Reasons for Concern

There are a number of signs that someone's drinking or other drug use has become unhealthy. Try to think about why they drink or use when they do. If any of the below is happening, then their drinking or drug use is likely of concern:

Unhealthy motivations

Drinking, using cannabis, or other drug use can become concerning not just because of the effects and consequences, but also because of a person’s motivation for doing it.

  • Drinking/drug use as a way to handle problems, feel more at ease with themselves, avoid certain feelings, and/or to excuse their behavior.
  • Using alcohol or other drugs as a solution to problems, discomfort (e.g. social anxiety, coping with microaggressions), or boredom.

Loss of control

Having difficulty cutting back on their alcohol or other drug use, despite their best intentions.

  • Always says they won’t drink or use cannabis or other drugs this weekend, but they end up doing so anyway, against their intentions.
  • Often plans to have one or two drinks, but then ends up having more. When they say they’re finished drinking for the night, you see them getting more. The next morning you check in with them and they tell you they were blackout most of the night.
  • Frequently drinks or uses cannabis or other drugs in situations where one usually wouldn’t: while studying, in the middle of the day, between classes, etc. It seems as though any occasion is an occasion for it.
  • Drinks or uses cannabis or other drugs in order to be able to get through the day or before stressful/uncomfortable situations so that they can handle it.
  • They drink to get rid of a hangover or use cannabis or other drugs to avoid the effects of withdrawal.

Neglecting other activities

Prioritizing activities that have alcohol, cannabis or other drugs over ones without it.

  • Isn’t as interested in hanging out with you if they can’t have a couple drinks or something else. Or, they’ll only join in if you plan on drinking at some point in the evening.
  • No longer cares about favorite activities.  For example, they don’t show up to club meetings anymore because they’re always too hungover from drinking. 

Academic/work troubles

Struggling to perform because of alcohol’s physical effects (inability to concentrate, fatigue, etc.), physical effects of other drugs, and because of a lack of attention paid to academics/work.

  • Is absent often because they’re too hungover and/or they’ve stopped caring.
  • Less invested in work— they’ve started prioritizing drinking over their academic participation.
  • Too tired, anxious, or unable to focus and thus can’t perform like they used to. 

Focus on alcohol or other drugs

Conversations tend to revolve around alcohol, cannabis or other drugs.

  • Always talks about how excited they are to drink or get high.
  • Whenever you ask your friend what they’re up to this afternoon, they frequently mention going to the liquor store— they seem to always need to stock up on alcohol.  
  • You tell your friend you’re excited to hang out this weekend, and they tell you how pumped they are to get drunk or high— it’s the only way they’ll enjoy it.
  • Stops hanging out with you as much so that they can spend more time around people that drink/get high more often than you do.

Health effects

Noticeable changes in health.

  • Moodier than before.
  • Change in weight.
  • Mentions feeling fatigued all the time.


Unwillingness to recognize that their behavior may be unhealthy.          

  • You mention your concern to your friend and they get very annoyed.
  • You point out that your friend blacked out the past three weekends and they deny it, saying “No, just one time, like two weeks ago.”
  • Frequently tries to downplay how alcohol affects them— you tell them how you’ve been hurt by some of the things they’ve said drunk and they say “You know I didn’t mean it. I was drunk. Don’t take it personally” as a defense every time.