Substance Abuse, or Just "Having a Good Time?" How To Tell

By Donna Schwartz, Community Clinician for Valley Hope in Colorado

When it comes down to it, many people are unaware of the signs of someone who abusing a substance, compared with someone ‘having a good time' in a recreational or social way. 

Lets talk about some common signs of someone who is abusing substances; these are known to be most common but not exclusive:


  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils appear larger or smaller than usual.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns, resulting in sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Deterioration of physical appearance and personal grooming habits.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination.


  • Drop-in attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems; may borrow or steal to get it.
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities).



  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out.”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid for no reason.

If you, a family member, or someone you care about show any of the signs above, feel free to contact me about a next step to take in helping yourself or them. There is hope!


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