What are the warning signs?

The following signs indicate that a person may be dependent on a drug: 

  • They mention that their drug use is out of control.
  • They are increasing their amount of drug use, or seem to be less affected by the same amount.
  • The substance is consumed in larger amounts, or over a longer period of time, than intended.
  • They worry about their drug use.
  • The express a wish to stop using the drug, or at least to cut down or control their use.
  • They find it difficult to stop using, or to go without the drug.
  • Missing an opportunity to use the drug makes them feel anxious or worried.
  • Much of their time is taken up by drug-related activities (for example, obtaining and using the drug, recovering from its effects).
  • Other social, professional or recreational activities are reduced or completely given up in order to make more time for the drug.
  • Their drug use is affecting their relationships with friends, peers and family members.
  • They are unable to carry out routine responsibilities such as school, work, or family time.

It’s important to remember that people may not exhibit all the signs listed above and may still be developing dependence. See our factsheet for guidance about starting the conversation when you suspect drug use.

If you’re worried that your child who may be using alcohol or other drugs, it is important to remember that effective support is available. Please see our “Where to get help” page for services available to young people with drug related issues or for those wanting general information.


Evidence Base

This factsheet was developed following expert review at the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use and National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW.