Addiction Red Flags and Risk Factors

Addiction Red Flags & Risk Factors

Risk Factors

These factors elevate a person’s risk, although sometimes addiction or substance use disorder occurs without any risk factors present

  • Mental health diagnosis / Anxiety-Depression / Co-Occurring
  • History of abuse, neglect or past trauma
  • Family history of addiction
  • Use at an early age
  • Stress
  • Poverty

Red Flags


  • Impaired physical coordination
  • Slowed, slurred speech
  • Sleepiness, lethargy during the day
  • Pupils dilated or pinned
  • Red eyes
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Runny nose
  • Tremors
  • Lip and finger burns
  • Jumpiness, rapid speech

Mental, Emotional & Behavioral

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Illogical thinking
  • Forgetful (may not remember conversations or promises made)
  • Excessive mood swings
  • Unusual or erratic behavior
  • Poor judgement or impulsive
  • Personality changes when drinking or using
  • Loss of interests, activities, friends
  • Angry or defensive if alcohol or drugs brought up
  • Problems at work
  • Financial problems: may ask to borrow money
  • Use of prescription tranquilizers, sleeping pills or headache medications
  • Poor hygiene or signs of self-neglect
  • Smell alcohol on breath at inappropriate times (morning, at work, etc.)
  • Other addictions, such as cigarettes
  • Legal problems


  • Self or family report of problem
  • Others in family addicted
  • Friends are heavy users, social environment is accepting of use
  • Family isolative, secretive or uninvolved
  • Few friends
  • Chronic relationship problems
  • Blaming others, rationalizing behaviors
  • Children’s behavior problems at school
Doctor holding a tablet: Addiction a disease not a moral weakness

Checklist: What To Ask…

  • Have you felt you wanted or needed to cut down on your drinking or drug use in the last year?
  • How many times in the past year have you used an illegal drug or prescription medication for non-medical reasons?
  • Are you always able to stop drinking alcohol / using drugs when you want to?
  • Have you had blackouts or flashbacks as a result of alcohol or drug use?
  • Do you feel bad or guilty about your alcohol or drug use?
  • Does your spouse or parent(s) complain about your alcohol or drug use?
  • Have you neglected your family because of your alcohol or drug use?
  • Have you engaged in illegal activities to obtain drugs or alcohol?
  • Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms (felt sick) when you stopped drinking alcohol or taking drugs?
  • Have you had medical problems as a result of your alcohol or drug use (e.g. memory loss, hepatitis, convulsions, bleeding)?

For information, an appointment or to determine appropriate level of care, please call 866.852.4001.

In 2016, an estimated 19.9 million Americans aged 12 and older self-reported needing treatment for alcohol or illicit drug use (SAMHSA). Learn more by reading our Insights magazine on Substance Use Disorder.