Effects of SUD and Mental Health Issues on Family and Friends

Ashleigh Rose Bottorff

Updated: 01/11/2024

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What is SUD (Substance Use Disorder)?

SUD is the uncontrolled use of a substance, legal, illegal or prescribed, to the point where the person’s daily life is negatively impacted and could result in serious harm or suicide. People with SUD continue using the substance even though they know using the substance is causing or will cause problems. Treatment for SUD must include everyone involved, family, friends and loved ones, not just the person with SUD.

Signs of SUD

Behaviors include:

  • Changes in appearance: daily routines, employment, finances, mental function, moods, personal and professional relationships.
  • Physical changes: Clammy skin, dirty clothing, drowsiness at unusual times, flushed face, poor grooming, shakiness, unwanted weight loss or gain, wearing dark glasses when unnecessary,
  • Mood changes: Having angry outbursts, being tearful and sad for no reason, having mood swings, feeling hopeless, having inappropriate laughter, and seeking social isolation.
  • Psychological changes: Being confused, experiencing delusional thinking, having unusual memory loss, paranoia and hallucinations.
  • Work related changes: Being absent from work for no known reason, losing a job, but not sharing why, exhibiting poor or unusual work performance.
  1. Feeling the need to cut back on drinking or drug usage, but can not
  2. Needing more drugs or alcohol to get the desired effect
  3. Lying about or hiding how much or how often you are drinking or using drugs
  4. Using prescription medicine more than the prescribed dosage
  5. Having friends or family express concern about your alcohol or drug usage
  6. Feeling bad or ashamed about your drinking or drug usage
  7. Unable to remember what you did when drinking or using drugs
  8. Endangering yourself or others when using alcohol or drugs, such as driving, showing violent behavior, etc.
  9. Getting into trouble with the law when drinking or using drugs

Help is available. Not getting help will only make things worse. If you are trying to help someone with a drug or alcohol problem, get support for yourself as well.

Effects of SUD on Friends and Family

SUD affects family, friends, and loved ones in all areas of life, including but not limited to economic, family, legal, medical, psychiatric, psychological and social. Trust is destroyed, honest communication is non-existent, marriages are endangered, physical violence may result. Children are especially at risk when living with someone who has SUD. They can be traumatized for life, and in some cases removed from the home for their own protection. People trying to help the person with SUD are at risk of feeling anger and confusion, being chronically depressed with unrelenting feelings of despair, frustration, hopelessness, sadness, and stress. SUD is treatable. Get help sooner than later, for everyone involved! A positive, productive lifestyle without the upheaval of SUD is possible with treatment, support and determination!

Signs and Effects of Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues are common occurrences with SUD that include Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Schizophrenia.

  • Anxiety Disorders Symptoms include: feeling chronic stress, edgy, jumpy and worry.
  • Bipolar Disorder symptoms include: Feeling angry, impulsive, very happy, very depressed, having grandiose beliefs, impaired judgment. Depression may include feeling angry which can escalate into violent behavior, feeling helpless, hopeless and irritable, losing interest in daily activities, feeling a loss of energy, exhibiting dangerous behavior such as driving while impaired.
  • PTSD symptoms include but not limited to: flashbacks, intense distress at reminders of the trauma, nausea, nightmares, sweating or trembling. Schizophrenia has symptoms including, but not limited to hallucinations, hearing voices, paranoia.

People with mental health issues oftentimes try to subdue these issues or self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, or mix them with prescribed medication, all of which can make the situation worse and can result in serious harm or suicide. Physical problems resulting from mental health issues may include cancers, withdrawal symptoms and dangerous behavior for themselves and others. The above symptoms affect not only the person with mental health issues, but people around them. Treatment is available. Talk to your physician to create a treatment plan that will lead to a healthy lifestyle for everyone!

SUD and Mental Health Issues May Occur Together

People with SUD may also have other mental health disorders, and people with mental health disorders may also struggle with SUD. When someone has SUD and a mental health disorder, it is usually best to treat them at the same time rather than separately. People who need help for SUD and other mental disorders should see a health care provider for each disorder. Talk to your physician to discuss getting a treatment plan designed exclusively for the patient that includes family, friends and loved ones.

How to Approach Someone with SUD and Mental Health Issues

It is never easy to bring up the subject of SUD and Mental Health Issues. Usually, the person with the problem will not be the one to initiate this conversation. Your approach should not be accusatory or judgmental, which only creates defensive, negative behavior. Using “I” rather than “YOU” works far better. Speak from your heart, let the person know how their behavior is affecting you and others, while expressing your concern for THEM as well. Suggest treatment, offer your support and kindness, while setting boundaries that are healthy for everyone. Be firm, yet loving, and have no expectations as the best of interventions are unsuccessful. Oftentimes, the person with SUD or mental health issues, when discussing their behavior, even in the most caring, compassionate manner, can lash out in anger or rage and can even become violent. If these behaviors occur, it is time to get professional help.

Addiction And Mental Health Issues Are Strong, But Together We Are Stronger!

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or mental health issues, please seek help immediately! There are trained professionals who specialize in SUD and mental health issues and nationwide treatment centers that offer safe, caring environments for detoxification, inpatient, out-patient treatment, and hospitalization.