Symptoms of Drug Abuse

Even though there are several different types of drugs that may cause a variety of different effects, the general symptoms of drug abuse remain more or less the same. If you or someone you know exhibits any of the following symptoms, consider talking to someone for help. Common signs of drug abuse are:

  • You start neglecting your responsibilities because of your drug use. For example, school going children may start failing classes; adults may stop going to work, etc.
  • You have got into trouble or been arrested because of your conduct or behavior when using drugs.
  • Your relationships are starting to suffer.
  • You need more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects i.e. you are building up a drug tolerance.
  • If the gap between taking the drugs is too long, you experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, shaking, anxiety, and depression. To avoid these symptoms you take the drugs often.
  • You feel like your drug use controls you. There is an overwhelming sense of powerlessness over the addiction. Irrespective of the problems being caused by the drugs, you continue using them.
  • Your daily routine revolves around planning your next drug purchase, thinking about the drugs, taking them, and recovering from them.
  • You no longer pursue any of your old hobbies or interests.
  • You may need more and more money to support your drug habit and may borrow or steal to get it.
  • There may be an increase in secretive behavior as you try and hide your drug habit from others.
There are also certain physical warning signs that indicate a person is using drugs. These include:

  • Pupils in the eyes that are smaller or larger than normal
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of interest in one’s personal appearance and grooming habits
  • Lack of coordination
  • A slow or staggering walk
  • Sweaty or cold clammy palms
  • Face that is puffy and pale
  • A chronic hacking cough or a runny nose
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors in the hands, shaky hands and legs
  • Strange unpleasant odors from the body, breath, or clothing
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Changes in personality
  • Appears lethargic and unmotivated
  • Feeling of paranoia
  • Periods of hyperactivity and agitation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Needle marks on arms and legs or even bottom of feet
Symptoms specific to the drug being used include:

  • Marijuana causes red or glassy eyes, rapid and loud talking, inappropriate laughter, sleepiness.
  • Valium and Xanax are common depressants that lead to symptoms such as clumsiness, slurred speech, lack of concentration and sleepiness.
  • Stimulants such as amphetamines and crystal meth result in hyperactivity, euphoria, anxiety, weight loss, and dilated pupils.
  • People who are addicted to inhalants such as vapors and glues have watery eyes, rashes around the nose and mouth, intoxicated appearance, and changes in appetite.
  • LSD and PCP are hallucinogens that cause irrational behavior patterns, aggressive behavior, mood swings, confusion, and paranoia.
  • Signs of heroin abuse include contracted pupils, sweating, vomiting, and a loss of appetite, needle marks and twitching.

  1. Usha Sambamoorthi, Lynn A. Warner, Stephen Crystal, James Walkup, Drug abuse, methadone treatment, and health services use among injection drug users with AIDS, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 60, Issue 1, 1 July 2000, Pages 77-89, ISSN 0376-8716, 10.1016/S0376-8716(00)80010-1.(
  2. Allison C Morrill, Linda Kasten, Matthew Urato, Mary Jo Larson, Abuse, addiction, and depression as pathways to sexual risk in women and men with a history of substance abuse, Journal of Substance Abuse, Volume 13, Issues 1–2, September 2001, Pages 169-184, ISSN 0899-3289, 10.1016/S0899-3289(01)00065-7.(