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Signs of drug abuse to look for if you suspect someone has a drug addiction

People often ask how to tell whether a friend, family member, colleague or loved one is addicted to drugs. Drug abuse and drug addiction are serious issues with many telltale signs, including these Top 10:

There are obvious social changes and changes in habits, including but not limited to:

  • Changes in friends or groups of friends
  • New friends who seem to suddenly appear
  • Isolation when previous nature was more outgoing, social – or vice versa: More friends when previously was more quiet, alone
  • Increases in kinds of frequency of communications such as phone calls, text messages, emails. Also, constant checking of such communications and devices.
  • New activities at odd hours
  • Thrill-seeking activities without attention to rules, potential dangers, norms, laws
  • Sneaking around, lying, making up stories to explain away new activities

The drug abuser is usually the last to notice he or she has a problem.
Drug abusers and drug addicts are usually the last ones to recognize, notice and/or admit they have a problem. Even those who do admit their problem are hesitant to seek treatment and many fear symptoms of withdrawal from the substance(s). Drug abuse is often characterized by a chronic habit of downplaying the use and hiding/concealing signs, symptoms and tell-tale habits.

The physical signs are obvious.
There are as many physical signs of drug abuse or addiction as there are kinds of abuse and addiction (or more!). Some of these physical signs include:

  • Minor illnesses that become more frequent and seem to be unexplained: nausea, headache, flu-like symptoms, vomiting, tremors
  • Weight and appetite changes: Lose weight, gain weight, greater appetite, no appetite. Also changes in when they eat, what they eat, how often they eat.
  • Significant changes in sleep patterns and energy level
  • Bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils
  • Changes in appearance, often with signs of neglect such as unwashed hair/body, unshaven face, change in pallor of skin.
  • Uncoordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Rapid speech
  • Issues with memory, cognition (e.g., confusion)

They are getting in more trouble
A loss of control or a disregard for rules is an all-too common by-product of drug dependence of addiction. Some of the troubling situations drug addicts can get into include:

  • Stealing for money to buy more drugs (sometimes from family members, also shoplifting from stores)
  • Skipping school, work
  • Publicly displaying obvious signs of drug abuse
  • Poor/irresponsible use of money

A pre-occupation with the drug
As social/casual use increases and tolerance is heightened, drug abusers need more and more of the drug to achieve the same high. At some point, usually sooner rather than later, they become slaves to the drug, needing a relatively high dosage to stave off withdrawal symptoms.

The pre-occupation with the procurement and use of the drug includes characteristics such as:

  • A never-ending feeling that you must use the drug regularly
  • An inability to stop use – or to stop thinking about use
  • Constant thinking about the supply of the drug, where the next round will come from
  • Spending money regardless of whether they have the money to spend
  • Feeling that problems and issues cannot be dealt with without the aid of the drug
  • Spending significant time and energy finding doctors who will prescribe (if a legal drug) and procuring/picking up prescriptions (“doctor shopping”)
  • Stories about losing prescriptions

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