Substance Abuse

9 Ways to Recognize and Prevent Substance Abuse 

Substance abuse doesn’t typically just happen suddenly. It starts slowly and progresses gradually, and it’s not limited to illegal substances. Knowing what to look for can help you recognize an addiction and help someone get the necessary care. These are the nine signs that could make a difference:     

  1. Difficulty performing at work or at school – When someone is struggling with substance abuse, it can distract them from their day-to-day responsibilities at work or at school. Take note if you see a sudden change in or peculiarities with someone’s performance.
  2. Disinterest in previous hobbies or activities – Is a favorite passion no longer important? If a family member, friend, or coworker frequently engaged in an activity or hobby, and you notice an uncharacteristic or drastic disinterest, it could be a sign of substance abuse. Consider inconsistencies in how the person responds to ordinary circumstances.
  3. Increase in private or secretive behavior – When people get caught up in substance abuse, they tend to feel ashamed and afraid of someone stopping them. If someone close to you begins to close you out or keep secrets, ask questions to show you care and follow-up with reasons why you’re concerned.
  4. Obsessive behavior about the substance – Listen carefully to what people say and how often they talk about certain substances. Someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol may incorporate talk of the substance into a conversation, even if it has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
  5. Inability to limit substance use – Pay attention during social situations. People struggling with substance abuse will likely have a hard time saying no to substances and regularly seem unable to limit their consumption.
  6. Change in appearance – While we all experience stress that can result in bloodshot eyes, pale skin, and a general rundown appearance, seeing these things consistently is a sign that the abuse is taking a toll on the person’s health.
  7. Significant change in relationships – Relationships take time, effort, and energy to maintain. For those abusing substances, their focus is on the next opportunity to use. They often neglect what their relationships need, which can be compounded by shame, guilt, and fear, causing them to withdraw from social circles.
  8. Excessive spending or borrowing – Regardless of the substance, abuse is going to impact personal finances. If you notice changes in spending habits or are asked to lend money—especially without a clear, logical explanation—it’s a potential sign for concern.
  9. Growing tolerance or signs of withdrawal – With ongoing substance abuse, people may develop a tolerance and need to increase the substance amount to experience the same effects. Although habits and usage patterns can be easily hidden, you might notice signs of withdrawal when the person stops using, even temporarily. Withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the substance, but can include flu-like symptoms, depression, anxiety, seizures, and tremors.

Substance Abuse Resources


Free Online Tools and Resources

As a PacificSource member, you can access CaféWell, an online health engagement portal. To get started, sign into InTouch. Then, go to Benefits, and select Wellness—CaféWell.

Visit CaféWell to:

  • Complete the health assessment to identify your potential health risks.
  • Get your health and wellness questions answered by an expert health coach.
  • Connect with coworkers, family, friends, and others with similar health goals.
  • Access helpful tips and articles on health and wellness. 


InTouch for Members

Learn More About CaféWell

CaféWell is a secure health engagement portal that provides health and wellness resources, support, and guidance to our members and communities. Check out our CaféWell member flier (pdf) to learn more.

Last updated 11/16/2018