7 Signs of Possible Drug or Alcohol Problem
Many people drink socially, and in states where it is legal, may also use marijuana recreationally. For a lot of these folks, it really isn’t an issue. They are able to partake in some fun without any consequences.
For others, however, partying develops into something more. Here, we are talking about the transition from occasional use to abuse and over the course of time, an addiction (see our page on the differences between these terms).
What follows are 7 observations our Chicago therapists have made when it comes to working with clients who may be struggling with a substance abuse issue.
We encourage you to review these signs for the purposes of insight. Try to avoid engaging in the unhealthy game of self-labeling. To make this interactive, we’ve included an anonymous poll at the end for you to vote in.
FYI: Some of the signs listed below may strike a chord of familiarity. Other signs may not. It is important to read them all to fully absorb their the collective meaning.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
1 You say you will stop, but you don’t.
It’s very easy to say that you will quit drinking or getting high, but if you have a true problem with alcohol or drugs, quitting may not be something you can do on your own. It doesn’t matter whether the promise to stop is made to yourself or others.
If the promise is made but not kept, especially if that is becoming a pattern, you may have a problem that needs more than just willpower to correct.
Saying you will stop tomorrow, or stop “when you’re ready” are common behaviors, but tomorrow (or that readiness) never seem to arrive. In many cases you know deep down that there is a problem, or that something is wrong, but taking control of the behavior may seem overwhelming.
2. Your social life is focused on drugs or alcohol.
When you go out or get together with friends, do the plans you make revolve around going to bars or finding a way to get high?
The focus of your social life shouldn’t be drugs or drinking, but if you are finding that more and more of your plans are becoming about one or both of those things, you may have a serious problem that needs addressed.
You can get help through counseling, and break the cycle of dependence, so you no longer have to rely on abusing substances to have a social life or a good time.
3. Your tolerance is increasing.
If you used to stop at a six pack, but now you need a case of beer to get a buzz, you are developing a higher physical tolerance for the drink you have chosen. The same is true with other kinds of alcohol, and with various types of drugs.
Over time, people who may have a drug or alcohol problem find that they need more to get the same feeling they used to get from a lot less.
Social and recreational users of alcohol or drugs generally do not experience this, so noticing it can definitely indicate that there may be a problem developing. See our post on problem drinking as an example.
4. Your personality is changing.
People who develop problems with drugs or alcohol can have a change in their personality. They may not notice it, but the people who are close to them will. Depression, anxiety, anger, apathy, and other mental health or personality issues may become more prominent or develop when they were not noticed before.
Personality issues may also lead to changes in behavior, including illegal behaviors. It’s very important to be honest with yourself about how your personality has changed, and how it is affecting you and the people you care about. Be mindful of potential distortions when you self-evaluate.
5. You end up in dangerous or risky situations.
Having a problem with alcohol or drugs can mean doing things and associating with people that you otherwise would not be interested in. Some people befriend others who have problems with drinking, or who use drugs, and that can take them places that are not safe.
They may also black out or make poor choices when they are drinking or using drugs, which could take them to unsafe parts of town or even into the homes of people who they may not really be able to trust. With that in mind, they can put themselves at high risk of bodily harm or even death.
Thinking carefully about where you go and the people you spend time with can help you determine if you have a drug or alcohol problem.
6. You don’t remember what happened while drunk or high.
Forgetting what you did the day before, blacking out, and having trouble recalling events can all be symptoms of a problem with alcohol or drugs. When these things become a pattern, it is important to acknowledge that there is an issue at play that must be addressed.
Ignoring these issues, or assuming that it is not a problem because it “only happens sometimes” is a slippery slope that can cause the problem to get worse. It is extremely dangerous to drink to the point of blacking out and not remembering, and blacking out while under the influence of a drug is just as much of a concern.
Facing the problem before it has a chance to worsen is the right course of action.
7. You’re late to things, or just don’t show up at all.
Coming in late to work, taking too many days off, not showing up for social engagements, and “forgetting” that you were supposed to be somewhere or meet someone are all symptoms that can often be tied to a drug or alcohol problem.
People start to notice when you are not around as much as you used to be, and they may begin to wonder why you are avoiding them.
If you’ve lost a job due to chronic lateness or because you called in “sick” too many times, that can also be a wake-up call that there may be a drug or alcohol problem in your life.
If you found yourself identifying with some or all of what appeared on this page, we encourage you to learn more about substance abuse and addiction. Visit our addictions page as a starting point. You can also stop by our Chicago substance abuse and resources page.
If you are looking for additional insight, visit the The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence website and consider taking one one of their assessment tools.