10 Signs of Drug Abuse, Use or Addiction

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10 Signs of Drug Abuse or Addiction

Not every addiction looks the same.

Unfortunately, media representations have painted many misleading caricatures of how a person suffering from substance abuse disorder appears or behaves.

Often, people do not acknowledge that they have a problem, and friends or family members are the first to notice something has changed. If you are worried that you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, uncertainty makes it hard to proceed. However, there are some telltale signs and symptoms to help you identify any potential issues.

10 Signs of Drug Abuse, Use or Addiction Overview

Physical Signs of Drug Abuse - How to tell if someone is on drugs

1.    Small Physical Symptoms:

Side effects can include slight alterations to physical appearance that may start to become noticeable. Bloodshot or red eyes and pinpoint or dilated pupils are all telling signs of many types of drug abuse. Also, pay attention to skin texture and complexion. Frequent abnormal puffiness and flushed or washed-out color can also indicate ongoing abuse of drugs or alcohol.

Many forms of drug abuse come with small behavioral changes that might be dismissed as “tics.” If you notice any of the following, it could be signs of a hidden condition:

  • Persistent itching in a specific area of the body
  • Impulsive pulling down of sleeves to hide marks
  • Slurred speech
  • Frequent sniffling

While these are not definitive signs, if they are accompanied by secretiveness or defensiveness, they could provide helpful clues as to whether something is wrong.

2.    Overall Appearance:

Long-term abuse of drugs and alcohol can result in drastic changes to physical appearance. Many drugs have appetite suppressing or other altering side effects, meaning abuse often results in visible weight changes.

These rapid changes to body composition, such as sudden weight loss or weight gain, or lack of interest in personal grooming, especially if it declines without explanation, can also point to substance abuse and can be cause for concern.

3.    Paraphernalia:

It can be an obvious indicator if you find equipment in someone’s room or among their things. Some common items include:

  • Cigarette wrapping papers
  • Pipes
  • Syringes
  • Rolled up banknotes
  • Cut-up straws
  • Soiled cotton swabs
  • Lighters
  • Burnt spoons or bottle caps
  • Bongs
  • Razor blades
  • “Cutting” surfaces like mirrors or glass

Not all drugs require anything to use them, but you might see other items that point to misuse. For example, medicine bottles from more than one doctor can be a sign of prescription drug abuse.

People can use eyewash to hide the effect of bloodshot eyes – and while this is not a definite indicator, abnormal amounts can be a clue. Depending on many factors, someone struggling with addiction might go to great lengths to hide the physical signs or treat the symptoms with total apathy.

The Road To Recovery Begins Today

Behavioral Signs of Drug Addiction

When substance use takes hold of someone’s life, new priorities and feelings will control how they behave.

This results in rapid or noticeable changes from what was previously considered “normal” for this person. Daily routines and activities get rearranged or abandoned, and relationships with friends and loved ones come under stress. If you or someone you know is turning into someone unrecognizable, it could be a consequence of drug abuse.

Some changes to watch for are:

1.    Struggling with Limits:

This can manifest as urges to take a prescription drug at a higher dose than prescribed or continuing after the health problem it treats has ended. Addiction makes it hard to follow even self-prescribed rules. If you have set yourself a self-imposed use limit but cannot stop yourself, this is a concerning sign.

2.    Loss of Interest:

Substance dependency takes over the mind’s reward system. Take note if someone is becoming complacent in realms they used to take great pride in or apathetic towards the people or hobbies they usually cherish.

It may mean they are funneling their energy toward feeding the impulse of using drugs. Frequent failure to show up or follow through on plans, lack of enthusiasm, or dulling of talents can all indicate an underlying struggle.

3.    Mood Swings:

Many substances, especially when used heavily, impair the user’s ability to manage emotional input. This can appear as sudden misery, extreme upset, irritation, or anger in situations when they could previously handle their moods well. If a normally calm and collected person seems hyper and manic, or an optimist is dealing with sudden waves of depression, it could be a sign of drug abuse.

4.    Reclusive and Private Behavior:

Substance abuse disorders are incredibly isolating. A user often experiences shame and fears social stigma, and some drugs also can induce paranoia. This can cause a person to withdraw from their usual relationships and become secretive. Reclusive behaviors that point to hiding an addiction include:

  • Spending extended periods in their room
  • Locking the door when they leave or enter their private space
  • Not sharing details about places or people they visit when out of the house
  • Shutting down when asked questions by people they usually trust

5.    Defensiveness:

Withdrawn behavior and responding with hostility or wariness when uncomfortable topics arise can be a sign of defensiveness. A person trying to hide addiction may redirect the conversation with arguments or even aggressive mood swings, and distraction methods are also a defensive sign.

6.    Erratic Behavior:

This trait is usually very evident and a symptom of most substance addictions. Depending on the drug, the high could be associated with euphoria, paranoia, feelings of power, or invulnerability. These are all sensations that can lead users to reckless or dangerous actions. Withdrawal brings with it physical and emotional distress that can also lead to erratic or even violent behavior.

Mental health is the sum of many parts. Co-occurring disorders, such as depression or anxiety, are often amplified by drug abuse – with the effects of one feeding off of the other. For people struggling with these synergistic conditions, dual diagnosis is key to effective healing.

7.    Changes in Sleep Habits:

Drug abuse tends to wreak havoc on users’ sleep habits. Both stimulants and depressants alter the activity of hormones responsible for tiredness and wakefulness. This will drive a user off their typical schedule.

An addicted person will sometimes also experience the opposite effects when the drug leaves their system. If someone keeps “off-hours” – be that oversleeping or staying up for extended periods – relative to their usual habits, it can be a sign of growing chemical dependence.

Next Steps - Signs of drug addiction

Even for users who have recognized symptoms of addiction in themselves, misunderstanding gets in the way of support.

If you have identified some of these signs in yourself or someone you love, you may want to reach out to an intervention specialist. Addiction is difficult to talk about, even with those you are very close to. An intervention specialist will help your family approach the topic of addiction with clarity and understanding and can provide invaluable support and advice.

Cirque Lodge is a top, private, licensed, and accredited rehabilitation facility. We offer long-term, effective addiction treatment programs in a serene setting based in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Clients who attend our center follow personalized treatment plans that include counseling, resilience building, and medical detox.

Recovery Is Possible

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Cirque Lodge offers a combination of experiential, behavioral, and group therapies to provide a holistic and enriching treatment experience.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction, please contact us today. We can help.