Some people are able to use drugs recreationally without ever experiencing consequences or addiction. But for many others, drug use turns into something more, known a drug abuse. Drug abuse can cause problems at work, home, school and in relationships it can leave the user feeling isolated, helpless or ashamed.
If you are concerned about your own drug use or the drug use of a loved one, it is important to know that help is available. Learning the signs of drug abuse and what it looks like can help you gain a better understanding of the problem and how to best deal with it too.
The signs of drug abuse can vary immensely based on what kind of drug is being used. The signs of drug abuse also vary from person to person.
If you are the person using drugs and you are wondering if you have moved from recreational use into drug abuse you should look for a few signs. Here is what to look for and why:
- Taking drugs causes a surge in dopamine levels within your brain, which trigger feelings of pleasure. Your brain remembers these feelings and wants them repeated. Drug abuse is all you think about and you look forward to it.
- You are building up a tolerance. This means that your drug abuse is slowly growing heavier because you need more of the substance to get the same “feel good” effect.
- Drug abuse has started impacting your ability to think clearly, make good judgment, control your behavior, and you don’t feel normal without drugs.
- The craving to use drugs grows more important than anything else, including family, friends, career, and even your own health and happiness. You may experience a drop in attendance or performance at work or school
- The urge to use is so strong that you might try to finds ways to deny or rationalize the drug abuse problem. You rationalize your drug use to yourself.
If you are not the drug abuser but think your loved one may be using drugs here are some common signs of drug abuse you should look for:
Physical Signs of Drug Abuse
- Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
- Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
- Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
Behavioral Signs of Drug Abuse
- Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
- An urgent or unexplained need for money or financial problems. Money may end up missing or being stolen.
- Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
- Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
- Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)
Psychological Signs of Drug Abuse
- Unexplained change in personality or attitude
- Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
- Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
- Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out”
- Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason
Regardless if you are the one abusing drugs or if you have a loved one that is showing signs of drug abuse it is important that you get help. Signs of drug abuse only worsen over time.