Recognize the Signs of Drug & Alcohol Abuse

Recognizing the Signs of Abuse & Addiction

Parent and caregiver drug or alcohol use is a major risk factor for child abuse.

Effects of Parental Drug & Alcohol Abuse

Drug/alcohol abuse by parents and caregivers is abusive to children, often resulting in neglect of the children and threatened abuse.

Drug abuse is non-discriminate, affecting all socioeconomic groups and people from all walks of life. Tolerance and dependency on drugs can develop quickly, without the user even realizing that addiction is taking hold. The pattern of abuse and addiction can be extremely difficult to stop.

When you recognize that someone has a problem, it’s essential to seek help right away.


Physical Symptoms of Drug/Alcohol Abuse

Some of the most noticeable symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse are those that affect the body’s inner workings. The body’s tolerance to a drug and alcohol levels require an increase in quantity or strength to achieve the previous effects. This is extremely dangerous and can easily lead to overdose.

Changes in appearance can be additional clues to possible drug use and may include:

  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes.
  • Dilated or constricted pupils.
  • Abrupt weight changes.
  • Bruises, infections, or other physical signs at the drug’s entrance site on the body.

Disruption to normal brain functioning, changes in personality, and heart and organ (liver) dysfunction can be signs of long-term drug and alcohol abuse.

Behavioral Symptoms of Drug/Alcohol Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse negatively affects a person’s behavior and habits as they become more dependent. Drugs and alcohol alters the brain’s ability to focus and form coherent thoughts.

Changes in behavior, such as the following, can indicate a problem with drug or alcohol abuse:

  • Increased aggression or irritability.
  • Changes in attitude/personality.
  • Lethargy.
  • Depression.
  • Sudden changes in a social network.
  • Dramatic changes in habits and/or priorities.
  • Financial problems.
  • Involvement in criminal activity.

Learning to recognize the physical or behavioral signs of abuse and addiction can help prevent the problem from progressing further.


Types of Child Abuse

Child Neglect

Child Neglect is Child Abuse - American SPCC The Nation's Voice for Children

Physical Abuse


Emotional Abuse


Sexual Abuse

Sexual Child Abuse - American SPCC The Nation's Voice for Children


Adverse-Childhood-Experiences-ACEs Child Abuse American SPCC The Nation's Voice for Children

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome American SPCC The Nation's Voice for Children

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence is Child Abuse American SPCC The Nation's Voice for Children

Trafficking & Exploitation

Trafficking and Child Exploitation American SPCC The Nation's Voice for Children

Click for References & Sources

  1. Child Maltreatment 2016. Published: February 2018. An office of the Administration for Children & Families, a division of U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. This report presents national data about child abuse and neglect known to child protective services agencies in the United States during federal fiscal year 2016. Retrieved from:
  2. Signs of abuse and addiction @