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Signs of Alcohol & Drug Use

Alcohol & Drugs can affect different people in different ways

If you suspect a loved one is misusing alcohol or drugs the key is to look for change: changes in physical appearance, personality, attitude or behaviour.


Talk to your relative

The best way to find out if your relative is misusing  alcohol or drugs is to talk to them. Highlight your concerns and ask questions.

We know that this could be a difficult conversation. Visit our ‘talking to your loved one’ page for some information which may help. Learning more about individual drugs and their effects may also help you to talk to your relative.

A word of warning

Be careful not to make assumptions. The signs listed below should not be taken as proof that someone is misusing alcohol or drugs. All of these signs can just as easily relate to other health issues such as depression or stress. In the case of children or young people they can relate to normal adolescence. However, if any of the signs become extreme, it may be a cause for concern.

Physical signs:

  • Loss or increase in appetite, changes to eating habits, unexplained weight loss or gain;
  • Slowed or staggered walking, poor physical coordination;
  • Smell of alcohol on the breath;
  • Slow or slurred speech;
  • Irregular sleep patterns, inability to sleep, awake at unusual times, unusual laziness;
  • Red, watery eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual, blank stare;
  • Extreme hyperactivity, excessive talking.

Behavioural signs:

  • Changes in overall attitude or personality with no other identifiable cause;
  • Changes in friends, sudden avoidance of old friends, friends who are known drug users;
  • Change in habits at home, loss of interest in family and family activities;
  • Difficulty in paying attention, forgetfulness;
  • General lack of motivation, energy or self-esteem, ‘I don’t care’ attitude;
  • Sudden oversensitivity, temper tantrums, resentfulness, moodiness or irritability;
  • Paranoia;
  • Excessive need for privacy;
  • Unexplained need for money, stealing money or items.
  • Drinking alcohol alone, early in the morning, and are often drunk for long periods of time.
  • Drinking alcohol has led to legal problems, such as arrests for causing injury to someone or while driving under the influence.
  • Experiencing black outs after drinking alcohol. In other words, are unable to remember what occurred during a drinking episode.


• Finding equipment (paraphernalia) used to take drugs.

• Finding empty bottles of alcohol in places that are out with the ordinary.