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Signs of Substance Use Disorders

Ken Smith
Ken Smith
April 9, 2019

Substance use disorders are far more common than people want to believe. Signs of substance use disorders aren’t as easy to point out as it seems in movies and television. Instead, people suffering from substance use disorders tend to hide their habits as much as possible.

We’ve broken down different signs of substance use disorders into three main categories: physical signs, emotional signs, and abnormal action signs.

Physically Noticeable Signs of Substance Use Disorders:

These substance use disorder signs may be the easiest to recognize. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Consistent bloodshot eyes
  • Frequent bloody noses
  • Shakes, tremors, seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Profuse sweating

Another physical sign of substance use disorders can be a lack of personal hygiene. People suffering from substance use disorders tend to only care about their next high, forgetting simple tasks such as applying deodorant, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, etc. Things like that may seem small, but can be a huge tip-off to help recognize a substance use disorder.

Emotionally Noticeable Signs of Substance Use Disorders:

These substance use disorder signs are more difficult to interpret, yet still are identifiable if you know what to look for. Most of these deal with the fact that a person suffering from a substance use disorder is constantly thinking about their drug of choice. These signs can include:

  • Difficulty associating with others
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Building a tolerance and needing more of the intoxicating substance they are using
  • Experiencing withdrawal

Other signs could include dramatic mood swings, a change in personality, a lack of motivation, and other related emotional behaviors.

Abnormal Action Signs of Addiction:

Think about the person with the substance use disorder and their habits before their disorder took hold. What has changed about their lives? These abnormal activities could be signs of substance use disorders:

  • Change in one’s daily routine
  • Abnormal need for money
  • Extreme financial problems
  • Changes in friends
  • Increased risk taking
  •  

These are activities that addicts simply can’t help. Their substance use disorder has overtaken their lives.

Substance use disorders are serious issues that should not be ignored or minimized. If left untreated, they progress with negative consequences and can be fatal. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of substance use disorders early.

Noticing a sign of substance use disorder isn’t enough – acting on it can be the difference between life and death. If you are worried about your substance use disorder or a loved one’s, don’t feel afraid to reach out to a certified healthcare professional or drug addiction rehab center for help – instead, feel obligated to do so.

 

What You Can Do Now

Because you may know or suspect a friend, coworker, or loved one has a substance use disorder, you want to help. But you may not know what to do next, or have questions about how to proceed.

Fill out this form and we’ll immediately send you easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions on how to effectively deal with a friend, loved one, or coworker with a substance use disorder.

Please note that, whereas most if not all of our older blog posts do not have appropriate, non-stigmatizing language – i.e., substance use disorder in place of addiction and/or chemical dependency –  all subsequent posts do and will retain language that avoids propagating negative stereotypes and biases through the use of slang and idioms.

Likewise, we have pledged to follow the guidelines set forth by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and that are conceptually and in general endorsed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASA), the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and other federal and state entities governing and regulating substance use disorder. We will therefore now use person-first language that respects the worth and dignity of all people; that focuses on the medical as well as clinical nature of substance use disorders and treatment; and that promotes the recovery process.

Ken Smith

Clinical Director

Kenneth Smith, LCSW, QMHP, Clinical Director, joined Tully Hill Chemical Dependency Treatment Center in January 2009. Mr. Smith most recently served as the Clinical Director for the Alcohol and Drug Council of Tompkins County. He was previously employed at Tioga County Department of Mental Hygiene as the Clinical Supervisor for Alcohol and Drug Services. Mr. Smith completed his Bachelor of Science in Social Work at Cornell University and completed his Master of Social Work degree at Syracuse University. Mr. Smith is an OASAS certified dual diagnosis treatment provider.