Signs of Substance Use
Signs of Substance Use
The following are some obvious signs that a person may be smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or using other substances. This is not a complete list of signs to look for. If you suspect a particular drug or drugs, get more information on signs of use for those substances. For more information, see Alcohol and Drug Use in Young People, Drug Use and Your Health, or Alcohol: Drinking and Your Health.
- A distinctive smell on the breath and clothing
- Cigarettes and lighter in his or her possession
- Cigarette butts outside a bedroom window or in other odd places around the home
- Alcoholic beverages missing from the home storage cabinet
- Alcohol or mouthwash (used to cover up alcohol) breath or hangover symptoms (nausea, vomiting, or headache), if recently used
- Sweet smell on clothing or bloodshot eyes, if recently used, and frequent use of eyedrops to reduce the redness
- Drug paraphernalia (pipes) in his or her possession
- Carelessness in grooming, increased fatigue, and changes in eating and sleeping patterns, if using regularly
- Chemical breath, red eyes, or stains on clothing or face, if recently used
- Soaked rags or empty aerosol containers in the trash
- Skin rash similar to acne
- Small bottles with liquid or powder in his or her possession
- Persistent runny nose and nosebleeds, injection marks on arms or other parts of the body, or long periods of time without sleep
- Possession of drug paraphernalia, such as syringes, spoons with smoke stains, small pieces of glass, and razor blades
LSD or other hallucinogens
- Trance-like appearance with dilated pupils, if recently used
- Small squares of blotter paper (sometimes stamped with cartoon characters) or other forms of the drug in his or her possession
- Very small pupils and a drowsy or relaxed look, if recently used
- Possession of injecting supplies, called an outfit or rig, that may consist of a spoon or bottle cap, syringe, tourniquet, cotton, and matches
- An unpleasant breath odour
- Mood changes, including increased aggression
- Changes in physical appearance that can't be attributed to expected patterns of growth and development
- Possession of medicines or syringes
Other general signs
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Changes in appetite or weight loss
- Changes in dress
- Loss of interest and motivation
- Hoarseness, wheezing, or persistent cough
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Current as ofJuly 15, 2014
Public Health Alerts
Public health alerts include information about outbreaks, advisories and product recalls. Click on the links below to read the most recent alerts, or visit our Public Health Alerts web page.
Want More Information?
HealthLink BC, your provincial health line, is as close as your phone or the web any time of the day or night, every day of the year.
Call 8-1-1 toll-free in B.C. or for deaf and hearing-impaired, call 7-1-1.
You can speak with a health service representative, who can also connect you with a:
- registered nurse any time, every day of the year;
- registered dietitian from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday;
- pharmacist from 5pm to 9am, every day of the year.
Translation services are available in more than 130 languages.
FIND Services and Resources
If you are looking for health services in your community, you can use our directory to FIND hospitals, clinics, and other resources.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Is it an emergency?
If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately. If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.