accountability partner searching, to mini-exercises to help you refocus on sobriety.
- WEconnect: Free app for Iphone and Android. WEconnect helps users schedule routines to stay on track for recovery. The app provides reminders, rewards for completion of recovery activities, and GPS verification for routine locations to increase accountability.
- Harm Reduction resources in Maryland.
Coping with the Substance Use of a Loved One
When a loved one is coping with substance use, you may feel helpless, scared, confused, frustrated, and a range of other emotions. There are no simple solutions to the complex feelings and responses you may experience, but these strategies can help you care for yourself and feel equipped to support your loved one.
- Set healthy boundaries. Addiction is a challenging disease. The person with an addiction may try to push boundaries because of their dependence on substances. It may be necessary to take a step back and identify the boundaries you have, so that your life is not negatively impacted by the needs of a person using substances. Ultimately, you are not responsible for your loved one’s substance use and do not have the power to “fix” that person. An addict must be motivated for sobriety to make recovery possible.
- Set realistic expectations. It is important to realize that if you return home for the holidays with a parent or loved one who has an addiction, they will not suddenly be free from their addiction without long-term therapeutic work. Setting realistic expectations will help you anticipate what behaviors you may need to cope with and aid you in creating appropriate boundaries.
- Learn about addiction. Educate yourself by knowing what addiction is and what to expect when someone suffers with addiction. This will help you set healthy boundaries and realistic expectations. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers additional information about substance abuse and a free referral helpline.
- Do not use substances with the person who has an addiction. This sends a message that you are tolerant of their use of substances, while also putting yourself at risk for developing an addiction.
- Find a healthy support system. Connect with others through your classes, clubs, friends, or organizations. It can be healthy to surround yourself with people who do not struggle with an addiction so that you can have a healthy model of relationships.
- Withstand the urge to rescue or please. You might feel the need to please or rescue a loved one from certain situations. While setting boundaries or saying no may cause you to feel guilty, you do not have to sacrifice your comfort of safety to please your loved one. It is not within your power to cure your loved one’s addiction.
- Practice self-care and utilize counseling. Supporting a loved one struggling with substance abuse can be demanding and may impact your own mental health. Talking to a counselor and practicing healthy habits will not change your experience overnight, but it is an important first step toward living a healthier life and processing the emotions that may come with supporting a loved one. Additionally, a counselor can help you reflect on your own boundaries and how you can communicate those to others.
There are many health and safety risks associated with drug and alcohol use. These harm reduction strategies will not remove the risks and potential consequences of substance use but may help you reduce harm.
- Nourish your body: Try to eat nutritious food and drink plenty of water. This will reduce hangover effects and ease the pace of alcohol entering your blood stream.
- Space out your drinks: Taking sips of alcohol, pacing yourself, and alternating between water and alcohol can slow down the effects of alcohol on your body.
- Avoid mixing drugs and alcohol: Consuming drugs and alcohol together stresses your heart and liver and can lead to overdose.
- Use with safe people in a safe place: This will help you feel more in control of your surroundings.
- Less is more: Try to find strategies to help limit your substance use to avoid overdose. You might only give yourself access to small quantities of substances at a time or identify an accountability partner.
- Beware of withdrawal: If you stop using drugs and alcohol all together, and you’re experiencing shakes, seizures, vomiting, hallucinations, or suicidal ideation, seek emergency help.