Signs & Symptoms

As loved ones, one of the best defenses we have to help support our family members is knowledge. This knowledge can help with early detection of a substance abuse issue before it becomes an addiction. It can help direct and validate our actions if an addiction has already developed. It can help by providing support to mitigate impact of a loved one’s addiction on our lives. The following sections are aimed at providing knowledge to help loved ones navigate through the topic of substance abuse and addiction.

Warning Signs
In general, symptoms of substance abuse can be easily recognized most especially when the abuse is still in early stages. Once tolerance has an opportunity to develop along with dependence, the signs can be harder to identify.

Physical Signs
Change in sleeping patterns
Bloodshot eyes
Slurred or agitated speech
Sudden weight loss or gain
Skin abrasions/bruises
Neglected appearance/poor hygiene
Sick more frequently
Accidents or injuries
Bursts of energy
Tremors in hands or feet

Behavioral Signs
Hiding use; lying and covering up
Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
Emotional instability
Hyperactive or hyper-aggressive
Failure to fulfill responsibilities at school or work
Complaints from teachers or co-workers
Reports of intoxication at school or work
Change in friends or peer group
Change in clothing or appearance
Unusual smells on clothing or breath
Heavy use of over-the-counter products to reduce eye reddening, nasal irritation, or bad breath
Alcohol missing from your supply
Prescription medicine missing
Money missing
Valuables missing
Disappearances for long periods of time
Running away
Secretive phone calls
Unusual containers or wrappers

*From the Official Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) website –