Warning Signs of Substance Abuse

“How do I know if someone is abusing drugs or abusing alcohol?”


When left untreated, substance abuse can have a serious impact on the body and mind. Alcohol or drug abuse also negatively affects home, work and school life, sometimes in extreme ways. It’s important to spot the early warning signs of substance abuse problems whether they are drug or alcohol related in order to seek help as early as possible.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, there are signs and symptoms to look for if you suspect someone has a substance abuse problem.

Alcohol Abuse Early Warning Signs

  • Not being able to remember what occured while drinking, also known as blackouts
  • Conflicts with family members, friends or co-workers
  • Mood swings, depression or feeling irritable
  • Using alcohol on a regular basis to relax, improve mood, sleep, deal with problems or feel “normal”
  • Having troublesome symptoms like headache, anxiety, sleeplessness or stomach upset when not drinking, these are potentially withdrawal symptoms
  • Red-faced as a result of broken capillaries on the face
  • Trembling or shaky hands
  • Bloody or black stools, vomiting blood, frequent diarrhea
  • Drinking alone or drinking in secret

Drug Abuse Early Warning Signs or Substance Abuse in Teens and Young Adults

  • School, work or home responsibilities or other priorities are being neglected because of drug use
  • Using drugs under dangerous or high-risk conditions, such as driving while , using under the influence, using needles or having unprotected sex
  • Legal issues such as possession charges, DUI arrests or stealing to support a drug habit
  • Relationships conflicts, such as fights or arguments with loved ones and bosses, loss of friends or social circle
  • Bloodshot eyes, pinpoint or enlarged pupils
  • Nosebleeds that could be caused by snorting drugs
  • Diet or sleeping pattern changes
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Seizures
  • Decreased personal hygiene
  • Increased accidents such a falling down or knocking items over
  • Unusual smells on breath, person or clothes
  • Shakiness, trembling, incoherent or slurred speech

Behavioral signs of alcohol or drug abuse:

  • Skipping school or poor performance
  • Missing work or declining job performance
  • Decreased interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies, sports or exercise
  • Concern from teachers, coaches, coworkers, supervisors or classmates
  • Theft of money or valuables, missing prescription drugs or OTC drugs
  • Constantly borrowing and or needing money
  • Isolation
  • Fixation with music, clothing and posters related to drugs or alcohol
  • Sudden change in relationships, friends, favorite hangouts and hobbies

Psychological warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse:

  • Noticeable changes in personality or attitude
  • Mood swings, anger
  • Over-activity, agitation
  • Vacant affect
  • Fearful and paranoid for no apparent reason


If you or someone you know is showing warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse we at Harbor Wellness and Recovery Center are here to help! For a no cost and no obligation consultation, please call us at 855-698-3554 or contact a treatment specialist directly at 201-663-2914. If you prefer to communicate via email please CLICK HERE.