The Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

There are many risk factors that are caused by Drug and Alcohol Abuse

When Does Recreational Drug and Alcohol Use Become Drug and Alcohol Abuse?

Many people drink and use heavily on occasion. Others drink and drug regularly, but not to excess. Still others drink and drug regularly and heavily with no ill effects. It can be difficult to determine when substance use becomes drug and alcohol abuse. However, there are some red flags that addiction professionals use to determine whether someone is a substance abuser or not.

Unable to Quit Regardless of Consequences

One of the most striking differences between substance users and substance abusers is how they deal with consequences that occur as a result of being under the influence. A substance user will cut back or stop using substances to avoid further consequences. A substance abuser, on the other hand, will be unable to stop or control his or her using no matter how serious the consequences become.

Inability to Stop or Control Substance Use

Addicts and alcoholics cannot control their use of substances, and when they start drinking or using, they’re usually unable to stop. Recreational users, on the other hand, can stop or control their use of substances if they have a good enough reason to do so.

Legal Problems and Relationship Problems

Substances abusers often have legal problems that result from drug and alcohol abuse. They may have DUIs or been charged with disorderly conduct. They may also have problems with close relationships because substance abuse interferes with intimacy and frequently leads to dishonesty.

Not Managing Responsibilities

Alcoholics and addicts put drugs and alcohol ahead of everything else. They may spend money meant for living expenses on drugs and alcohol, or put drinking and drugging ahead of family, work and social responsibilities. They often cut back on recreational activities that used to be important to them.

Withdrawal Symptoms When Substance is Stopped

Although recreational substance users may not want to stop using drugs or alcohol, they can usually quit without suffering physical withdrawal symptoms. Substance abusers, on the other hand, may experience mild to severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop using. Some of the symptoms may severe enough to warrant a medically-supervised detox.

Obsession and Cravings

Addicts need a steady supply of substances. They may be using every day or several times a day. They are obsessed with getting drugs or alcohol, getting high and staying high. Although some substance abusers may be able to stop using for short periods of time, they are unable to stop altogether.


Addicts and alcoholics develop tolerance. Tolerance means that over time, they need more and more of a substance to get the same effect. As a result, they use larger and larger amounts of the substance to satisfy the craving.

Behaving out of Character

Substance abusers do things to get drinks and/or drugs that they would not normally do. They might steal to get money for substances or lie to loved ones about about where they were and what they were doing. Substance abusers may perform dangerous activities while under the influence, such as driving or using heavy machinery. They may also put themselves and their loved ones at risk for harm while using or while attempting to get drugs or alcohol. They may experience blackouts where they don’t remember what they did, where they were, where they went and how they got there.

Although it can be hard to tell a substance user from a substance abuser, the behaviors listed above are typical for someone with a substance abuse problem. If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from substance abuse, it’s a good idea to consult a substance abuse professional for a drug and alcohol abuse assessment.

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