Excessive drug and alcohol use can destroy families and lives. Meanwhile, the person abusing drugs or alcohol is usually in deep denial and rationalizes his or her behavior, which makes the problem harder to treat. Whether you are a health care professional or a concerned friend, family member or coworker you can use simple techniques to evaluate the extent of drug or alcohol abuse and help put that person on the road to recovery with support and treatment.

Start by looking at the causes of drug and alcohol abuse. Risk factors include family history of addiction, which puts people at a higher risk of abuse; history of mental illness; untreated physical pain, unsupervised pain medications can be highly addictive; and peer pressure, particularly for teenagers. If someone you know has any of these risk factors then move on to looking at the physical signs of abuse and addiction.

Understand the physical signs of abuse and addiction. Examples include inability to sleep, unrestrained energy, confusion and disorientation, rapid weight loss or gain, excessive sleeping, changes in clothing to hide scarring from injections and potential drug paraphernalia. If someone you know shows one or more of these signs then immediately take them to a medical professional (either a hospital, urgent care facility or drug rehabilitation).

Look for the mental and emotional signs of abuse. Examples to look for include boundless energy, irritability and anger, looking ‘spaced out,’ depression, paranoia and delusions and hallucinations. Drugs cause a range of different feelings depending on which type is being abused. If any of these signs are on display then it’s a good idea to get mental health professionals involved to treat the person. A psychiatrist can evaluate the drug misuse and perhaps get the person on a proper treatment plan. A psychologist can address the emotional aspects of the drug or alcohol abuse in complementary therapy.