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If you’ve ever discussed the pitfalls of marriage, you probably know that money, child-raising and fidelity are the three most obvious ones. But don’t ignore a fourth insidious and common problem: substance abuse.

Substance Abuse

We all know people who drink too much, and the signs can be pretty obvious: the bloodshot eyes, the slurred speech, and those outbursts. If you aren’t familiar with drugs, there may still be some cues that you can pick up on, starting with the obvious one: drug paraphernalia, such as rolling papers and glass pipes.

But what about the subtler signs, the ones that are successfully hidden from wives, husbands and other family members? It turns out that there’s a lot of creativity that goes in hiding substance abuse. Here are some of the ways to know if your spouse has a problem with drugs, alcohol, or both.


What millennials call pre-party cocktails and others refer to as “priming the pump” is not, despite protestations, the behavior of a person who simply enjoys a drink or two. If your spouse drinks before going out, it’s a way of trying to fool others into thinking that they are drinking less than they really are. That’s a sign of a problem.

A part of addiction to drugs or alcohol is the need for more and more of the abused substance in order to achieve the altered state the abuser desires – or just to stop withdrawal symptoms from happening. Does your spouse reach for a refill of their wine sooner and more often than anyone else or always suggests one more bottle for the table?

With prescription drug abusers, you may notice that your spouse seems to run out of pills sooner than they should. Pay close attention to see if he or she is secretly “doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions of the same drug, or offering a litany of excuses (everything from the pharmacy shorted them on their pills to their gym bag – with the pills in it – has been stolen) for the quest for more.

Secret Stashes

It isn’t a comfortable thing to do, but searching for places where evidence of drugs or alcohol have been hidden is in order for the worried spouse. If you find bottles or cans where they shouldn’t be, mysterious pills, glassine envelopes, powdery substances, burned aluminum foil or inexplicably locked cabinets or drawers, or if you’re asked to just “stay out” of certain places in the house or garage, the red flag should go up.

Follow the Money

Drugs and alcohol both take a toll on the bank account. Drinking at bars is expensive, and so are drugs. Heroin users, for just one example, often start their addiction on opioid painkillers, but soon discover that heroin gives them a comparable high and is far less expensive than prescription drugs. Watch for the following behaviors:

  • Asking friends for loans when there shouldn’t be a need
  • Buying sprees that may be fueled by speed or coke highs
  • Gambling binges related to drinking
  • Using your credit card without permission, especially for cash advances

Magic Tricks

Alcoholics and drug addicts are especially good at making things disappear. Jewelry, silver or coin collections are gone, or cherished heirlooms have somehow mysteriously vanished. Money and credit cards go missing from purses and wallets, checkbooks disappear completely or individual checks, often taken from the middle of the checkbook, are gone and not noticed right away. Addicts abandon ethics and honesty in order to get their next drink or fix, so don’t expect remorse or confessions if caught. Just treat this behavior as a strong indication that there is a real problem.

More Clues

  • Excuses for being late or missing important events
  • Vague physical problems resulting in missed work
  • Heading straight into the bathroom after work to use mouthwash and eye drops before greeting you.
  • Constant use of scent (gum mints, mouthwash, hand cleaners, etc.) to mask the smell of alcohol or marijuana
  • Blaming you, the kids, the boss – in other words, blaming everyone but themselves – for their erratic behavior is the hallmark of the secretive addict in denial about their own problem.


If you or someone you know has a spouse who shows signs of being a substance abuser, please do not hesitate to contact the Cuppls professionals to receive assistance and guidance involving the spouse’s behavior.  It is better to speak to someone early on before the issue tears apart a once healthy and loving marriage.


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