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How you can identify substance abuse this holiday season

December 15, 2017

substance abuse noticeable during holidays

When friends and loved ones gather for the holidays, addictions are more keenly felt and noticed. That may be one reason why, just after the holidays end, there’s a marked surge in the number of patients who seek admission into addiction medicine programs.

Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) is a leading provider of outpatient and inpatient behavioral health programs, with services that help patients suffering from psychiatric, emotional, substance abuse, or other behavioral or mental health issues.

“We offer residential treatment for those who might need more comprehensive care in their early recovery, and an outpatient medication-assisted treatment clinic to help people achieve long-term success,” Shalu Gugnani, M.D., NCH Addictionologist and Medical Director of Addiction Medicine at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health, a partner with NCH, says. “We are excited to start our intensive outpatient day program this year to facilitate easier transitions from residential levels of care to outpatient treatment, in hopes of helping our patients achieve long-term success.”

With alcohol abuse and opioid addiction making headlines daily, loved ones can be looking out for one another to identify symptoms. When gathering this holiday season, pay particular attention to red flag symptoms.

When someone is misusing alcohol, symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Depression or other mood changes
  • Changes in sleep patterns

According to WebMD, signs and symptoms of opioid misuse may be:

  • Analgesia (feeling no pain)
  • Sedation
  • Euphoria (feeling high)
  • Respiratory depression (shallow or slow breathing)
  • Small pupils
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Itching or flushed skin
  • Constipation
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion or poor judgment

If you suspect a friend or loved one has an addiction ― whether it is nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, opioids, cocaine or heroin ― try not to approach them in the middle of a crowded gathering. Dr. Gugnani suggests waiting for a more quiet moment when the person is not under the influence. Then have a private conversation, offer support and refer them to a safe place where they can get the help they need.

NCH offers a free online assessment for addiction, depression or anxiety. Call 847-HEALING for more information. Linden Oaks Behavioral Health is located on the NCH hospital campus at 901 W. Kirchoff Road in Arlington Heights.