How to Spot Drug Use and Addiction

Addiction to prescription and illicit drugs is on the rise despite publicized warnings and negative consequences seen virtually all around. However, those who have never abused illegal substances may not catch on to the clues of drug use until the addiction is deeply entrenched. The ability and courage to recognize and address drug misuse, especially early on, may save or change the lives of drug users and those who care about them for the better.

Telltale signs of drug misuse and addiction include marked changes in health, behavior and finances. While many of these changes could be attributed to other issues, it is important to notice these signs relative to any other factors that raise suspicion. Some changes may be sudden and shocking to observe while others may take some time to notice.

Changes in Health

  • Significant increase or decrease in sleep.
  • Drastic increase or decrease in appetite.
  • Stark weight loss or gain; gaunt, wasted appearance.
  • Sudden frequent nose bleeding; runny nose.
  • Onset of seizures with no history of epilepsy or seizures.
  • Difficulty with coordination and memory.
  • Stained fingertips, track marks on legs or arms.
  • Hallucinations, paranoia.
  • Shakes, tremors.
  • Glazed or bloodshot eyes.
  • Compromised oral health: dry mouth, stained or rotting teeth.
  • Smell of alcohol and/or illegal substances.

Changes in Behavior

  • Secretiveness about friends and whereabouts; sudden insistence on privacy; withdrawal from family and friends; inexplicable disappearances.
  • Frequenting of places where drug use is common and associating with people who do drugs.
  • Joking or speaking favorably about drug use.
  • Loss of concern for personal hygiene, neatness.
  • Progressively darker demeanor, apathy.
  • Extreme mood swings.
  • Reduced ability to think and act coherently.
  • Relationship difficulties: relatives, friends and associates notice significant negative behavioral changes.
  • Heightened aggressiveness and hostility, especially toward authority figures.
  • Increase in preventable injuries, accidents.

Changes in Finances

  • Increased carelessness about money; wastefulness.
  • Neglect of financial responsibilities.
  • Stealing money or things.
  • Constantly in debt with nothing to show for money spent.
  • Urgent but unjustified requests or demands for money.
  • Inexplicable abundance of money could indicate involvement in selling drugs.

Illicit drug use is more prevalent among people in the late teens and twenties, but it is growing among baby boomers who are in their fifties and sixties. The drug problem is not limited to one demographic, either. From hill country to housing projects to high-rise offices, multitudes are suffering with drug addiction. Being informed about addiction and how to spot it could help these individuals find their way back to sobriety before it is too late.