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Learn How to Recognize Signs of Addiction in Family and Friends



It is scary to believe someone you love or care about may have a Substance Use Disorder. Our knowledgeable and experienced staff at The Bridges of San Diego understand your fear. We are here to provide help and hope for your loved one and for you too!

Substance Use Disorder Basics

Addiction is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior. It leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Alcohol, marijuana, and even nicotine are considered drugs. People who are addicted will continue to use the substance no matter what harm it causes.


For some, addiction starts slowly, with a person using and overusing a substance only socially. Over time, substance use becomes more frequent, eventually becoming a necessity.


In opioid use addiction usually begins with doctor prescribed medication, or by receiving medicines from a friend or family member prescribed the drug. Opioids carry a higher risk of addiction. Over time a person needs larger doses to achieve or maintain the ‘high’ received in the beginning. This begins a ruinous cycle for those who are addicted.


Professional help is required for safe, successful, and long-term addiction treatment.


Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

It can be challenging to determine if a person is using addictive substances. Trust your instincts. Observe. Write down patterns. Most importantly, seek professional help.


There are many varieties of drugs and many symptoms too. Each drug has specific symptoms. The following list is a more general one. Use reputable sources to research the symptoms you are experiencing or witnessing.


It may be that your friend or a family member has a substance use disorder if you notice these behaviors:


  • Health issues. Sudden weight loss or weight gain, lack of energy or motivation, red eyes.

  • School/work problems. Missing school or work, drop in performance, reprimands by teachers or employers, disinterest in social activities.

  • Neglected appearance. Disheveled clothes, grooming issues.

  • Behavior changes. Drastic changes in behavior with family and friends, persistent and frequent attempts at secrecy and stealth.

  • Discussions about money. Sudden requests for money with no explanation, discovery that money or valuables have gone missing.


Symptoms of addiction include but are not limited to:


  • Feeling that a drug is necessary, multiple times a day

  • Intense urges for the use of the drug that block other thoughts

  • Needing more to get ‘high’

  • Spending money on the drug, even when you can’t afford it

  • Not meeting obligations and responsibilities

  • Consistently using although you know it’s causing harm in your life and to others

  • Doing things you would not normally do, like stealing

  • Failing in attempts to stop using

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using

What You Can Do

There is no foolproof way to approach someone about their addiction successfully. What works for one person may not be useful at all for another. In general, it’s important to remember the following helpful tips for communicating:


Be Kind. Even if you have had a conflict with this person in the past, when the goal is to encourage treatment, kindness and compassion can go a long way. This person expects criticism and insults. So, empathy is an excellent first step in a positive conversation.


Listen. Allow the person space and time to talk. Even if you disagree, allow the person to say what they feel is necessary. This effort builds trust and respect.


Unconditional Love. Let them know you love and care for them, no matter what. If this is impossible, let them know you have their interests in mind. This does NOT mean you enable them. It just means they are aware of your motives.


Set Boundaries. Be very clear about what you will not tolerate, and then be consistent. If you cannot live with the person while they are engaging in addiction, it may be necessary to reach out for professional help to communicate this to that person.


Help Them Get Help. There are stigmas and shame attached to addiction. If your loved one is fearful or ashamed about reaching out to professionals for help, offer to help them. Even if they refuse to seek help, you can get help for yourself. Witnessing your willingness to change may inspire them!

About Us

For many people, it is impossible to attend in-patient treatment programs. For those for whom it is appropriate, our Intensive Outpatient Program may be the answer.


The Bridges at San Diego, located in beautiful La Mesa, is an Intensive Outpatient Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center providing evidence-based recovery results. We offer a calm, peaceful, comfortable environment to help you begin your recovery process. Whether you have left an in-patient treatment center, or are just starting your journey to sobriety, we are open and accepting new clients.


Our team can help you or your loved one reclaim what has been lost in three easy steps:


  1. CALL US for a quick and confidential discussion of your situation.

  2. We’ll verify your insurance. If you don’t have insurance, we offer financing options - even scholarships - for treatment.

  3. Sit down with a trained and experienced counselor for your initial assessment.


The Bridges of San Diego also provides a Partial Hospitalization Program that is comprehensive, short-term, and intensive. It enables individuals to live at home while receiving treatment at our center five days or nights a week.


Family support is available for family members and loved ones struggling with Substance Use Disorder who are experiencing anger, shame, guilt, and codependency. Services include individual and group counseling for a minimum of eight weeks, two days or nights per week.


We also offer continuum of care for one year after the initial program is completed.


We encourage you to take that bold step toward a new, sober life and call us today.


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