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Recognizing the signs of drug use is crucial if you suspect a family member, friend, or loved one is using and you want to talk to them about their possible drug use with sensitivity without jumping to conclusions. In this article, we’ll go over the common physical and behavioral signs people show when they’re using drugs as well as specific symptoms for certain drugs.
Common Physical Signs Of Drug Use
Physical signs are often the first indicator of drug use and tend to be more difficult to hide than behavioral signs. Below are the most common physical symptoms that someone could be on drugs.
- Sleeping problems, troubles falling asleep, sleeping more or less
- A general sense of lethargy, or also excessive energy, depending on the drug
- Changes in eating habits, such as a loss of appetite or an increased appetite
- Pupils that are either larger or smaller than normal
- Watery or bloodshot eyes
- Strange smells
- Extreme talkativeness or hyperactivity
- Slurred speech
- Tremors or impaired coordination
- A sudden change in weight, including gain or loss
- A change in grooming habits or a decline in personal appearance
- Clenching of the jaw
- Flushing, paleness, or puffiness in the face
- Persistent cough
- Runny nose
Common Behavioral Signs Of Drug Use
In addition to physical signs, drug use can also cause significant changes to the way someone normally behaves. Some drug users, however, are very good at masking the changes that are occurring, hiding their poor performance at school, pretending to be engaged with family, or withholding information about their financial problems. Keep an eye out for these behavioral signs if you suspect someone is using drugs.
- Personality changes
- New friends
- Lack of interest in once-loved hobbies
- Memory loss/forgetfulness
- Lack of motivation
- Increased need for privacy/secrecy
- Poor performance at school or work
- Lack of personal grooming
- Legal problems
- Social withdrawal/isolation
Specific Symptoms For Certain Drugs
The physical and behavioral signs we discussed are common to all types of drugs but there are also more specific symptoms caused by specific drugs and substances. Some of the signs of the most common drugs include:
- Opioids: Opioids include heroin and prescription opioid painkillers like OxyContin, hydrocodone, Vicodin, Percocet, Demerol, and others. These drugs cause the pupils to contract even in good lighting, loss of appetite, excessive sleeping, vomiting, coughing, sweating, twitches, and sniffling. Someone using heroin is likely to have needle marks on the arms or feet.
- Stimulants: This type of drug increases the activity of the central nervous system and includes prescriptions like amphetamine and methamphetamine, as well as cocaine, crack, and crystal meth, a crystallized form of methamphetamine. Stimulants cause euphoria, increased energy, alertness and less sleep, decreased appetite, weight loss, dry mouth, irritability, and anxiety. Someone on stimulants may be hyper, talkative and cheerful, and then suddenly depressed.
- Depressants: Depressants are sedatives that cause relaxation and sleepiness. Prescription sedatives are used to treat insomnia and anxiety. They include barbiturates, tranquilizers, and benzodiazepines. These drugs cause sleepiness, poor coordination, poor judgement, slurred speech, trouble concentrating, and other signs similar to being drunk.
- Hallucinogens: Drugs that cause hallucinations which include LSD, peyote, mushrooms, and PCP, or angel dust. In addition to hallucinations they cause dilated pupils, confusion, slurred speech, paranoia, mood swings, detachment, aggression, and preoccupation with certain things.
- Inhalants: Inhalants are household chemicals – like glues, aerosols, and paints – that can be inhaled to produce a high. They cause memory problems, rashes around the mouth or nose, runny nose, vision problems, headaches, drowsiness, anxiety, nausea, poor control of muscles, and changes in appetite.
- Marijuana: Use of marijuana causes red eyes, a glassy, blank stare, giddiness and inappropriate laughter, talking too loud, apathy and lack of motivation or interest in activities, and changes in weight.
If your loved one appears as if they might be using drugs, it’s important that you’re able to identify common warning signs. And if you see some or all of the signs of drug use are present, there are things you can do to help your loved one.
What To Do If You Strongly Suspect Drug Use
It’s essential to understand that addiction is a brain disorder and that you can’t shame, bribe, isolate, or “tough love” an addict to get sober. What you can do is be supportive and compassionate without enabling their addiction. Check out our tips for how to help an addict or contact us on our confidential 24/7 addiction hotline 888-797-2259 to see what steps you can take to help your loved one with their drug use.