Last year, an estimated 28.6 million people over age 12 were classified as current illicit drug users. This translates to about 1 in 10 individuals who use illicit drugs in the United States. According to national statistics, young adults are the most affected demographic – about 1 in every 4 young adults (between ages 18 and 25) are current users of illicit drugs. Approximately two million teenagers between 12 and 17 are also current drug users.
Friends, families, parents of drug users – it is important to know that you are not alone.
People from all walks of life can experience problems with drug use. And anyone, of any age, background, or social status, can become addicted to drugs. That’s the nature of drug addiction – it physically alters a user’s brain chemistry, changing how they think, behave, and live their day-to-day. Their mind and body become reliant on drugs to function; they put drugs first despite the negative consequences that might occur.
Because addiction is a cyclical, chronic disease, breaking free of it often requires outside help. Those who are addicted (or on their way to addiction) may not know a problem exists. It is never too early to intervene. If you suspect that someone you love is using drugs, it is important to get involved and seek out professional help. You can do this by first knowing and looking for the signs of drug abuse.
Knowing how to tell if someone is on drugs can be a huge help in determining if your loved one has a problem. By knowing what to look for, you can prevent harmful consequences like overdose and addiction from taking hold. Below Turnbridge has outlined some of the most common ways to tell if someone is under the influence.
Physical Signs of Drug Use & Intoxication
There is no singular way to tell if someone is on drugs – The physical signs of drug use vary, depending on the drug of choice as well as the person using. However, there are common symptoms you can look for in your loved one:
- Bloodshot or seemingly glazed over eyes
- Dilated or constricted pupils (larger or smaller than usual)
- Slurred speech
- Tremors or impaired coordination
- Either a general sense of lethargy or excessive energy, depending on the drug
- Sudden changes in weight, loss or gain
- Changes in sleep and eating patterns
- Scars, bruises, and skin abrasions
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Unusual smells on breath, body, and clothing
- Excessive scratching, particularly of hair/scalp, and picking at skin
- Respiratory or cardiac problems
When a person develops a tolerance to drug use – when an addiction starts to develop – you may also notice some physical signs. For example, a person that frequently uses drugs (and who may be in withdrawal) will look sick or will constantly be sick, since drugs can lower immune system function and create flu-like symptoms in users.
Psychological Signs of Frequent Drug Use
- Sudden mood swings and “ups and downs” in attitude
- Periods of unusual hyperactivity, irritability, impulsiveness, or giddiness
- Inability to concentrate; spacing and zoning out
- Lack of motivation and ambition
- Anxiousness or paranoia
- Defensiveness and denial
Behavioral Signs of Drug Use & Addiction
- Lying, secretiveness, and dishonesty
- Engaging in risky behaviors (fights, accidents, criminal activity)
- Drops in performance at work or school
- Skipping work or school completely
- Loss of interest in once-loved hobbies
- Sudden change in friend groups
- Lack of interest in social engagements
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Unexplained financial troubles – asking to borrow money, stealing, unreasonable spending despite lack of income
Again, recognizing if someone is on drugs is not always straightforward. The signs of drug use and addiction depend on a user’s drug of choice – if you think your loved one has a drinking problem, for example, you might find that he or she binge drinks, drinks at inappropriate times of day/events, and avoids social situations where alcohol isn’t present. If your loved one is addicted to opiate drugs, he or she may show signs of heightened anxiety, slowed breathing, increased dosages, and excessive time and money spent on acquiring the drug. To find out drug-specific symptoms, please take a look at the various substances of abuse here.
There is no tell-tale way to predict if your loved one’s drug use will turn into a full-blown substance addiction. Some drugs are more dangerous and addictive than others. Some people are genetically pre-disposed to addiction. Emotional and mental stability also play a big part in one’s susceptibility to drug use and addiction. Mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression, often go hand-in-hand with substance abuse. Age also plays a role. Research says that the younger the user is, the more likely they are to become addicted later in life. Unfortunately, illicit drug use often starts as early as 13 years old.
If you are a parent and suspect your child is using drugs, it is important not to dismiss any signs of drug use as a “social norm.” While you may think that your teen is simply experimenting or trying to fit in, look at the larger picture. A one-time signal – whether it be finding drugs or paraphernalia in your teen’s room, catching your child smoking, or finding sketchy internet/texting history – is enough to act. Not only is it important to know how to tell if someone is on drugs, it’s also important to know what to do if your child is using. Talk to your child. Ask questions. Get the facts. Consider professional help.
Do not wait for your loved one to become addicted to seek help. If your loved one has any of the above signs or symptoms of drug abuse, he or she may need you to break free from the cycle. Contact drug treatment professionals immediately about his or her drug rehab and addiction treatment options. Turnbridge is here for you. We have preeminent, young adult rehab programs for both young men and women struggling with drug abuse and addiction. Find out more by calling us at 877-581-1793.