Warning signs of alcohol and drug addiction


If you are worried that a friend or relative is abusing drugs or alcohol, look out for the physical and behavioural warning signs listed below.

Physical symptoms

  • Bloodshot eyes or pupils that are larger or smaller than normal
  • Decline in health, including bulging veins and a runny nose
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene, grooming habits and/or physical appearance and not bathing
  • Unusual smells on breath, body or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech or impaired co-ordination

Behavioural symptoms

  • Drop in attendance at work or school
  • An unexplained need for money, or financial problems; money may go missing from the household
  • A change in personality – withdrawn, moody, depressed, tired, careless, manipulative, secretive and/or isolated
  • Missing prescription drugs, cold medicines, alcohol or aerosol containers in the home
  • Finding drug paraphernalia in the home, including pipes, rolling papers, eye drops, butane lighters, soft drink containers made into pipes, etc
  • The use of room deodorant or incense in the bedroom
  • Physically abusive, aggressive, punching the walls, etc.
  • Lying and stealing
  • Being irresponsible and unreliable
  • Behaving impulsively (without thinking) and compulsively (overdoing something e.g. eating)
  • Losing interest in things
  • Teenagers demand more privacy, lock doors, sneak around and avoid eye contact
  • Teenagers skip class, have declining grades and suddenly get into trouble at school

Source: City of Cape Town. Find more information here.