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Following are some of the more commonly recognized signs and symptoms that someone you know, or you, may be experiencing related to substance use. They are by no means definitive or all inclusive. Substance use disorder can manifest differently in each person, depending on individual personalities and circumstances, so if you have questions or are not sure about what you may be noticing, please seek professional guidance and/or call one of the hotlines in this directory for further steps.

 

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

 

Physical Warning Signs of Drug Abuse

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, person grooming habits
  • Unusual smells on breath, body or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

 

Behavioral Signs of Drug Abuse

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems; may borrow or steal to get it.
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)

 

Psychological Warning Signs of Drug Abuse

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability , or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “space out”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason

 

Warning Signs of Commonly Abused Drugs

Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss.

Depressants (including Xanax, Valium, GHB): Contracted pupils; drunk-like; difficulty concentrating; clumsiness; poor judgement; slurred speech; sleepiness.

Stimulants (including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth): Dilated pupils; hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go for long periods of time without eating or sleeping; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.

Inhalants (glues, aerosols, vapors): Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory, and thought; secretions from nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; lots of cans/ aerosols in the trash.

Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP): Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.

Heroin: Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light; needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing; sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite.

 

Warning Signs of Teen Drug Abuse

While experimenting with drugs doesn’t automatically lead to drug abuse, early use is a risk factor for developing more serious drug abuse and addiction. Risk of drug abuse also increases greatly during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce. The challenge for parents is to distinguish between the normal, often volatile, ups and downs of the teen years and the red flags of substance abuse. These include:

  • Having bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils; using eye drops to try and mask these signs
  • Skipping class; declining grades; suddenly getting into trouble at school
  • Missing money, valuables, or prescriptions
  • Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn, angry, or depressed
  • Dropping one group of friends for another; being secretive about the new peer group
  • Loss of interest in old hobbies; lying about new interests and activities
  • Demanding more privacy; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around

 

Common Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse

  • You’re neglecting your responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting your children) because of your drug use.
  • You’re using drugs under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high, such as driving while on drugs, using dirty needles, or having unprotected sex.
  • Your drug use is getting you into legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support a drug habit
  • Your drug use is causing problems in your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of friends.

 

Common Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

  • You’ve built up a drug tolerance. You need to use more of the drug to experience the same effects you used to attain with smaller amounts.
  • You take drugs to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without drugs, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
  • You’ve lost control over your drug use. You often do drugs or use more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.
  • Your life revolves around drug use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about drugs, figuring out how to get them, and recovering from the drug’s effects.
  • You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, because of your drug use.
  • You continue to use drugs, despite knowing it’s hurting you. It’s causing major problems in your life – blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia- but you use anyway.