Common Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse
How to Tell if Someone Is Using Drugs
Drug use affects people across all walks of life and levels of socioeconomic status. Whatever reason a person starts taking drugs for—whether recreationally or as prescribed—tolerance, patterns of increased use, physical dependence and, ultimately, addiction may develop—sometimes before the user even realizes it.1
When a full-blown substance use disorder (SUD) develops, it can be extremely difficult to stop using drugs without professional treatment.2 Drug use can wreak havoc on the body and mind and may eventually become deadly. When you realize that you or someone you love has a problem, it’s essential to get help right away. There is no shame in admitting that you need treatment for drug use; doing so can be life-saving.
The use of most substances will produce noticeable signs and symptoms. These may include physical or behavioral symptoms—most likely both.
What Are the Physical Signs of Drug Abuse?
Some of the most noticeable symptoms of drug use are those that affect certain physiological processes. For example, your body’s tolerance to a drug develops when a drug is used often or for long enough that it adapts to the consistently elevated presence of the substance. When tolerance grows, increased quantities or strengths are required to achieve the previous effects.1
Individuals using a drug to get high may come to take such large doses to overcome their tolerance that they place themselves at increasing risk of potentially fatal overdose.3
Changes in appearance can be additional clues to possible drug use and may include:4
- Bloodshot or glazed eyes.
- Dilated or constricted pupils.
- Abrupt weight changes.
- Changes in hygiene.
- Dental issues.
- Skin changes.
- Problems sleeping or sleeping too much.
Signs will vary based on the substance and the method used (i.e. smoking, injection, etc.).
What Are the Behavioral Signs of Drug Abuse?
Drug use tends to significantly alter a person’s behavior and habits. Some drugs can impair the brain’s ability to focus and think clearly.5
Changes in behavior, such as the following, are sometimes associated with problematic substance use:4,6
- Increased aggression or irritability.
- Changes in attitude/personality.
- Sudden changes in a social network.
- Dramatic changes in habits and/or priorities.
- Involvement in criminal activity.
Learning to recognize the physical or behavioral signs of drug use can help to prevent the problem from progressing further.
Find Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Abuse or Addiction
Drug or alcohol addiction treatment can start anyone battling a substance use problem on the path to a healthier and happier life. Rehab programs are located throughout the U.S., and a variety of treatment types is available. You can use SAMHSA’s Find Treatment tool to search for facilities. Many state government websites will provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted rehab facilities across the country. For helpful advice, information, or admissions, please contact AAC free at . You can also call free drug and alcohol hotline numbers.
Health Insurance Providers and Coverage Levels
Visit the links below to find out more about your health insurance coverage levels, how to get your insurance company to pay for drug and alcohol rehab, and also how to pay if you don’t have insurance.
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Illicit Drug Signs and Symptoms of Abuse
Click on any substance below to find out some characteristic signs and symptoms of abuse and addiction to that substance.
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