How Do I Know if My Loved One Needs to Go to Rehab?

Concerned for Loved One

There’s a question everyone around an addict asks: how do I know if my loved one needs to go to rehab? There’s no easy answer to this, but the good news is that there are signs to look out for. Here’s what you need to know.

Having worked in the field of substance use for more than two decades, I have the knack of recognizing the signs of addiction. Sometimes, it is impossible to deny, especially if the person has physical conditions due to their excessive use of substances. More often, it is a lot less subtle.

But even the most experienced expert in substance abuse can miss the mark. Addicts become good at hiding their behaviors. They become expert manipulators and liars.

As such, loved ones of addicts end up feeling gaslighted, never quite sure if they are simply imagining the problem. Fortunately, there are signs you can look out for if you are concerned about someone.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to determine if your loved one needs to go to rehab… and what to do if you cannot be sure.

You’re Asking the Question for a Reason

The fact that you’re asking if your loved one needs rehab should not be taken lightly. In some cases, people who have endured traumatic experiences with addiction (whether their own or those of a loved one) will be hyper aware of any potential symptoms. But most people are not on the lookout for signs of addiction.

In other words, your concern is in and of itself a sign that there is a problem. The person is either behaving in a concerning manner or is using substances more often than before. Regardless of whether or not they need rehab, your concerns are valid and it is worthwhile to look into them.

That being said, there may be other factors at play. The issue might be connected to another mental illness or circumstantial stressors. And if your loved one is using substances in an unhealthy way, that still does not necessarily mean that they are addicted or require rehab.

This is the first step. Knowing what else to look for will make the process that much easier.

What are the Signs of Substance Abuse?

Addiction presents differently in each person, but there are signs that are relatively common.

Behavioral Signs

Have you noticed your loved one’s behavior change over recent months? This might be related to addiction if the changes include:

  • Increased secrecy: they give vague answers as to non-threatening questions such as where they have been spending their time.
  • Recklessness: they are acting in ways that risk their wellbeing, whether physically, emotionally, or financially. Examples include driving under the influence and impulsive spending.
  • Lies and manipulation: everyone lies sometimes, but the person is lying more than usual. You may also have noticed that they are using manipulative methods to get you to act in a certain way.
  • Ignoring the consequences of substance use: they have experienced negative consequences of their substance use – such as job loss, relationship problems, or health problems – but have not changed their behavior in response.

Physical Signs

Have you noticed your loved one’s physical appearance changing? This might be related to addiction if the changes include:

  • Unexplained weight loss or gain: to a greater extent than would be explained by poor eating habits related to regular stressors.
  • Frequent illness: this may be related to a weakened immune system due to the use of substances, or even to organ damage related to excessive substance use.
  • Poor hygiene: they are not taking care of their hygiene as usual, to the extent that you notice body odor, bad breath, and other signs.

How Does the Person’s Daily Life Change?

Even if your loved one is hiding the above signs effectively, substance use disorders will be affecting their life in some significant ways. By paying attention to changes in their lifestyle, you may spot implicit signs of addiction.

These are some of the most common changes:

Unexplained Financial Struggles

Most people struggle financially at various points in their lives, especially with the cost of living having increased so much recently. However, if your loved one is struggling financially in a way that is more pronounced than expected based on circumstances, this may be due to substance use.

Their financial issues may be connected to increased spending on substances or a behavioral addiction like gambling. Take notice of whether they are making shaky excuses for their financial woes or have asked a number of different people for money out of the blue.

Keep in mind that many people have shame connected to money and this may be the cause for their behavior in times of financial difficulties. Also, other issues around which people feel shame can lead to financial struggles, including ill physical and mental health, and job loss. They might have gone to lengths to hide these issues from you.

Neglected Responsibilities

When addicted, getting and using the substance becomes the person’s priority. They neglect other responsibilities, including work, school, or home obligations. They neglect their loved ones as well, sometimes at the cost of important relationships.

As with financial struggles, there may be other issues at play. Neglected responsibilities are a consequence of a number of mental and behavioral illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

Legal Issues

Reckless behaviors related to addiction often lead to legal issues. The person may have driven under the influence, stolen, trespassed, or even assaulted others. If your loved one has always been a law-abiding individual, this will be particularly notable.

Again, there may be other mental illnesses causing these issues. Mania associated with bipolar disorder often leads to similar recklessness behaviors.

All of these changes should be viewed in context of whatever else you have noticed about the individual. Still, whether or not the person needs to go to rehab, the likelihood is that they need some sort of help.

Have You Changed?

Addiction is often called a family illness, as everyone around the person is affected. This goes beyond a feeling of being let down or used.

Ask yourself if you have experienced any changes recently. Are you suddenly paranoid? Do you find yourself giving in to the person’s demands more often or enabling their irrational behaviors? Have you been questioning your own perception of events?

These are all indications that someone close to you is struggling with addiction. This should of course be viewed in the context of your own circumstances and mental health journey.


There is no guaranteed way to determine whether your loved one needs to go to rehab. In the end, you need to assess all the information you have to come to as accurate a conclusion as possible. Remain open to new evidence and other possibilities.

Nonetheless, the fact that you are asking the question indicates that something is wrong. Chances are that your loved one needs help, even if it is for a problem unrelated to addiction.

If you have a loved one who may be struggling with addiction, get in touch with Seasons in Malibu to speak for advice from a professional.