Drug use is something people often hide, even from their spouse. But you can usually spot signs of drug use when you spend every day with someone. Some of the signs of drug use can be caused by other factors, so you shouldn't automatically assume your spouse is using. Sometimes, the signs are different depending on the type of drug your spouse uses. The signs may be subtle at first. Over time, you may notice more changes in your spouse's behavior that point toward drug use.
Changes in Habits
Your spouse's habits may change when she starts using drugs. You might notice a difference in her sleeping patterns with long stretches of not sleeping at all when she's high or periods when she sleeps much longer than normal. The changing sleep patterns sometimes affect her mood, causing irritability. Other people may show signs of poor functioning because of lack of sleep.
Hygiene habits may slack during drug use. Because the drug is so consuming, people who use drugs often stop practicing basic self-care, such as showering, brushing their teeth or washing their clothes.
Eating habits may also change. Some people eat a lot more than normal while taking drugs. Others eat very little compared to what they usually eat. You might notice a change in weight, either a gain or loss.
Physical Symptoms of Drug Use
Physical symptoms caused by using drugs often vary depending on the drug of choice. Drugs that are injected into the body leave marks, often on the arms near the elbow crease. Bloodshot or itchy eyes and pupil dilation happen with some drugs. If your spouse is inhaling substances, you might notice sniffling, sneezing or bleeding from the nose. Itching or skin discoloration sometimes occurs with drug use.
Emotional and Behavioral Signs
A spouse who suddenly starts acting secretive or otherwise acts suspiciously may be trying to hide drug use. He might try to keep you from finding his drug paraphernalia, or he may not want you to get close to see the physical signs of drug use. You might notice mood swings, especially when he's off the drugs and going through withdrawal. Sometimes he might be energetic and talk quickly. Other times, he may seem sad, anxious or angry.
Friendships may start to change with drug use. Old friends may stop coming around, especially if they notice his changed behavior. He may also start hanging out with new friends who supply him with the drugs or do drugs with him. You might also notice that he spends a lot more time alone than he used to.
Motivation is often lost with drug use. You may notice he's no longer interested in the hobbies and activities he used to do all the time. He could be slacking on his job performance or missing many hours or days of work. Drug use can also cause people to become distant or inattentive.
When someone starts using drugs, they want more, no matter the cost. You might notice money missing from your wallet. If you share a bank account, you may notice the balance dropping for unexplained reasons. If you have separate accounts and share expenses, she might not have the money to cover her normal bills, or she may ask you for extra money. You might notice things are suddenly missing from the home. People who need drugs often sell items to get cash for the purchase.
Tips for Handling Your Spouse's Drug Use
Confronting your spouse about drug use is a delicate matter. He may not think he has a problem. Or, he might know he as a problem, but he doesn't think it's possible to stop using drugs. The idea of quitting or going to rehab is often scary for people who are addicted to drugs.
Start by preparing yourself for the confrontation. If you know what type of drugs your spouse is using, research that specific drug, so you know what to expect for behavior. Planning out what you're going to say to your spouse helps you deliver the message confidently. You should also research the treatment options in your area. Check with your insurance company to find out if treatment is covered. You might contact treatment centers and find one with an opening, so you can take your spouse immediately before he changes his mind.
If you don't feel comfortable addressing his drug use alone, consider an intervention with other family and friends supporting you. A doctor or licensed drug counselor can help you plan the intervention. Approach the subject when your spouse is sober. Use "I" messages, such as "I am concerned about your health when you use drugs," instead of, "You are ruining your health with these drugs." Let him know you want him to get better, and present him with the treatment options.
If your spouse is unwilling to seek treatment, be prepared to give him consequences. Decide your course of action ahead of time if he chooses to continue using drugs. Be prepared to follow through with those consequences. You might tell him you are leaving if he doesn't seek treatment, or you might tell him he has to find somewhere else to live. If kids are involved, he could lose his visitation rights. Whatever the consequences, present them in a clear, calm way, and follow through.
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- Northpoint Washington: 29 Clear Signs That Your Spouse Is an Addict
- Mayo Clinic: Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Understanding Drug Use and Addiction
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Signs of Drug Use and Addiction
- Prominence Treatment: The 3 Most Effective Steps to Confronting a Drug Addict
- Never address the issue while the person is known to be high as behavior is unpredictable at best.
- Your health and safety and your children's is the main priority. If you can't keep their environment safe then make changes to do so at another location.
- While it is hard to approach someone without being accusing when things are touchy remember not to enable while searching for the signs of drug use.
- DO NOT approach someone who is high as behavior can be unpredictable.
- If your an addict recovered or not and reading this and it upset you, good, I lived with an addicted spouse and maybe it will help you in your recovery and maybe it won't... to each their own.
Shelley Frost writes professionally on a full-time basis, specializing in lifestyle, family, parenting and relationship topics. She holds an education degree and has extensive experience working with kids and parents.