If you occasionally use drugs or experiment with different drugs, it is natural to think that this drug use is not a problem or that you can stop using drugs at any time. However, trying drugs once at a party is very different from using drugs every week or even every day. There are many reasons why people would start to use drugs, it can be difficult to tell when drug use goes from casual experimentation to substance abuse.

After all, “substance abuse” sounds like a drug addict who is homeless, unemployed and living on the street. If you have a good job and continue to maintain a good relationship with friends or family, is it possible that your drug use could actually be substance abuse?

The Reality of The Situation

Close up of person walking on streetThe scary truth is that yes, your drug use really could be substance abuse. Even if you think your drug use is under control, it could still be having a serious impact on your life” and you might not even realize it.

Experimental or occasional drug use can turn into substance abuse and drug dependency. (1) Oftentimes, this change occurs gradually so that you may not even realize that your drug use has gone from experimentation to a habit or routine.

Know What to Look For

Understanding the warning signs of substance abuse can help you be more aware of the patterns in your personal life, including whether your drug use may actually be substance abuse. Do you see yourself in any of these signs?

  1. A change in physical appearance. Your eyes are bloodshot or your pupils appear larger than normal. You have frequent nosebleeds or experience shakes and tremors that seem to come out of nowhere and you cannot control. Your coordination has declined and you may unexpectedly drop objects or struggle with basic balance.
  2. Decline in work or school performance. Even if you are attending classes as scheduled or showing up for work, your overall performance may be decreasing.
    • You are not scoring as well as you should on exams
    • You turn in papers last minute or make excuses as to why your work is late
    • You ask for extensions on major projects

    When faced with a big work deadline, you struggle to meet each milestone on time. Your co-workers or boss have tried to talk to you about your work performance. You “space out” in class or during a big business meeting.

  3. Portrait of a worried girl sitting on the beach

  4. A change in personality or feelings. You feel irritable, hyperactive, or depressed” feelings that just are not “normal” for you. You can go from being irritable and upset one moment to feeling depressed the next and then hyperactive the following moment. You feel anxious, fearful and withdrawn for no obvious reason. Family or friends have commented on your mood swings.

If you see yourself in any of these signs, it is natural to think

“Well, I’m not really that bad!”


“I can stop any time.”

In reality, it can be much more difficult to stop using drugs, especially if your body and brain have become addicted to these substances. When left untreated, substance abuse can develop into drug dependency. (2) Feeling like you need to use the drug every day is a clear sign of dependency. (3) The good news is that with the right treatment, sobriety is possible.

Recognizing a problem exists is the first step to getting healthy.


  1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/symptoms/con-20020970;
  2. https://ncadd.org/learn-about-drugs/signs-and-symptoms;
  3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/symptoms/con-20020970