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Characteristics of Substance Abuse

By Wendy Melton ; Updated August 14, 2017

Characteristics of substance abuse can be very vague or blatantly obvious. Not every person who uses a drug or substance will become addicted to it. It depends on the person. Knowing that person, watching his habits and observing the changes in the behavior (no matter how slight) may be the key in getting him the help he needs if he does become addicted.

Problems at Work or School

Students who generally have good grades or employees with a good work ethic that start to fail or miss work are exhibiting signs of possible substance abuse. Attitudes toward people in authority may change. Lack of concern over poor performance may also indicate an addiction to alcohol or another substance. Picking fights and squabbling over petty issues that normally would have been resolved by talking things out are also strong indicators.

Physical Health Issues

Irritability, racing heartbeat, lack (or excessive amounts) of energy and confusion may also be strong signs of some form of drug addiction. Unexplained headaches and bouts of nausea and diarrhea that lead to sudden weight loss are also strong characteristics of addictions to certain drugs, including meth and amphetamines.

Changes in Appearance

Changes in appearance can be signs of addiction. A normally clean and well kept person who suddenly stops brushing her hair or showering may have an addiction. Changes may be slow in occurring and happen over a period of months. The increased appearance of neglect will follow along with the pattern and severity of the addiction.

Changes in Attitude and Behavior

Mood swings, reduced inhibitions and drastic changes in attitude can be red flags concerning drug addictions. Inability to control one's temper when a person had been slow to anger in the past is also a warning sign. Talk of suicide or self-imposed isolation can lead to self destructive behaviors such as cutting or drug addictions.

Unable to Keep or Account for Money

People who are constantly asking for money and have no explanation as to where it is going or how they are going to spend it may have a possible drug addiction. If a person is craving a drug or exhibiting signs of withdrawal, he may become angry or violent if he is refused the money he needs to buy the drugs.

Lying and Stealing

Lying about where they have been or making up stories about what they have been doing can be an indicative characteristic of drug or alcohol abuse. Stealing from family, friends and businesses may be a way of acquiring money to pay for drugs. Stealing possessions that can be sold and lying about whether or not they have taken the items are also signs of addiction.

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