Signs of Drug Use – How To Tell If Someone Is Using Drugs

signs of drug use

If you have a friend or loved one who you believe is using drugs, it’s hard to know what to do. You don’t want to jump to conclusions, but you don’t want to turn a blind eye to something so important either. That’s why it’s crucial that you know what to look for, behaviorally and physically, to make the best decision about confronting your loved one.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use

While every drug user is different, there are some signs and symptoms that are common to many users. You’ll often be able to identify several physical and behavioral signs when your loved one is using. Physical signs are often the first ones you’ll notice as they are harder for someone to hide.

Common Physical Signs of Drug

  • Problems with sleep including difficulty falling asleep, sleeping more, or not sleeping enough
  • Fatigue or excessive energy, depending on the substance used
  • Changes in appetite, either eating much more or much less
  • Pupils that are either very large or pinpoint
  • Bloodshot, watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Impaired coordination
  • Strange odors from the body or clothing of the user
  • Excessive talking or hyperactivity
  • Difficulty speaking or slurring of words
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Clenched jaw
  • Persistent coughing
  • Flushing, paleness, or puffiness of the face
  • A decline in personal hygiene and appearance

Common Behavioral Signs of Drug Addiction

In addition to the physical signs of drug use, you may also see some significant changes in the behavior of your loved one. Keep in mind, though, that drug users become very adept at hiding their use, so you may have to look closely to determine if they are using or abusing substances. Take a look at the following behavioral indicators that may be a sign of drug use:

  • Mood swings
  • A new group of friends
  • Loss of interests in things once enjoyed
  • Forgetfulness or memory loss
  • Irritability or anger
  • Apathy
  • Increased secrecy
  • Lying
  • Withdrawing socially or isolating
  • Poor performance or attendance at work or school
  • Legal issues

Signs of Abuse for Specific Drugs

Just as all drug users are different, so are the substances they use. While the above signs and symptoms are quite common for all types of drugs, there are some that are specific to each type of substance. Some of the most common signs of specific drugs are:

  • Opioids: This group of drugs consists of certain prescription painkillers and the illicit drug, heroin. Painkillers like OxyContin, Fentanyl, hydrocodone, Vicodin, morphine, Percocet, and Demerol are all highly addictive just like heroin. Some of the indicators of opioid abuse include decreased appetite, coughing, sweating, excessive sleep, sniffling, twitching. Additionally, when someone is injecting opioids, you will likely see needle marks on the arms or feet.
  • Stimulants: This group of drugs includes prescription medication like Adderall and Ritalin (which are typically prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as street drugs like cocaine, crack, and methamphetamines. In people abusing stimulants, you will likely see increased energy, the inability to sit still, reduced need for sleep, irritability, decreased appetite, rapid weight loss, dry mouth, and anxiety. Someone on stimulants may be cheerful, hyper, and talkative one minute and then suddenly depressed the next.
  • Depressants: This group of drugs includes certain prescription medications and alcohol. They work as sedatives to increase relaxation or sleepiness. Prescription depressants include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and tranquilizers. These are typically prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia and they can be very addictive. In someone abusing depressants, you may see signs like drowsiness, extreme fatigue, increase in time spent sleeping, poor coordination, slurred speech, poor judgment, inability to concentrate, and other signs that are similar to someone being drunk.
  • Hallucinogens: This group of drugs includes LSD, PCP, mushrooms, and peyote. They cause users to have hallucinations as well as signs like dilated pupils, slurred speech, paranoia, confusion, mood swings, detachment or dissociation, aggression, and a preoccupation with certain things.
  • Inhalants: This group of drugs includes household chemicals that can be inhaled to cause the user to feel a high. Glues, paints, and aerosols are all common inhalants. Signs of inhalant use include headaches, hay-fever like symptoms, memory problems, change in appetite, anxiety, poor muscle control, vision problems, and rashes around the nose or mouth.
  • Marijuana: Marijuana use can cause users to have red and bloodshot eyes, a blank stare, loud talking, giddiness or inappropriate laughter, lack of motivation, apathy, and weight changes.

If your friend or loved one is exhibiting some of the signs above, it may be because he or she is using drugs. It’s important that you talk with your loved one and try to get him or her to seek treatment for drug addiction.

How to Help Your Loved One Who is Using Drugs

If your loved one is abusing drugs, it isn’t likely that he or she will be able to stop without professional help. It’s important to understand that what your loved one needs is your support and compassion in finding the help he or she needs. It isn’t constructive to try to shame, bribe, isolate, or “tough love” an addict to get sober. At Rally Point Palm Beach Rehab, we can help you and your loved one. Please look at our tips for how to help an addict and contact us anytime, at 888-797-2259 with questions or concerns. We can help your loved one get started on the path to recovery from drug addiction.

About The Author

Editorial Staff at

The editorial staff at Rally Point works tirelessly to provide the most accurate and non-biased educational content to give our audience the best chance at achieving long-term success in recovery. This is accomplished by only employing highly trained individuals in the alcohol and drug addiction treatment industry. With hundreds of years of combined experience, the editorial staff at Rally Point are trained, qualified and are experts in the field of drug and alcohol addiction treatment.


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