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Symptoms and Signs of Drug Abuse

  1. Table of ContentsPrint
  2. Learn The Signs of Illicit Drug Abuse
  3. Learn the Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
  4. Recognizing the Signs of Abuse and Addiction

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Learn The Signs of Illicit Drug Abuse

Click on any substance below to find out the typical signs and symptoms of abuse and addiction that substance and how to find help.

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Learn the Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

How much do you know about some of the most commonly abused drugs?
Learn the signs and symptoms now.

Recognizing the Signs of Abuse and Addiction

Drug abuse affects people from all walks of life and all socioeconomic statuses. Whether a person starts taking drugs for any reason, tolerance and dependency can develop quickly, before the user even realizes the pattern of addiction taking hold. When tolerance becomes full-blown addiction, it can be extremely difficult to stop the pattern of abuse.

Breaking free from the hold of addiction often requires outside help. Drug abuse wreaks havoc on the body and mind and can eventually kill. When you realize that you or someone you love has a problem, it's essential to get help right away. If you or someone you know needs treatment for drug abuse, we can help.

Abuse of most substances will produce noticeable signs and symptoms. These may include physical or behavioral symptoms, most likely both.

Physical Symptoms

Some of the most noticeable symptoms of drug abuse are those that affect the body. 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 by taking increasing amounts. This is extremely dangerous and can quickly lead to overdose.

Changes in appearance can be additional clues to possible drug use and may include:

  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes.
  • Dilated or constricted pupils.
  • Abrupt weight changes.

Signs will vary based on the substance. Click on any drug above to learn more.

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 the following, can indicate a problem with drug abuse:

  • Increased aggression.
  • Lethargy.
  • Depression.
  • Sudden changes in a social network.
  • Dramatic changes in habits and/or priorities.
  • Financial problems.
  • Involvement in criminal activity.

Learning to recognize the physical or behavioral signs of drug abuse can help prevent the problem from progressing further.

Need Help Understanding Your Addiction Treatment Options? Call 1-888-744-0069.