According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), research shows that 20.2 million U.S. adults have a substance use disorder, the clinical term used to describe addictions. Among those adults, 16.3 million struggle with addiction to alcohol, and 6.2 million are addicted to illegal drugs.1
Given the high prevalence of substance use disorders, your spouse may develop an addiction throughout the course of your marriage. If you’re wondering if your husband is addicted, some signs can help you answer this question.
Signs that May Point to Addiction
Addiction to drugs and alcohol comes with changes in actions, physical appearance, and health. If you’re worried that your husband may be addicted, look for the following signs:
If you notice that your husband is suddenly doing things he didn’t use to do, such as behaving impulsively, being secretive, or even getting into trouble with the law, there is a chance he may be struggling with an addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug use affects an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which helps a person to make decisions and control impulses.2 This is the reason for some of the behavior changes seen with addiction.
When a person begins using drugs, his friend group is likely to change. For example, he may lose friends who do not approve of the drug use and begin spending time with a new group of friends who also use drugs or alcohol. In fact, friends can play a large role in addiction, as 82.5% of addicts in a World Health Organization study stated that the contribution of friends to addiction is high.3
Lack of Motivation
If your husband is addicted to drugs, you may also notice that he has lost motivation to fulfill responsibilities at home or follow-through with goals. So much energy may be spent on seeking out drugs that motivation for other tasks diminishes.
Poor School/Job Performance
Another sign that your husband is using drugs is poor performance at work or school. If he is staying out at night using drugs, he may begin showing up late or skipping work and school altogether. In addition, he may struggle to be productive at work or school if he is withdrawing from drugs or dealing with drug cravings during the day.
Loss of Interest in Hobbies
Losing interest in former activities, such as watching sports, going to the gym, or engaging in outdoor activities like fishing or hunting, may also be a sign that your husband is addicted to drugs. Often, drug use becomes compulsive, and a person struggling with addiction will give up other hobbies.
As NIDA has explained, ongoing drug use harms the brain’s functioning.2 This can lead to difficulty paying attention. If your husband suddenly appears to be unfocused, this can be another sign of drug addiction.
Your husband may be addicted if he appears to display sudden mood swings, such as quickly shifting between happiness and a low mood. This is because drugs can cause a rush of euphoria, followed by a depressed mood when a person comes down from the high. In addition, some drugs may result in angry, aggressive behavior, which can result in apparent mood changes after a person uses them. For example, cocaine use may be associated with extreme mood swings, as a study in Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that up to 55% of people with cocaine-related mental health symptoms demonstrate violent behavior.4
Another sign of drug addiction is catching your husband in lies. Often, drug abuse occurs in secrecy, and those who are struggling with addiction will tell lies to cover up their behavior. For example, they may stay out for hours at night and tells lies about working late or being out with a friend, when in reality they were buying and using drugs. They may also tell lies about household finances to cover up the fact that they are using family money to purchase drugs.
Physical Changes that Point to Addiction
Beyond behavioral changes, like telling lies and failing to fulfill duties at work or school, there are physical changes that can point to addiction. For example, you may notice changes in eating habits, as well as weight loss, if your husband is addicted to drugs. Some drugs can specifically reduce appetite, whereas your husband may simply not take the time to eat if he is focused on obtaining and using drugs. This can result in significant weight loss over time.
Changes to Sleep
Another physical change that can occur with drug addiction is changing sleep habits. Some stimulant drugs may disrupt sleep and result in your husband staying awake at night or being up for days on end. If addicted, your husband may develop an erratic sleep schedule, staying awake while under the influence of drugs and then sleeping for an extended period after coming down from a “high” or “drug binge.”
Finally, poor hygiene is another physical indicator of drug addiction. Perhaps your husband once cared about grooming and dressing presentably, but once an addiction develops, it is not unusual for people to let their hygiene fall by the wayside. You may notice that your husband is not showering regularly or is wearing the same clothing day after day, simply because drugs have taken over, and he has stopped caring about his appearance.
Detecting Drug Use: Use Your Nose and Eyes
If your husband is displaying many signs of addiction, it is also helpful to use your senses to gather additional evidence of drug abuse. For example, if he is abusing alcohol, you will likely smell it on his breath. Strange odors or the smell of smoke on the clothing can also indicate drug use.
You might also be able to gather evidence of drug abuse by looking at your husband’s eyes, and the effects will vary based upon what sort of drugs he is using. Glassy, bloodshot eyes can be a sign of alcohol intoxication, whereas red eyes typically signal marijuana use. According to a 2019 report in The Indian Journal of Medical Research, heroin use causes the pupils to constrict; this takes effect 15-60 minutes after use and lasts for several hours. On the other hand, stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine cause the pupils to dilate.5
Searching for Drugs if Your Husband is Addicted
If all the physical and behavioral signs are pointing to addiction, it may be time to search for drugs to keep yourself, your family, and your husband safe. After all, if your husband is addicted, you ultimately want him to get treatment. If there are children in the home, it is especially important that any drugs be found and removed. Common places you may find drugs include your husband’s car, in his coat or pants pockets, under the bed, in his dresser, or any drawers beside his side of the bed. You may also find drug paraphernalia items, such as pipes, spoons, straws, or tin foil.
If you do go searching for drugs, be prepared to defend why you have violated your husband’s privacy. For example, you may explain that you were worried about his wellbeing or concerned about drugs being in the home because of the children’s safety.
Having a Tough Conversation
If you have evidence that your husband is addicted to drugs, perhaps because of physical and behavioral signs or because you have found drugs in the home, it is time to have a tough conversation. Before going into the conversation, it is helpful to understand that your husband may try to turn the conversation away from the topic of his drug use. He may be experiencing denial and might cope with this by talking about anything but drug use. Practice the conversation ahead of time and plan what you want to say so that you can stay on track should he attempt to divert the conversation.
Dealing With Anger
Aside from denial, your husband may be experiencing anger. He may manage this by accusing you of being paranoid or irrational, or by verbally lashing out at you. It is crucial that you remain calm during the conversation and stick to the facts. Come to the conversation ready to discuss specific evidence of his substance abuse. For example, you may share with him that you’ve noticed he isn’t going to work, is emptying hundreds of dollars from the bank account every week, and has been lying about whom he is spending time with when he leaves the house. You may also confront him about finding drugs or paraphernalia among his belongings.
Moving Forward if Your Husband is Addicted
Once you have had a tough conversation about your husband’s addiction, it is time to make a plan for recovering and moving forward. During this stage, it is important that you set boundaries with your husband and explain clear consequences for his behavior.
Stick to Consequences
You must be prepared to stick to any consequences you discuss, so you are not enabling him to continue using drugs. For example, you may tell him that if he does not begin treatment by a certain date, you are going to ask him to leave the house. You may also tell him that you are restricting his access to family money until he demonstrates a period of sobriety.
If Your Husband is Addicted, Get Him to Treatment
Seeking treatment is also an important part of moving forward from your husband’s addiction. Substance use disorders are clinical conditions that require professional intervention. The specifics of treatment will vary based upon the severity of your husband’s addiction. He may be able to complete counseling on an outpatient basis. On the other hand, if his addiction is more severe, residential or inpatient treatment may be necessary.
Counseling to Overcome Addiction
Regardless of the treatment setting, your husband’s recovery from addiction will likely involve a combination of individual and group counseling. He may undergo specific therapy methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help him learn effective ways of coping with stress without drug use. Depending on what types of drugs he has been using, he may also take medication to manage withdrawal and cravings. Family therapy is another component of successful addiction treatment.
In fact, a 2012 study in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy found that family counseling was more effective than individual counseling on its own for reducing drug use and promoting abstinence.6
Find Help if Your Husband is Addicted to Drugs
If your husband is addicted to drugs, there are programs available to help him recover. Given the effectiveness of family therapy, it is important that you be ready to support him and be an active participant in his recovery journey. Reach out to a treatment professional today to help him begin the fight against addiction.