Identifying substance use disorder | Substance abuse

Identifying substance use disorder

Signs and Symptoms

People suffering from alcohol and drug disorders often try to conceal their symptoms and down play their problem. If you’re worried that a friend or family member might have a substance use disorder, look for the following warning signs:

Physical Warning Signs

  • Bloodshot eyes or pupils that are larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance and personal grooming habits
  • Unusual smells on breath, body or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired co-ordination
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Behavioural Signs

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems
  • May borrow or steal to get money
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviours
  • Sudden change in friends, favourite hangouts and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)
  • Possession of items associated with substance use disorder.

Psychological Warning Signs

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation or giddiness

Remember the first step to recovery from addiction is deciding that you want to change. 

For more information on how to get help call 0800 220 250 or visit our local offices at the Department of Social Development.