Physical Changes

  • Weight loss, pale face, circles under eyes
  • Red eyes (or frequent use of eye drops)
  • Unexplained skin rashes
  • Persistent cough, frequent colds
  • Changes in sleep and/or eating patterns
  • Deterioration in personal hygiene
  • Odour of alcohol or other drugs
  • Obvious intoxication

Behavioural Change

  • Increased need and use of money
  • Quitting or getting fired from jobs
  • New friends, lying secretiveness, mysterious phone calls
  • Attendance problems at work or school
  • Drop in performance at work or school
  • Accidents at work or school
  • Mood swings (e.g. angry outbursts, sadness/depression or elated mood)
  • Verbal and/or physical abuse of family members
  • Spending more time alone
  • Quitting hobbies or extracurricular activities
  • Theft and missing valuables, alcohol or medication

Items to Look for:

  • Alcohol and other drugs in possession
  • Mouthwash, breath sprays or eye drops
  • Thinners, tippex or other solvents (indicates inhalant abuse)
  • Bank bags, rolling papers (rizla, etc), broken glass bottle tops, pipes of various shapes and sizes, pieces of tinfoil, mirrors, razor blades, small screens or burnt spoons
  • Seeds (from dagga plants)
  • Incense burning
  • Burns or stains on hands and clothing

    Some of the above symptoms may be due to other reasons besides drug use, such as sexual abuse. Adolescence is also a time of physical changes as well as changes of your role in society. To a degree some of the above symptoms may be completely normal for an adolescent. Substance abuse normally results in a substantial change in a whole range of behaviours.