Substance abuse can be hard to identify, and even harder to stop. Some of the greatest Hollywood movies and best-selling books portray drug abuse as obvious, unmistakable, and even ugly. However, this is not always the case, especially not in today’s world. Signs of substance abuse may be small, subtle, and easy to miss. And oftentimes, intervention doesn’t come until it’s too late. If you suspect your child, spouse, or loved one may be abusing drugs, prescribed or not prescribed, intervene today. Get them on the path to recovery before they lose opportunities and lifestyles they didn’t realize they were jeopardizing. Below are three commonly missed signs of substance abuse to look out for in your loved ones.

Personality Changes

Countless studies show that substance abusers exhibit a wide range of personality changes and emotional disturbances. Although any change in personality can be related to drug abuse, some can be most telling. Changes may include a sudden and drastic personality change, mood swings, anxiousness, paranoia, risk-taking behavior, loss of friends, and more. Unfortunately, personality changes are frequently overlooked or dismissed as “normal,” but if you suspect your child or loved one may be involved in drug abuse, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for treatment and intervention.

Relationship Problems

Many substances are associated with relationship problems, including alcohol, other drugs, and even prescription medications. Alcohol abuse definitely affects relationships. In fact, some research shows that relationship problems correlate with alcohol abuse at a level similar to illicit drug use. People may be faced with distrust and jealousy of their partner’s behaviors when they’re abusing substances such as alcohol or drugs. This can lead to more frequent fights and arguing, sometimes leading to the breakup of a relationship. If someone in your life is struggling with friendships or romantic relationships, substance abuse may be the culprit. Reach out to a professional and intervene before the damage is irreversible.


Some evidence suggests that paranoia may be a sign of drug abuse as well. High-functioning rates of paranoia are found in substance abusers who suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. However, high-functioning rates may also reflect a healthy level of anxiety. Paranoia and anxiety are not always indicative of drug abuse. In fact, many anxious people might develop psychological addictions to substances like cigarettes or alcohol. Nonetheless, if you suspect your child or loved one may be abusing drugs, check into drug testing services in order to establish a baseline of health and take the necessary steps toward getting them help.

SBIRT at the University of Utah provides substance abuse treatment training programs.