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Signs Of Use (Drugs & Alcohol)

Signs of drug use vary depending on what drug the individual is using. However there are some general signs one can evaluate if they suspect that someone they care about is using drugs.

Here are some general signs of drug use that pertain to almost every drug:

  • An abrupt change in the individual’s work or school attendance, the quality of their work, how much work they produce now compared their past production
  • Unusual outbreaks of temper, sudden changes in their mood (verbally and physically abusive)
  • Acting paranoid or confused
  • Not taking responsibility for their actions
  • A general, overall change in their attitude
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Drastic change in their physical appearance and grooming habits
  • Associating themselves with known drug users
  • Frequent / unusual borrowing of money or always seeming to have a lot of money
  • Acting secretive about their actions and possessions

Signs of Drug Use: Alcohol

  • Alcohol odor on the individual’s breath or person
  • Intoxication (drunk)
  • The individual has a hard time focusing and has a glazed look
  • Either uncharacteristically passive behavior or combative and argumentative behavior
  • Deterioration in the individual’s personal hygiene
  • Becoming dysfunctional, especially with it comes to their job performance or academics
  • Absenteeism (especially on Mondays)
  • Blackouts, loss of memory
  • Their attention is fixated on drinking at social or professional occasions
  • Trouble with their interpersonal relationships such as marriage, family, friends
  • Clumsiness
  • Difficulty walking

Signs of Drug Use: Depressants (Methaqualone, Valium, Phenobarbital, Xanax)

Keep in mind, there are few easy to spot signs of depressant use. Often times use might be detected by frequent trips to the doctor for “nervousness”, “anxiety”,” stress”, etc.

  • Acting drunk with no smell of alcohol on the individual’s breath or clothing
  • Limited or no facial expression or animation
  • Their personality is “flat”
  • Their appearance is flaccid
  • They slur their speech when they talk

Signs of Drug Use: Hallucinogens (LSD, Peyote, Psilocybin, Mushrooms, PCP)

  • Pupils are extremely dilated
  • Users skin is warm
  • Heavy perspiration and body odor
  • Distortion of sight, sound, touch
  • Hallucinations
  • Detachment from people
  • Absorption with self or other objects
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Distorted view of themselves
  • Distorted view of time
  • Changes in mood and behavior

Signs of Drug Use: Marijuana

Often it can be difficult to recognize the signs of marijuana use because most of the signs take place while the individual is under the influence. In addition, casual marijuana users may not show any of the signs listed below.

  • In the early stages of intoxication the user may talk rapidly and/or loud and have fits of laughter
  • In the later stages of intoxication the user may appear sleepy or in a stupor
  • Forgetfulness
  • Eyes are very bloodshot
  • Glassy eyes
  • Strong odor of marijuana on their clothing or breath
  • Often they will drive very slowly – below the speed limit
  • Their sense of time is distorted. They tend to overestimate time intervals
  • Possession of marijuana paraphernalia rolling papers, pipes and bongs
  • Weight gain or loss

Signs of Drug Use: Narcotics (Opium, Heroin, Dilaudid, Methadone)

  • Acting lethargic or drowsy
  • Constricted pupils that do not respond to changes in light
  • If using heroin in powder form then redness and raw nostrils from inhalation
  • Track marks on their arms (scars) or other parts of the body indicating injection use
  • Slurred speech
  • Frequent trips to doctors for pain medication
  • Increase in the frequency and amount of prescribed pain medication without doctors consent
  • If using heroin sweating, vomiting, coughing and sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite

Signs of Drug Use: Stimulants (crack cocaine, cocaine, methamphetamine, crystal meth)

  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Drug nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sinus/nasal problems
  • Nose Bleeds
  • Bad breath
  • Frequent lip licking
  • Fidgeting, has a hard time sitting still
  • No interest in food
  • No interest in sleep
  • Feelings of irritability
  • Acting argumentative
  • Acting nervous
  • Very talkative but the conversation often lacks continuity; changes subjects rapidly
  • Hyperactivity
  • Euphoria
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