signs of drug use

The All-Too-Apparent Signs of Drug Use and Abuse

Over the decades, the number of people in the United States using illicit drugs has steadily increased. At this point, about 1 in 10 people over the age of 12 have tried illegal drugs. That said, drug use and drug addiction are very different things.

While drug use can be nothing more than occasional or even one-time experimentation, drug addiction is a much more serious situation. As anyone who has struggled with addiction or had loved ones struggle with it knows, it can ruin and end lives.

If you’re not experienced in the realm of addiction, it can be hard to tell if a loved one is suffering from drug dependency. To make the process easier for you, here are some unmistakable signs of drug use.

1. Sudden/Unnatural Weight Loss

Weight fluctuations are a common sign of drug abuse. While weight loss isn’t associated with every drug, most worrisome drug habits have this as a side-effect. 

Most commonly, extreme weight loss is associated with stimulants such as cocaine, Adderall, ecstasy, or methamphetamines. These drugs send the metabolism of the user into overdrive, which makes them lose weight rapidly. 

Some other drugs like heroin can have a similar effect. This is due to the massive toll they take on the body, which in turn loses its ability to nourish itself. It also acts as an appetite suppressor, which causes people to eat less.

2. Bloodshot Eyes/Dilated Pupils

The way drugs affect the eyes can differ, but they’re almost always affected in some way. With something like marijuana, bloodshot eyes are a very typical side effect. On the other hand, a drug like heroin results in constricted pupils.

Other times, the pupils might dilate. This is when they become abnormally large. Hallucinogens like acid are associated with this occurrence.

3. Skin Changes

Like with the eyes, the ways the skin can change with regular drug use varies from drug to drug. Some common signs are jaundice, acne, or unnatural/unusual paleness.

More intense and obvious signs to look for are track marks and bruises around major arteries. These are surefire signs of intravenous drug use

Conversely, scabs and sores around the mouth/lips are often signs of abusing drugs that use hot pipes. This includes drugs like crack cocaine and crystal meth.

4. Poor Hygiene

Poor hygiene is the physical expression of more nefarious emotional and mental side effects of drug abuse. Often, using drugs becomes the primary or even only interest of an addict. This results in other things being neglected altogether.

One of the first things to fall by the wayside is personal care. There are several reasons for this. For one, it becomes less important than seeking out and doing drugs.

On top of that, it becomes more difficult to do daily tasks. The other physical and mental side effects of drug abuse make it very hard to perform basic day to day functions. Hygiene is one of the many casualties of addiction.

5. Slow Movement

Like track marks, this is a behavior often associated with heroin use and other intravenous drugs. That said, it’s not limited to substances like heroin and methadone.

Slowed movement can accompany any depressant. This includes alcohol, heroin, marijuana, and prescription drugs such as Xanax. The more intense the narcotic, the more noticeable the change. 

6. Sped Up Movement

Conversely, stimulants are known to have a “speeding” effect on users. Often times, users will move rapidly, tremor, or even have uncontrollable twitches.

Along with sped up movements, a user’s speech might increase to abnormal rates. Sometimes, a person is talking so fast that it’s tough to discern what they’re saying. Other times, the thoughts themselves are disjointed and nonsensical. 

If a loved one displays any of these signs, you should look out for stimulant abuse.

7. Runny Nose

This is a side effect that is very closely associated with cocaine abuse. As you probably know, cocaine is typically snorted through the nose. This leads to the lining of the nose being quite literally eaten away over time.

As a result, many folks who abuse cocaine will have a chronic runny nose. If you notice a loved one often rubbing their nose, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Allergies have the same symptoms. 

That said, if this sign is coupled with other signs on this list, it could be a cause for concern. 

8. Slurred Speech

Although this is often associated with drunkenness, it’s far from the only time it applies. In fact, behaviors associated with alcohol abuse often accompany many other depressants. 

Depressants such as Xanax, heroin, and others will often cause a person’s speech to slur uncontrollably. Even if alcohol is the culprit, it’s still a cause for concern. Despite social attitudes to the contrary, alcohol abuse is just as dangerous as drugs such as heroin.

9. Sleep Disruptions

Depending on the type of drug, abusers can either begin to sleep far too much or not enough. The big thing to look for here is a sudden and marked change in the normal patterns of your loved one.

As you might imagine, depressants cause a user to sleep more than usual. It also might cause them to sleep at inappropriate times. Heroin can even cause users to fall asleep mid-conversation, which is a phenomenon called “nodding.”

With stimulants, an individual may sleep far less or stop sleeping altogether. Before long, this can lead to far more grave health complications.

10. Other Abnormalities

One of the difficult things about spotting addiction is that the symptoms can come in so many forms. That’s why you have to be extra vigilant if you suspect a loved one is suffering from drug addiction.

You know your loved ones’ habits and norms better than most people. Look for any significant and unexplainable deviations in their physical characteristics. Something someone else might not notice could be a serious warning sign for someone who knows them well.

Don’t Miss the Signs of Drug Use

While the signs of drug use can be elusive and difficult to diagnose, you shouldn’t assume nothing’s wrong. Especially when several of these signs present at once, there’s a potential cause for concern.

If you’ve managed to successfully discover that a loved one is suffering from addiction and they’re ready to try treatment, don’t settle for second best. Keep reading and get them in a top-notch rehabilitation facility.

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.