Substance Abuse Checklist

Substance Abuse Checklist

Here is a basic checklist frequently used by counselors to see if alcohol and other drug abuse may be an issue in someone's life. 

Frequent Intoxication

  • Does the person report or appear to be frequently high or intoxicated?
  • Do recreational activities center around drinking or other drug use, including getting, using, and recovery from use?

Atypical Social Settings

  • Does the immediate peer group of the individual suggest that substance abuse may be encouraged?
  • Is the person socially isolated from others and is substance abuse occurring alone?
  • Is the person reluctant to attend social events where chemicals won't be available?

Intentional Heavy Use

  • Does the person use "social drugs" with prescribed medications?
  • Does the person use more than is safe in light of other medications they may be using, or because of compromised tolerance due to illness or disability?
  • Does the person have an elevated tolerance as evidenced by the use of large quantities of alcohol or other drugs without appearing intoxicated?

Symptomatic Drinking

  • Are there predictable patterns of use which are well known to others?
  • Is there a reliance on chemicals to cope with stress?
  • Has the person made lifestyle changes yet the drug use has stayed the same or increased? (eg. changed friends or moved to another area)

Psychological Dependence

  • Does the person rely on drugs as a means of coping with negative emotions?
  • Does the person believe that pain can't be coped with without medication?
  • Does the person obviously feel guilty about some aspect of their use of alcohol or other drugs?

Health Problems

  • Are there medical conditions which decrease tolerance or increase the risk of substance abuse problems?
  • Are there medical situations which are aggravated by repeated alcohol or other drug use?
  • Did the person ever suffer an accident or disability while under the influence, even if it is denied by the person?

Job Problems

  • Is the person underemployed or unemployed?
  • Has the person missed work or gone to work late due to use of alcohol or other drugs?
  • Does the person blame the drinking on work related problems?

Problems with Significant Others  

  • Has a family member or friend expressed concern about the person's use?
  • Have important relationships been lost or impaired due to chemical use?

Problems with Law or Authority

  • Has the person been in trouble with authorities or arrested for any alcohol or drug related offenses?
  • Have there been instances when the person could have been arrested but wasn't?
  • Does the person seem angry at "the system" and at authority figures in general?

Financial Problems

  • Is the person's spending money easily accounted for?
  • Does the person frequently miss making payments when they are due?


  • Does the person appear angry or defensive but doesn't know why?
  • Is the person defensive or angry when confronted about chemical use?


  • Does increasing isolation suggest heavier substance abuse?
  • Is the person giving up or changing social and family activities in order to use?

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