It can be difficult to know whether or not someone close to you is abusing drugs or alcohol – particularly when school or work can take them out of your daily life. If you are concerned that your child may be suffering from addiction or alcoholism, consider the major indicators discussed here as a warning sign – and learn what you can do about it.

Nearly everyone who becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol gives off at least several signs of this addiction. However, all of these signs can be boiled down to three major areas: physical changes, emotional changes, and social changes.

Of course, some signs of substance abuse and addiction vary depending on the type of substance being used. We've broken down the signs of abuse and withdrawal symptoms below for each of the major drug types. Click on the drug type to expand the section.

 

Sign #1: Physical Changes

Dependency on drugs and alcohol is almost certain to change a person’s physical appearance – a less healthy look in their face and body, and a deterioration in personal hygiene. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, some of the major physical and health signs of substance abuse include:

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
  • Eyes that are bloodshot or pupils that are smaller or larger than normal
  • Frequent nosebleeds (a sign of meth or cocaine use)
  • Altered appetite and sleep patterns – also extreme weight loss or gain
  • Seizures (with no prior history of epilepsy)
  • Deterioration in physical appearance and personal grooming
  • Impaired coordination, with injuries or bruises of unknown origin
  • Unusually bad breath or body odor
  • Tremors, shakes, incoherent speech, and impaired coordination

Sign #2: emotional CHANGEs

In addition to the physical effects, drug and alcohol dependency can cause a major change the psychology of an addict or alcoholic. In some extreme cases parents are unable to even recognize their child as the same person, due to their mood swings and changes in personality. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence highlights some of the main psychological warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse:

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
  • Unexplained and even confusing change in personality and attitude
  • Sudden, extreme mood swings, such as irritability, angry outbursts, or even laughing at nothing
  • Sustained periods of hyperactivity or agitation
  • A marked lack of motivation and an inability to focus
  • General lethargy to daily tasks
  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Anxiety or paranoia with no apparent cause
  • Repeated dishonesty
  • A loss of interest in the family

Sign #3: Social Changes

While addicts tend to be secretive about their drug or alcohol abuse, addiction is difficult to hide completely. If someone you love is abusing drugs or alcohol, you will likely see a change in their behavior with physical and emotional change. Some of the behavioral signs of alcohol or drug abuse, as outlined by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, include:

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
  • Skipping class, lower grades, or getting in trouble at university
  • A marked loss of interest in social activities, hobbies, exercise, or sports
  • Complaints of unusual behavior from friends, classmates, and co-workers
  • Clashes with family values and beliefs
  • A sudden change in friendships, relationships, and chosen hobbies
  • Isolated, withdrawn, secretive behavior
  • Sudden requests for money from family members (or even stealing)
  • Obsession with drug or alcohol paraphernalia
  • Drinking increasing amounts of alcohol in a social setting
 

Opiate Drug Abuse

VICODIN, LORTAB, OXYCONTIN, PERCOCET, HEROIN, ETC.

Signs Of Use

  • Slurred speech
  • Poor Coordination
  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Laxative use
  • Itching & Scratching
  • Needle Marks
  • Long Sleeves
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Bursts of energy followed by extreme fatigue
  • Heavy sweating
  • Unexplainable financial or legal problems
  • Taking more of prescribed medication
  • Hiding pills/Missing pills
  • Evidence of doctor shopping
  • (finding prescriptions from different doctors)
  • Ordering extra pills online
  • Missing household items (cash, checks, credit cards, siblings things, etc)
  • New Friends
  • Excess tape in bedroom
  • Constipation
  • Suddenly nice
 

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle Aches
  • Insomnia
  • Runny Nose
  • Sweating
  • Excessive Yawning
  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dialed Pupils
  • Goose Bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
 

Barbiturate & Tranquilizer Drug Abuse

XANAX, VALIUM, SOMA, KLONOPIN, ATIVAN, ETC.

Signs Of Use

  • Sleepiness
  • Ordering Extra Pills Online
  • Hiding Pills/Missing Pills
  • Taking More Of Prescribed Medication
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Poor Judgement
  • Slurred Speech
  • Contracted Pupils
 

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Sleepiness
  • Ordering Extra Pills Online
  • Hiding Pills/Missing Pills
  • Taking More Of Prescribed Medication
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Poor Judgement
  • Slurred Speech
  • Contracted Pupils
 

Hallucinogen Drug Abuse

LSD, MUSHROOMS, ECSTASY, ETC.

Signs Of Use

  • Dilated Pupils
  • Bizarre & Irritation Behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression
  • Hallucination
  • Mood Swings
  • Detachment From People
  • Adsorption With Self or Objects
  • Slurred Speech
  • Confusion
  • Pacifiers (common in Ecstasy use to help with teeth grinding)
 

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle Aches
  • Insomnia
  • Runny Nose
  • Sweating
  • Excessive Yawning

  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dialed Pupils
  • Goose Bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
 

Stimulant Drug Abuse

COCAINE, METHAMPHETAMINE, ETC.

Signs Of Use

  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Hyperactivity
  • Euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Excessive Sleeping At Odd Times
  • Long Periods Without Eating Or Sleeping
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Weight Loss
  • Sores Or Scabs On Skin (primarily in methamphetamine addiction)
  • Excessive Talking
  • Dry Mouth & Nose
  • Change In Personal Hygiene
  • Formication (feeling of bugs under skin)
 

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle Aches
  • Insomnia
  • Runny Nose
  • Sweating
  • Excessive Yawning
  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dialed Pupils
  • Goose Bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
 

Inhalant Drug Abuse

GLUES, AEROSOLS, VAPORS, ETC.

Signs Of Use

  • Watery Eyes
  • Impaired Vision
  • Impaired Memory Or Thought
  • Secretions From The Nose
  • Rashes Around The Nose & Mouth
  • Headaches and Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor Muscle Control
  • Changes In Appetite
  • Anxiety & Irritability
 

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle Aches
  • Insomnia
  • Runny Nose
  • Sweating
  • Excessive Yawning
  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dialed Pupils
  • Goose Bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
 

ADD / ADHD Medication Drug Abuse

RITALIN, ADDERALL, ETC.

Signs Of Use

  • Nervousness & Insomnia
  • Loss Of Appetite
  • Nausea & Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Skin Rashes & Itching
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Weight Loss
  • Digestive Problems
  • Changes In Heart Rate & Blood Pressure
  • Anemia
  • Toxic Psychosis, Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleeping Complications
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Formication (feeling of bugs under skin)
 

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle Aches
  • Insomnia
  • Runny Nose
  • Sweating
  • Excessive Yawning
  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dialed Pupils
  • Goose Bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
 

Marijuana Drug Abuse

Signs Of Abuse

  • Glassy, Red Eyes
  • Talking Loudly And Inappropriate Laughter
  • Loss Of Interest
  • Sleepiness
  • Loss Of Motivation
  • Weight Gain Or Loss
  • A “Don’t Care” Attitude
  • Change In Hobbies
  • Difficulty Paying Attention
 

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle Aches
  • Insomnia
  • Runny Nose
  • Sweating
  • Excessive Yawning
  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dialed Pupils
  • Goose Bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting