Resources for Friends & Family

A pregnancy can be an exciting and scary time for the woman and her family. All involved want what’s best for the mother–to-be and the baby. Most women stop using prescription pain medications, illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy. However, some may not know how dangerous continuing these drugs can be for their unborn baby.

People use substances for a variety of reasons. In the case of prescription drugs, this may be under the supervision of a physician. Other women may be using substances to help them cope with the everyday stressors in her life.In some situations, women may deny use of these substances, but there are warning signs friends and family members can look for.

Warning Signs of Drug Abuse

The use and abuse of drugs are serious issues that should not be ignored or minimized and we should not sit back and hope they just go away.  If left untreated, use and abuse can develop into drug dependence.  As a result, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug abuse early.  If you’re worried that a friend or family member might be abusing drugs, here are some of the warning signs to look for:

Physical and health warning signs of drug abuse:

  • Eyes that are bloodshot or pupils that are smaller or larger than normal.

  • Frequent nosebleeds–could be related to snorted drugs (meth or cocaine).

  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns.

  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain.

  • Seizures without a history of epilepsy.

  • Deterioration in personal grooming or physical appearance.

  • Injuries/accidents and person won’t or can’t tell you how they got hurt.

  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.

  • Shakes, tremors, incoherent or slurred speech, impaired or unstable coordination.

Behavioral signs of drug abuse:

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school; loss of interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies, sports or exercise; decreased motivation.
  • Complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates.

  • Unusual or unexplained need for money or financial problems; borrowing or stealing; missing money or valuables.

  • Silent, withdrawn, engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.

  • Sudden change in relationships, friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.

  • Frequently getting into trouble (arguments, fights, accidents, illegal activities).

Psychological warning signs of drug abuse:

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.

  • Sudden mood changes, irritability, angry outbursts or laughing at nothing.

  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation.

  • Lack of motivation; inability to focus, appearing lethargic or “spaced out.”

  • Appearing fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid, with no apparent reason.

Helpful Hints for Friends & Family

If you believe your loved on is struggling with an alcohol or drug problem, you have probably heard the following excuses. Here are some helpful hints to help you communicate with your loved one and get them the help they need.

Family Response: Work with the resistance and offer support.

Avoid confrontation and try asking her view of the situation. Ask her if she has any concerns about her use and ask permission to share what you know, and then ask her opinion of the information. Accept that this process of change is a gradual one, and it may require several conversations before she feels safe discussing her real fears. This often leads to a reduced level of resistance and allows for a more open dialogue. Try to accept her independence and freedom to make her own choices, but make it clear that you would like to help her quit or reduce her use if she is willing.

Family Response: Let her know that it is possible to change and that you are willing to help her. You can give strong advice to change and still be empathetic to possible negative outcomes to changing. Guide her problem solving.

Family Response: Instill hope; explore barriers to change. What is really driving her usage, is there an underlying reason such as depression or anxiety.

Family Response: Decrease discussion. Listen rather than respond to the rationalization. Respond to her by empathizing and reframing her comments to address the conflict of wanting a healthy baby and not knowing whether “using” is really causing harm.

When your loved one is ready for a change, acknowledge her strengths, anticipate problems and pitfalls to changing, and assist the woman in generating her own plan for obtaining a drug-free lifestyle. Problem solve with her things that might get in the way of her success and how she can overcome those barriers. Work on plans for referral to treatment (i.e., help her make an appointment and offer to drive her there).

Once your loved one has quit using drugs or alcohol, acknowledge her success and how she is helping her infant and herself; have her share how she has succeeded and how she is coping with the challenges of not using. Offer to be available for assistance if she feels that she wants to use drugs/alcohol again. Provide assistance with treatment referrals and support in continuing that treatment: Discuss triggers and social pressures that may lead to relapse, and help the woman plan for them. Understand during this time that your support and that of others around her are essential to her remaining sober. Also remember that you cannot do it all and professionals are there to help.

Often, people who have reached a point of recovery from their drug use relapse or get high again. Please remember that addiction is a chronic relapsing disease. If this happens, remain supportive and guide the woman toward identifying what steps she used to quit before. Offer hope and encouragement, allow the woman to explore the negative side of quitting and what she can do to deal with those issues. (How did she deal with those issues in the past? Explore what worked and what didn’t work for her.) Offer to provide assistance in finding resources to help her return to abstinence. If relapse occurs, call the Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789.