How to know when dating an alcoholic or drug addict

The majority of alcohol and drug addicts in South Africa are men. But how can you tell if your boyfriend is one of them?

If you suspect your boyfriend might be a heavy drinker or drug user, you probably have good reason. Alcohol and drug addicts tend to lie about their addictions, so it might not help to ask him. Here are some guidelines to help you recognise alcohol and drug addiction, and how you can deal with it.


It is easy to recognise when someone is drunk – they slur their words and stumble around. They might even vomit or pass out. But what if they are hiding their addiction from you by staying sober when you are together? Serious drinkers will go through withdrawal symptoms when they don’t have alcohol in their system. The craving for alcohol will make an alcoholic anxious and jittery. He will shake, sweat, and may even vomit.


Even if he is never “high” when he is with you, the drug use will still change your boyfriend’s behaviour. If he suddenly loses or gains weight, or stops looking after himself like he used to, it could mean he is taking drugs.

If he becomes secretive or acts suspicious, never has money anymore, begins hanging out with new people, and starts to get into trouble all the time, then there is a good chance he is an addict.

What to do

Talk to him about your suspicions calmly, and offer to help him get treatment.

Keep yourself positive –  talk to friends and ask loved ones to support you.

Be careful  – don’t get into any unsafe situations.

Don’t blame yourself – if he doesn’t want to change, you cannot force him. If he decides not to get help, then you should choose to move on.

You can contact the Department of Social Development’s Substance Abuse Line for support on 0800 12 13 14 or SMS 32312

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