Signs of Substance Abuse That You Might Not Know

The signs and symptoms of substance abuse can be difficult to identify. If a family member, friend, or romantic partner uses drugs or alcohol in secret, it’s more difficult to recognize the problem. However, the earlier you catch an individual showing signs of substance abuse, the better chance you have at helping that person get treatment sooner rather than later. Here are some of the most common signs that someone might be abusing substances:

Drug or Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Most people who abuse substances don’t experience any significant symptoms of withdrawal when they stop using them. However, if someone has been abusing drugs or alcohol, they may experience some withdrawal symptoms when they finally decide to stop. Symptoms of drug or alcohol withdrawal can include:

  • Irritability or anger
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Muscle pain
  • Depression

People will often experience a combination of these withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to note that people who experience noticeable symptoms of withdrawal are still addicted to substances. This is a sign that the individual is ready to stop using drugs or alcohol.

Bingeing and Drinking

Many people who abuse substances begin by abusing alcohol. If someone who is abusing substances has a drinking problem, they may try to self-medicate their anxiety, stress, or problems socializing by drinking. A drinking problem might lead to a pattern of binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming too much alcohol in a short period of time. Someone with a drinking problem may binge drink once or several times a week. An individual might also experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal if they stop drinking suddenly. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Increased sleepiness
  • Irritableness
  • Depression
  • Anxiousness
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sweating
  • Intoxication and Impairment

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome, or AWS, is a longer-term withdrawal that can happen in some people who have a drinking problem and abruptly stop abusing alcohol. AWS can last for several weeks after someone stops drinking. A person with a drinking problem might experience AWS if he or she has been drinking heavily for a long period of time. AWS is not life-threatening, but it can be uncomfortable and cause nausea, sweating, and a rapid heartbeat.

Anxiety or Depression After Using Drugs or Alcohol

Some people who abuse substances experience anxiety or depression as a result of their substance abuse. If someone who is abusing substances starts having symptoms of either of these conditions, it’s a good sign that they need help. Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions associated with substance abuse. And, in many cases, people who experience one condition often experience the other as well.

If you notice that your loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety after abusing substances, it’s a good sign that they need to seek help. Depression and anxiety can be treated, and they often respond well to medications. It’s important to note that anxiety and depression can be exacerbated by substance abuse. An individual who has both an anxiety disorder and a substance abuse problem, may try medications to treat one condition but make the other condition worse.

Increasing Anger, Irritability, or Hostility

Some people who abuse substances often struggle with an increase in irritability after using drugs or alcohol. Other people who abuse substances experience anger as a result of their substance abuse. Someone who is abusing substances may experience an increase in negative emotions, and it’s a sign that they need help.

Note that some people experience temporary, situational increases in anger after using prescription substances. These increases, however, should decrease over time as the prescription stabilizes with consistent use. If someone’s anger doesn’t improve after several weeks, however, it could be a sign of substance abuse. It’s also important to note that some people who abuse substances experience long-term, harmful anger problems. Long-term anger problems often result from untreated mental health conditions. If a person’s anger becomes a persistent problem, it could indicate a mental health issue.

Loss of Interest in Daily Activities

Many people who abuse substances report experiencing a loss of interest in daily activities after using drugs or alcohol. If someone with a substance abuse problem doesn’t want to do things like go to work or socialize with friends, it could be a sign of abuse.

It’s important to note that a loss of interest in daily activities can occur in people who abuse drugs and alcohol, people who abuse other substances, and in people who abuse a combination of substances. Also note that loss of interest in activities can be a sign of substance abuse, but not everyone who experiences loss of interest in activities has a substance abuse problem. Make sure to determine whether the loss of interest in activities is a sign of substance abuse or a sign of something else.

Other Possible Signs of Substance Abuse

People who abuse substances may experience severe mood swings, irritability, or anger episodes that last for several days. A person with a substance abuse problem might experience such an episode after using substances. It’s important to note, however, that a mood or behavior episode is not necessarily a sign of substance abuse.

Some people experience a loss of interest in their normal activities and a sudden change in their daily habits. It’s not clear why these changes occur, but they are sometimes described as “response symptoms” to substances.

If someone who is abusing substances is not ready to seek treatment, they might refuse to acknowledge the problem or claim that it’s no big deal. They might also try to persuade others that they don’t need help.

Detox With Briarwood

Briarwood Detox Center offers detox treatment for alcohol, opioid, methamphetamine, prescription drugs, and much more. Our experienced clinical staff provides round-the-clock monitoring throughout the detox process and our therapy team provides support to help manage the emotional response to treatment. Additionally, we have detox facilities located in Austin, Houston, and Colorado Springs with state-of-the-art amenities.

Briarwood is dedicated to facilitating a healthy and safe environment that empowers people to make significant and lasting changes in their lives. We look forward to supporting you or your loved one on the journey to recovery. Call (512) 277 – 3103 today for more information on our programs and admission process.

Our center is in-network with many insurances

bcbs logo
united healthcare logo
cigna logo
aetna logo
magellan logo
beacon logo
Call (888) 857-0557 to verify your benefits.

Break Free From Your Addiction Today

(in 3 easy, confidential steps)

contact us

Contact us​

Call (888) 857-0557 or fill out our online form for a free and confidential personal consultation with an admissions specialist.

insurance form

Verify your insurance

Complete our fast, free, and easy verification process over the phone to determine the extent of your insurance coverage.


Make an informed decision​

We will provide personalized placement recommendations based on your insurance, treatment needs, financial situation, and schedule.

Get life-changing treatment

Call Now Button