About Substance Abuse

Warning Signs of an Addiction

Often it can be difficult to see when substance use has developed into a disorder or even a crisis. Those with substance use disorder (SUD) often try to hide their symptoms and downplay their problem.

If you are worried that a friend or loved one may be misusing drugs or alcohol, there are warning signs that you should be aware of.

Look out for the following signs.


Physical Warning Signs

Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual

Changes in appetite or sleep patterns

Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits

Runny nose or sniffling

Sudden weight loss or weight gain

Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

Unusual odors on breath, body, or clothing

Behavioral Warning Signs

Continuing to use substances even knowing that doing so is causing problems.

Using in dangerous or harmful situations.

Developing tolerance, so that the person needs to use more of a substance to have the same effect.

Withdrawal: experiencing negative physical effects when the person has less of the substance in his or her system.

Continuing to use substances even when the person knows that use is causing or increasing physical or mental problems.

Psychological Warning Signs

Appearing fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason

Lack of motivation; appearing tired or "spaced out"

Periods of unusual increased energy, nervousness, or instability

Sudden mood swings, increased irritability, or angry outbursts

Unexplained change in personality or attitude

If someone is exhibiting these warning signs and are concerned about their substance use, they should seek substance use treatment immediately.