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Alcohol and Illicit Drug Abuse: Do You Know the Warning Signs?

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Alcohol and Illicit Drug Abuse: Do You Know the Warning Signs?

Most people using drugs or alcohol may not ask for help. In fact, they will probably do everything possible to deny or hide the problem. Or, they may not realize that they have a problem. The following behaviors are signs that someone is using drugs or abusing alcohol:

  • Getting high on drugs or getting drunk on a regular basis
  • Having to use more alcohol, marijuana, or other illicit drugs to get the same effects
  • Lying about the amount of drugs or alcohol they are using
  • Lying about other things, even unimportant things
  • Avoiding friends and family in order to get high or drunk
  • Giving up activities they used to do such as sports, hobbies, or homework
  • No longer spending time with friends who don't use drugs or drink and/or spending more time with people who do
  • Constantly talking about using drugs or drinking
  • Believing that in order to have fun they need to drink or use marijuana or other drugs
  • Pressuring others to use drugs or drink
  • Getting into trouble with the law
  • Taking risks, including sexual risks and driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Changes in mood, such as becoming more irritable
  • Feeling run-down, hopeless, depressed, or even suicidal
  • Suspension from school for an alcohol- or drug-related incident
  • Missing work or poor work performance because of drinking or drug use
  • Arguing with family and friends; having difficulty getting along with others

Many of the signs may be explained by other causes. Unless you observe drug use or excessive drinking, it can be hard to determine the cause of these problems. Even if you are unsure, you may want to talk to your friend or family member about the behaviors you have observed and express your concern, without focusing on alcohol and drugs. You can contact a qualified alcohol and drug professional in your area for further advice.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Partnership for a Drug-Free America


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Last reviewed September 2003 by ]]>Richard Glickman-Simon, MD]]>

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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