Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

It’s not always easy to tell if a friend or family member is abusing drugs or alcohol and usually, we just aren’t looking for it. Even if we have suspicions, we may not know what the signs of addiction or abuse. The unusual symptoms we are noticing in a loved one could be a medical problem that needs attention, as opposed to addictive behavior. How to tell the difference?

Following are some of the primary signs and symptoms of drug abuse, which overlap with the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse. If one or more of the following symptoms develop suddenly, it might be time to take a closer look:

Common Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

  • Drastic changes in behavior
  • Uncontrolled mood swings
  • Spending more money than usual, or asking to borrow money repeatedly, with no explanation
  • Neglecting appearance and hygiene
  • Developing health issues
  • Having no energy or motivation to do anything
  • Developing new anger and hot temper issues
  • Engaging in risky behavior, such as driving under the influence
  • When confronted, an addict may claim to be able to stop drinking or using drugs, but then fails to do so
  • Having problems at school or work
  • Getting into trouble with the law
  • Publicly embarrassing themselves in social situations

Approaching someone we suspect of abusing substances can be difficult. They might get very defensive and angry, in hopes of warding off future confrontations and reject efforts at offers of help, misinterpreting them as judgmental.

Instead of listening and acknowledging that a problem exists, addicts may begin drinking or using drugs even more, in retaliation to the offer of help they don’t think they need.

Sometimes all we can do is take care of ourselves, and not let the negative behavior of an addict affect our own lives. But in doing that, we should also be firm in our resolve to get that person on the right track.

In any case, if we can identify that a friend or family member is abusing drugs or alcohol, or both, the sooner we can get them the help they need.