How do I know if alcohol and/or other drugs are a problem or not?

Although most sexuality and gender diverse people who use alcohol and other drugs do so in a way that does not cause problems, some of us do experience problems. On this page, there is information about how you might be able to recognise when alcohol or drug use has started causing problems for a loved one.  If you, a partner, friend or family member might benefit from accessing  LGBTQ specific support for alcohol or drug use, read more about ACON's substance support service here.

It can be difficult to know when alcohol or drug use has become a problem for someone you care about. Because sexuality and gender diverse communities sometimes socialise in spaces where drugs and alcohol are consumed it can be hard to socialise without using alcohol and/or other drugs. Because drinking and/or taking drugs can be closely linked to socialising in sexuality and gender diverse communities, it can make it hard for us to recognise when those we care about are using in a way that might be causing problems.

Some signs that could indicate that alcohol and/or other drugs use is disrupting or having a negative effect on someone’s life include:


  • More of their time and money is spent on alcohol and/or other drugs.
  • They are always short of money, in debt or trying to borrow money.

Patterns of use:

  • You notice they are increasing the amount or frequency of alcohol and/or other drugs they are using.
  • They are finding it hard to stop using alcohol and/or other drugs.
  • Their alcohol and/or other drugs use in non-social situations may be increasing or preventing them from socialising.


  • Their day to day health is affected.
  • Their energy levels, motivation and overall well-being is low or decreasing.
  • They are depressed, withdrawn, agitated, and/or overreacting to situations that usually wouldn’t have bothered them.

Commitments and relationships 

  • They may not be following through on plans and commitments.
  • Work or study may be suffering.
  • Relationships may break down or be damaged.


  • They may not respond to calls or messages or may seem to disappear for days at a time.
  • Their behaviour on social media may seem erratic or out of character.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and these indicators alone don’t necessarily mean that someone is using alcohol and/or other drugs in a problematic manner. However, a combination of these may be an indicator that they need help.

Is it about alcohol or drug use or is it about mental health? 

Many people who have a mental health problem also have problems with their alcohol and/or other drug use. Alcohol and/or other drugs can affect mental health, and mental health issues can impact on a person’s alcohol and/or other drug use.

It can be hard to tell whether changes in someone’s behaviour or mood are due to mental health problems, alcohol and/or other drug use or both. This concern is particularly relevant to sexuality and gender diverse people as many of us experience poor mental health directly related to our experience of stigma, prejudice and discrimination on the basis of being sexuality and gender diverse.

When supporting an LGBTQ person with their alcohol and or drug use, be mindful that they may use drugs or alcohol to alleviate symptoms associated with poor mental health and that this use can in turn contribute to ongoing mental health problems.

If you or a loved one might benefit from accessing an LGBTQ inclusive alcohol or other drug service, visit our service directory.


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