I think my friend is using drugs or alcohol. What are the warning signs?

Drug use and addiction can have serious effects on a person’s health. If it’s happening to someone close to you, you may actually be the best person to notice the changes in their behaviour. Each drug has its own effects, but there are some general signs that might mean that a person is using drugs.

These are some physical warning signs to look out for:

  • Sudden changes in how they behave
  • Losing interest in schoolwork
  • Stealing money or stealing things to sell
  • Mood swings: irritable one moment, and then suddenly happy
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Caring less about how they look
  • Not taking part in the hobbies or sport they used to enjoy
  • Changes in their eyes – they might be red or watery, or their pupils will be larger or smaller than usual

REMEMBER: Just because someone shows these signs doesn’t mean they are using drugs. But there is probably something happening in your friend’s life if they show many of these signs.

If you think your close friend is using drugs or alcohol, it can be hard to know what to do or say. It’s up to you whether you want to talk to them about it, but if you do, you can get some ideas of how to do it in our article “Dealing with an addict in your family”.  For more information on dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, check out our article “How can I stop using substances?”


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