The signs of drug abuse or addiction vary from person to person, because not every addiction looks the same. Many false portrayals of how a person suffering from substance addiction disorder appears or functions have been painted in the media. However, these are normally far from the truth. In many cases, the addict does not acknowledge that there is a problem which leaves it up to family and friends to notice the changes. Below are 10 warning signs to look out for if you have concerns about a loved one abusing drugs.
1. Small Physical Symptoms
Small physical side effects to look out for include subtle changes in physical appearance, which become more noticeable over time. Bloodshot or red eyes, as well as miosis or dilated pupils, are also telling signs of drug use. When abusing drugs, the texture and appearance of the skin begin to decline. Furthermore, abnormal puffiness and a flushed or washed-out complexion are also signs of drug or alcohol addiction.
Different forms of drug addiction can create small behavioral changes which include:
- Persistent itching in one specific area of the body
- Impulsive pulling down of sleeves to hide marks
- Slurred speech
- Frequent sniffling
Although these are not conclusive indicators, if they are accompanied by secrecy or defensiveness, this can indicate that there is a larger problem at hand.
2. Overall Appearance
Long-term drug and alcohol usage can alter one’s physical appearance dramatically. Many drugs have appetite-suppressing or other altering adverse effects, causing extreme and noticeable weight loss or gain. Rapid changes in body composition, such as unexpected weight loss or growth, as well as lack of personal hygiene, especially if it declines without reason, may indicate substance misuse.
One of the most obvious signs of drug abuse or addiction is finding the drugs or instruments used to administer drugs on the person or in their possession. Common items include:
- Cigarette wrapping papers
- Rolled up banknotes
- Cut-up straws
- Soiled cotton swabs
- Burnt spoons or bottle caps
- Razor blades
- “Cutting” surfaces like mirrors or glass
- Burnt soda cans
Although not all drugs require an instrument to be used, you may notice other signs of abuse. Medicine bottles from multiple doctors, for example, can be a symptom of prescription drug misuse.
Eye drops can be used to mask the appearance of bloodshot eyes, and while excessive amounts aren’t always indicative, they can be a warning sign. Someone suffering from addiction will go to great lengths to conceal physical indicators or handle symptoms with absolute apathy.
4. Struggling with Limits
This can take the form of a desire to take a prescription drug at a larger dose than recommended. As well as, taking prescription medication after health problems have subsided. Addiction makes it difficult to mind even self-prescribed rules. If you’ve set a self-imposed use restriction but can’t seem to stick to it, this is a red flag that addiction is a threat.
5. Lack of Interest
Substance abuse takes over the brain’s reward system. When individuals begin to show a drastic lack of interest or concern in areas where they used to be passionate about is a red flag. As well as, becoming apathetic toward individuals or pastimes that they used to enjoy.
This lack of interest can indicate that rather than devoting their time and energy towards something you love, your energy is going towards feeding the addiction. Some of the warning signs to look out for include:
- Failure to show up/ follow through on plans
- Lack of excitement
- Dulling of talents
6. Mood Swings
Constant or random mood swings are a big sign of drug abuse or addiction. When used frequently, many substances affect the user’s ability to control emotional input. In environments where an individual was once able to control their mood, can now experience sudden depression, extreme distress, irritation, or anger. If a normally calm and collected individual appears hyper and manic, or an optimist experiences abrupt waves of sadness, can indicate drug addiction.
7. Isolated and Private Behavior
Addiction to substances is often isolating. It is common for the user to feel guilt and shame because of their addiction. It is common to fear social stigma, as well as paranoia when taking certain drugs. This can cause a person to become secretive and withdraw from their relationships. The following are examples of reclusive characteristics that indicate an addiction:
- When home, spending most of their time in their room
- Locking the door when they leave or ender their private space
- Keeping details private about places and people they visit when leaving the house
- Shutting down when questioned by the individuals they use to trust
8. Defensive Behavior
When uncomfortable themes arise, withdrawing behavior and responding with animosity or caution can be signs of defensiveness. Someone who is trying to hide their addiction will redirect the conversation and become argumentative or hostile. These are distraction methods used to help change the conversation or the narrative.
9. Erratic Behavior
Erratic behavior is a common characteristic in someone abusing drugs. Depending on the drug being used, the high can include feelings of euphoria, paranoia, feelings of power, or invulnerability. Each of these sensations has the potential to lead to risky or dangerous behaviors. Physical and mental distress accompany withdrawal, which can lead to unpredictable or even violent conduct.
Mental health is the sum of many parts. Drug usage typically amplifies co-occurring disorders like depression or anxiety, with the consequences of one feeding off of the other. Dual diagnosis is critical for persons who are dealing with these synergistic diseases.
10. Changes in Sleep Patterns
Drug usage has a negative impact on sleep patterns. Stimulants and depressants both affect the action of hormones that control sleep and wakefulness. This causes a user to deviate from their usual routine.
When a drug addict’s system is cleared of the drug, they may experience the reverse consequences. If you begin to notice someone oversleeping or staying up late in comparison to their typical sleep routine, this could be an indicator of a growing drug dependency.
The Next Step
If you are noticing the warning signs of drug abuse or addiction, contact a treatment center right away. The Harm Reduction Center located in South Florida offers both addiction treatment and mental health services. Approaching a loved one who is abusing drugs can be a difficult task, however, at HARC we are here to help you every step of the way.
Getting your loved one the help they need is just as important to us as it is to you. Contact us today for more information.