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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. Whatever the reason a person starts taking drugs, 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’s inner workings. For example, your body’s tolerance to a drug occurs when a drug is abused for long enough that increased quantities or strengths are required to achieve the previous effects. This desire for a more intense high, achieved through these means, is extremely dangerous and can easily lead to overdose.


    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.
    • Bruises, infections, or other physical signs at the drug’s entrance site on the body.

    Disruption to normal brain functioning, changes in personality, and heart and organ dysfunction can be signs of long-term drug abuse. 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 or irritability.
    • Changes in attitude/personality.
    • 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.


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