How is substance abuse/chemical dependence diagnosed?

Officially, a diagnosis must come from a qualified health professional. It could involve a mental health assessment, blood tests, etc. However, anyone can develop a suspicion of dependence that may be close enough to the truth to help you decide to take action. Observation of behavior patterns can include:

  • checking pockets before clothes are washed and drawers as the clean clothes are put away for drugs, etc.
  • identifying changes in behavior and sleep patterns such as irritability, aggression, withdrawal, secrecy.
  • increased alone time for taking drugs, smoking, etc.
  • change of friends and/or hobbies to accommodate dependency
  • changes in language or speech patterns
  • missing substances, money or valuables from your home.

Approach the person for whom you are concerned supportively at first to confirm your suspicion and try to raise awareness of the need for change and the support that is available to make that change.

A psychiatrist or qualified mental health professional usually diagnoses substance abuse. Clinical findings often depend on the substance abused, the frequency of use, and the length of time since last used, and may include the following:

  • weight loss
  • constant fatigue
  • red eyes
  • little concern for hygiene

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.