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Article Summary

Signs of Drug Addiction

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to spotting the signs of drug addiction. The main thing to look for is changes in behavior, attitude, appearance, friends, or activities. People who have a problem with drug addiction are often trying to self-medicate or find escape from the issues that are really bothering them.

Keep in mind that many of the signs listed below may also be the result of stress, depression, or other problems. Whatever the cause, these symptoms and signs of drug addiction may warrant attention, especially if they persist or if several of them are taking place at once. Consult a trusted professional to identify the best way to address these signs.

It is important to remember that getting help early on can help your loved one to get back on track and develop more effective coping skills, often preventing further drug addiction problems. Different drugs produce different signs of drug addiction resulting in slight variations in outward indications. Some signs and symptoms are specific to opiates and narcotics which are very different than the signs of stimulant use such as cocaine or meth.

Specific signs of drug addiction:

Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking and inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; a sweet burnt scent; loss of interest and motivation; weight gain or loss.
Alcohol: Clumsiness; difficulty walking; slurred speech; sleepiness; poor judgment; dilated pupils; possession of a false ID card.
Depressants: (including barbiturates and tranquilizers) Seems drunk as if from alcohol but without the associated odor of alcohol; difficulty concentrating; clumsiness; poor judgment; slurred speech; sleepiness; and contracted pupils.
Stimulants: Hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go long periods of time without eating or sleeping; dilated pupils; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.
Inhalants: (Glues, aerosols, and vapors ) Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; an unusual number of spray cans in the trash.
Hallucinogens: Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.
Heroin: Needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing and sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite; contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light.

Telltale signs of drug addiction

  • Changes in friends. Hanging out with a new group.
  • Changes in behavior and attitude.
  • Decrease in school or work performance.
  • Deteriorating family relationships.
  • Involvement on the wrong side of the law.
  • Long, unexplained absences.
  • Lying and stealing.
  • Obvious intoxication, delirious, incoherent or unconscious.
  • Reclusive behavior - long periods spent in self imposed isolation.

In all instances of drug addiction, watch for a tendency on the part of the abuser to refrain and shun conversation and face-to-face meetings with others. You are watching for behavior that represents a somewhat dramatic change in character from previous experience. The signs of drug addiction can be and will be explained away by the person using the drugs.

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