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Symptoms and Signs of Drug Abuse

  1. Article Quick LinksPrint
  2. Learn More About Symptoms of Specific Substances of Abuse
  3. Heroin Test
  4. Methamphetamine Test
  5. Health Effects and Dangers of Long-Term Substance Abuse
  6. Alcohol Test
  7. Adderall Test
  8. Treatments for Drug Problems

Dilated pupils (mydriasis) and sweating (hidrosis) are among the more common symptoms of some drug abuse.

Dilated pupils (mydriasis) and sweating (hidrosis) are among the more common symptoms of some drug abuse.

Drug abuse affects people from all walks of life and all socioeconomic statuses. Whether a person starts taking drugs because of peer pressure or stress relief, or whether he or she abuses prescription drugs, it can be easy to become addicted. Some drugs take longer to become addicted to than others, but all drugs are to some degree capable of making the user dependent. Breaking free of a drug addiction often requires outside help. Drug abuse wreaks havoc on the body and mind and can eventually kill. If you or someone you know needs treatment for drug abuse, we can help. Call us at (800) 943-0566 anytime to start on the road to recovery.

Drug abuse or addiction is not always obvious. Many people are ashamed of it and will deny it if confronted, or they may genuinely not know they are addicted. They may also not distinguish between normal use and abuse when it comes to prescription drugs. Harder street drugs have no legitimate use, but marijuana has some medical uses. Using any prescription outside its recommended context is considered abuse.

Medical Symptoms

Some of the most noticeable symptoms of drug abuse affect the body and mind. For example, tolerance can occur if a drug is abused for a certain amount of time. Tolerance is an expected side effect of regular drug use and means that higher quantities of the drug are required to achieve the same effect. In drug culture, especially heroin, this phenomenon is called "chasing the dragon." The diminishing effects set in after the first time, and the user constantly tries to replicate the first high he or she gets from the drug. In addition, changes in appearance can be clues to possible drug use; bloodshot or glazed eyes, dilated pupils and abrupt changes in weight are common signs.

Learn the Signals of Illicit Drug Use by Substance

Symptoms and Signs of Drug Abuse Quiz question 1

Behavioral Symptoms

Drug abuse negatively affects a person's behavior and habits as he or she becomes more dependent on the drug. The drug itself can alter the brain's ability to focus and form coherent thoughts, depending on the substance. Changes in behavior, such as increased aggression, lethargy, depression or sudden changes in a social network can indicate a problem with drug abuse. Alcohol, for example, can make a person more aggressive and prone to getting into fights or making impulsive decisions.

As the compulsion for using drugs overtakes a person's life, performance at school or work will suffer because of a lack of focus and shifting priorities. He or she may decide to skip class to smoke marijuana or call out of work due to a severe hangover. Financial matters are also a concern; for example, addiction causes irresponsible spending in order to get the next fix of a drug. This can extend to selling valuable personal possessions. Drug abuse also can lead to criminal behaviors, such as home robbery and mugging. The DEA made 30,922 drug-related arrests in 2010, according to the Department of Justice. Learning to recognize the physical or behavioral signs of drug abuse can help prevent the problem from progressing further.

Learn the Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse by Medication

Symptoms and Signs of Drug Abuse Quiz question 2

Learn More About Symptoms of Specific Substances of Abuse


The concept of 'binge drinking' entails the consumption of more than 8 ounces of beer, a 5 ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor per hour.

The concept of 'binge drinking' entails the consumption of more than 8 ounces of beer, a 5 ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor per hour.

Alcohol is one of the most widely abused legal substances in the United States. Because of its legality, it is hard to control access to those of legal age. Symptoms of alcohol abuse include frequent hangovers, irresponsible drinking, such as before driving, and excessive binge drinking. Binge drinking occurs when the person drinks more than one eight-ounce beer or a five-ounce glass of wine in one hour. People who abuse alcohol will frequently have the scent of it on their clothes or breath. To know more about the effects of alcohol use and the best treatment options on helping an Alcoholic call us at (800) 943-0566.


Credit: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH)
Marijuana is considered one of the "softer" illegal drugs, but it is still prone to abuse. It is also one of the most popular drugs among many demographics. People often use marijuana for relaxation because of its euphoric effects. Some signs of marijuana abuse include dilated pupils or bloodshot eyes. In addition, effects of Marijuana use include short-term memory and decreases overall motivation. People who use marijuana often try to hide the smell in their rooms by covering it up with incense. Small burns on the ends of the thumb and forefinger can be a sign of frequently smoking a marijuana joint to the very end. It's never to late to help a Marijuana addict so contact us now.


Heroin is one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs a person can abuse. It is a powerful narcotic and can cause addiction upon its first use. Most often, heroin is administered through injection into a vein. If you see needle marks on someone's arms, it is a sign of possible heroin use. The needles can be inserted anywhere that a vein is located, but the arms are the most common location. In the long run, heroin use can cause side effects such as weight loss and collapsed veins, as well as inflamed tissue around the needle sites. If you are ready to free yourself and your loved ones from this addiction, call us and learn more about how to help a Heroin addict.

Physical and mental effects of heroin

  • Surge or rush of euphoria
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Warm, flushed skin
  • Respiratory depression

Symptoms and Signs of Drug Abuse Quiz question 3


Methamphetamines, commonly shortened to "meth," act as a powerful stimulant. Students or workers may use them to get a rush of energy. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that 2.4 percent of 12th-grade students had used meth at least once. Meth users typically have a paranoid or twitchy demeanor. They are also prone to aggressive outbursts or an inability to sit still. Sudden weight loss can also indicate effects of crystal meth use because the drug increases metabolism. There are lots of treatment options available in helping a Crystal Meth addict so ask us now.

Lasting health effects of crystal meth

  • Violence
  • Hallucinations
  • Feelings of bugs on or under skin
  • Anorexia
  • Dental problems

Symptoms and Signs of Drug Abuse Quiz question 4

Prescription Drugs

Benzodiazepines and opiate painkillers are amongst the most abused prescription medications.

Benzodiazepines and opiate painkillers are amongst the most abused prescription medications.

Prescription drugs are often overlooked as substances of abuse because of their legitimate medical purpose. Anti-anxiety medication (such as the benzodiazepines) and opiate painkillers (such as hydrocodone and oxycodone) are the most commonly abused types of prescription drugs. The physical signs will vary, but if you notice a trend of someone frequently visiting different doctors to seek a diagnosis of chronic pain, it is one sign of prescription abuse. Another sign is taking higher dosages than prescribed or frequently losing prescriptions.

Symptoms and Signs of Drug Abuse Quiz question 5

Health Effects and Dangers of Long-Term Substance Abuse

Long-Term Health Effects

Drug abuse can be a lifelong problem and pose serious health complications due to tolerance, dependence or the effects of the drug on the body and mind. Some of the damage done, especially to the brain, is irreversible. Stop yourself or a loved one from doing irreparable damage by taking the first step toward recovery. Call us at (800) 943-0566 to learn how we can help.


The most prominent damage from long-term alcohol abuse occurs in the liver. The January 2005 issue of Alcohol Alert reported cirrhosis of the liver as the fourth-leading cause of death in that year. Cirrhosis occurs because the liver is the organ responsible for metabolizing alcohol, and too much will damage the tissue. Other long-term effects of alcohol use include cognitive impairment and memory loss. Neurons are vulnerable to alcohol, especially if alcohol abuse begins during adolescence when the brain is still developing. The cerebellum, the portion of the brain responsible for motor control and learning, is most affected by alcohol consumption. Helping an Alcoholic is just a phone call away. Call us now to start the process of recovery


Many people do not believe marijuana use can cause side effects. However, it is harmful if used heavily over a long period. The most common method of using marijuana is smoking it. Marijuana is not thought to be carcinogenic, but inhalation of smoke causes damage to the lung tissue and alveoli, making it harder to get oxygen into the bloodstream. Frequent coughing and congestion are also possible long-term health effects of marijuana. Marijuana can lower testosterone levels and sperm count in men, as well as raising testosterone in women. This can make it more difficult to conceive a child. Chronic marijuana users also have been found, according to the 2008 Archives of General Psychiatry, to have an average of 12 percent less brain matter in the hippocampus, the area of the brain thought to control emotion and memory. To help a Marijuana addict, go to the nearest treatment facility or contact us for more information.

Prescription Drugs

The main classes of abused prescription drugs include stimulants, painkillers, anxiety and sleep medications. Abuse of prescription drugs can create long-term complications, despite their intended purpose of alleviating pain or depression. Many prescription painkillers, for example, are opiates. These create dependency, slow down the central nervous system and act as a sedative. Over time, this can lead to a weakened heart muscle, chronic drowsiness or lethargy and intermittent muscle paralysis.

There are fewer long-term health effects documented for anxiolytics—or anti-anxiety medications—than there are for painkillers. They have a marked potential for the development of tolerance, and consequently result in people abusing many times their intended dose. The resultant danger in long-term use of anti-anxiety meds is the presence of a life threatening period of withdrawal if the person stops taking the prescription. Agitation, heightened anxiety, seizure and death are possible.

Peripheral Effects

Long-term drug abuse also has peripheral health effects not resulting directly from the drug. These can include the following:

  • Increased stress
  • Malnutrition due to lack of money
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

People who chronically abuse drugs are subject to mental disorders and emotional distress. However, the link between mental problems and drug abuse runs both ways. Some drugs make the user more prone to depression, and dependency can also increase the likelihood of a drug overdose. In 2011, over 15,000 people died from prescription drug overdoses, according to the Center for Disease Control. If you fear that you or someone you know has a problem with drug abuse, you need to get help and stop the downward spiral by calling our hotline. The number is (800) 943-0566, and we can be reached at any time. Call now before tragedy strikes.

Treatments for Drug Problems

Types of Treatments

Treatment for drug abuse has to be done in a structured environment that minimizes the person's exposure to the drug and gets to the root cause of the abuse. Treatment can be conducted in either an inpatient or outpatient setting. For more serious addictions, it is better to seek inpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment works for those who need a more flexible schedule or cannot afford to take time out from work.


The first part of any drug abuse treatment program is detoxification. Depending on the drug, this is either a tightly controlled administration of the drug or complete removal. During the detox period, the body removes the drug from the bloodstream and becomes less physically dependent on it. The length of time for detox varies but averages around 30 days. Patients in a detox center are carefully monitored throughout the detox period to ensure there are no harmful withdrawal symptoms. Detoxing from the drug is only the first portion of treatment.

Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy and other types of psychotherapy are used to help patients get to the roots of their addiction. After all, addicts rarely resort to abusing drugs for their own sake. Stress and peer pressure are common underlying causes. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps the patient to deal with stress in a healthy manner and keep his or her addiction under control. The psychotherapy portion of treatment often carries over to the outpatient phase following release from a residential rehab facility.

Symptoms and Signs of Drug Abuse Quiz question 6

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient services allow a person to receive regularly scheduled addiction treatment throughout the week.

Outpatient services allow a person to receive regularly scheduled addiction treatment throughout the week.

The process of recovering from a drug addiction continues long after a stay in a rehab center. Group counseling sessions and support group attendance are frequent components. Patients are also encouraged to develop constructive pastimes or help in the community. This provides a purpose and reduces the incentive to return to the use of drugs. Usually, counseling sessions will take place weekly or biweekly to keep the staff of the treatment center up to date. Frequently, stressors that initially cause drug abuse occur during home life. Counseling helps to alleviate stress in an outpatient environment. Family counseling or relationship counseling is also available should it be necessary. During residential treatment, your therapist will make plans for post-release treatment based on the information learned during counseling sessions. Call us at (800) 943-0566 to learn more about residential and outpatient treatment programs near you.

Need Help Understanding Your Addiction Treatment Options? Call 1-888-747-7155.