Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Substance abusers often try to hide the signs and symptoms and will often downplay the problem if confronted.

If you're concerned that you, a friend or relative may be struggling with substance abuse, it's important to know that help is available. Common signs and symptoms may be (but are not limited to):


  • Extreme mood changes - happy, sad, excited, anxious, etc.
  • Sleeping a lot more or less than usual, or at different times of day or night
  • Changes in energy - unexpectedly and/or extremely tired or energetic
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Unexpected and persistent coughs or sniffles
  • Seeming unwell at certain times and better at other times
  • Pupils of the eyes seeming smaller or larger than usual
  • Secretiveness
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Financially unpredictable, perhaps having large amounts of cash at times and no money at other times
  • Changes in social groups, new and unusual friends, odd cell-phone conversations
  • Repeated unexplained outings, often with a sense of urgency
  • Drug paraphernalia such as unusual pipes, cigarette papers, small weighing scales, etc.
  • Stashes of drugs often in small plastic, paper or foil packages


  • Tolerance is the need to engage in the addictive behavior more and more to get the desired effect
  • Withdrawal happens when the person does not take the substance or engage in the activity and they experience unpleasant symptoms, which are often the opposite of the effects of the addictive behavior
  • Difficulty cutting down or controlling the addictive behavior
  • Social, occupational or recreational activities becoming more focused around the addiction and important social and occupational roles being jeopardized

Please note that signs and symptoms are not limited to this list. This list is just meant as a guide to help you potentially identify an issue. This list was compiled from a variety of sources including:

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