Red Flags for Addiction in Others

Red FlagThe following “Red Flags for Addiction” list a number of signs and symptoms, which could indicate the presence of an addiction. These tools are useful to help someone decide whether a problem might need professional assessment.

These are not tools for diagnosis, but rather a list of items which may be a cause for concern and might indicate that a problem should be investigated.

Red Flags for Addiction in Anyone

Note: These “Red Flags” indicators can each be caused by problems other than alcohol or drug addiction and none are, by themselves, indicators that a person is addicted. However, if a number of these indicators were present, you would have to consider that they may be caused by a substance abuse or addiction problem and consider seeking assistance.

Physical Red Flags

  • Smell alcohol on breath at inappropriate times (morning, at work, etc.)
  • Impaired physical coordination
  • Slowed, slurred speech
  • Somnolence (sleepiness, lethargy) during the day
  • Pupils dilated or pinned
  • Red eyes
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Jumpiness, rapid speech
  • Poor hygiene
  • Signs of self-neglect
  • Runny nose
  • Tremors
  • Lip and finger burns
  • Other addictions, such as cigarettes
  • “Looks alcoholic”

Mental and Emotional Red Flags

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Memory loss (may not remember conversations or promises made)
  • Illogical thinking
  • Forgetfulness
  • Poor psychological adjustment: Defiance, impatience, intolerance
  • Excessive mood swings

Behavioral Red Flags

  • Drinking or using more than before
  • Extremely talkative
  • Unusual or erratic behavior
  • Poor judgment
  • Personality changes when drinking or using
  • Loss of interests, activities, friends
  • Anger or defensiveness if topic of alcohol or drugs is brought up
  • Tries to stop drinking or using for periods of time
  • Blaming others, rationalizing behaviors
  • Calls at odd hours
  • Legal problems
  • Problems at work
  • Financial problems: may ask to borrow money
  • History of drug or alcohol problems
  • Use of prescription tranquilizers, sleeping pills or headache medications.
  • Impulsiveness
  • Violence

Observations of Family and Friends

  • Self-report or family report of problem
  • Others in family are addicted
  • Friends are heavy users, social environment is accepting of use
  • Family isolative, secretive or uninvolved
  • Few friends
  • Chronic relationship problems
  • Constant drama
  • Children’s behavior problems at school

Again, many of these “Red Flags” or indicators of possible addiction may be caused by other things. However, if several of these are present, we encourage you to speak with a professional to ask for further assessment. We are always available to answer your questions confidentially, 24 hours a day when you call 1-800-300-6716. Or if you prefer, you can ask a question and we will contact you with the answer.

Red Flags for Addiction in Employees

Note: These “Red Flags” indicators can each be caused by problems other than alcohol or drug addiction and none are, by themselves, indicators that a person is addicted. However, if a number of these indicators were present, you would have to consider that they may be caused by a substance abuse or addiction problem and consider seeking assistance.

In addition to the Red Flags for Addiction in Anyone…

  • Routinely arrives late or leaves early
  • Late or absent after lunch often
  • Frequent or long disappearances from the work site
  • Frequent or long trips to the bathroom or to the stockroom
  • Misses appointments
  • Frequent sick days or unexplained absences
  • Procrastination, pattern of missed deadlines
  • Neglects mail
  • Phone calls are not returned promptly
  • Decline in productivity or hours worked
  • Doesn’t pay attention and forgets things easily
  • Overreacts to criticism, blames others
  • Evidence of depression and/or anxiety
  • Unusual mood swings–unpredictability
  • Unable to get along with colleagues, staff
  • Performance declines over the course of the day
  • Client complaints about performance, accessibility, communication
  • Co-mingles or borrows clients’ funds
  • Seems to make and receive a lot of personal calls
  • Appears under the influence or smells of alcohol in the office
  • Gradual deterioration in appearance, hygiene, health
  • Is always tired
  • Loses control at social gatherings where professional decorum is expected
  • Dishonesty, manipulations

Again, many of these “Red Flags” or indicators of possible addiction may be caused by other things. However, if several of these are present, we encourage you to speak with a professional to ask for further assessment. We are always available to answer your questions confidentially, 24 hours a day when you call 1-800-300-6716. Or if you prefer, you can ask a question and we will contact you with the answer.

Red Flags for Addiction in Older People

Note: These “Red Flags” indicators can each be caused by problems other than an alcohol or drug addiction and none are, by themselves, indicators that a person is addicted. However, if a number of these indicators were present, you would have to consider that they may be caused by a substance abuse or addiction problem and consider seeking assistance.

It may be harder to identify addiction in older people who are not working or out of the home much. These are specific indicators that family, visitors or caregivers might notice.

Red Flags: Physical

  • Smell alcohol on breath
  • In-coordination
  • Slowed, slurred speech
  • Injuries, burns, bruises (is the person falling?)
  • Signs of self-neglect
  • Malnutrition
  • Incontinence
  • Tremors

Red Flags: Medicines

  • Unusual problems with pain medicines
  • Complaints of “not enough”
  • Overuse
  • Running out early, “Lost” pills
  • Watching clock for medication times
  • Does medication seem to be losing effectiveness?
  • Keeps tranquilizers handy

Red Flags: Visual Cues

  • Unclean or disorderly environment
  • Beverage containers in trash
  • Cigarette burns on fingers
  • Observation of other addictions: cigarettes, caffeine
  • “Looks alcoholic”

Red Flags: Mental/Emotional

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Forgetfulness
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of interest in friends and activities
  • Unusual behavior
  • Mood fluctuations, not related to circumstances
  • Anger or defensiveness if topic is brought up

Red Flags: Family and Friends

  • Self report or family report of problem
  • Others in family are addicted
  • Friends are addicted
  • Family isolative, secretive
  • Family not involved
  • Few friends

Memory loss, confusion and muscle in-coordination are common signs of alcohol or drug abuse at any age. Do not accept these as normal in older people!

Again, many of these “Red Flags” or indicators of possible addiction may be caused by other things. However, if a number of these are present, we encourage you to speak with a professional to ask for further assessment. We are always available to answer your questions confidentially, 24 hours a day when you call 1-800-300-6716. Or if you prefer, you can ask a question and we will contact you with the answer.