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Recognizing Five Signs of Drug Abuse

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Determining If Someone Is Abusing Drugs

The signs of drug abuse can be challenging to identify if you don’t know what to look for. Remember, recognizing some of these signs is the first step to getting help for yourself or a loved one.

Whether you’re an adult, teenager, or child, for many people, addiction comes as a great shock. How did this happen? How come I never noticed? Sometimes, you may have suspicions but are unsure how to deal with the situation. It will help if you understand that addiction is a compilation of many issues.

Here are a few tell-tale signs to determine if a friend or loved one is abusing drugs.

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Signs of Drug Abuse

  1. Denial

When asked, any person using drugs will downplay or deny their use. Many users resort to using their drugs in secret so to avoid explaining themselves to others. Many drug users never realize that drug use cannot remain hidden for long. In the early stages of addiction, individuals might not recognize their behaviour as problematic. They may believe they have control over their substance use and downplay the negative consequences it brings.

The impact of drug use can be dramatic. The person using drugs can spin out of control faster than expected. Some behaviour changes, such as engaging in activities that are uncharacteristic of the person, can be an indication of drug use. Close family members and acquaintances are the best people to recognize this trait since they know the person’s personality.

  2. Complacency

In the early stages of addiction, individuals might not recognize their behaviour as problematic, even when resulting in negative consequences. Complacency refers to a state of self-satisfaction or a lack of awareness and motivation. Not that the person is no longer interested in their usual activities, but rather that these are no longer important to them. Their attention is mainly shifted towards feeding the impulse of their drug choice. Additionally, the individual might feel apathetic toward the people they care about.

This mindset can be dangerous, as it prevents individuals from acknowledging the severity of their addiction and the need for intervention. Addiction and complacency often perpetuate the cycle of substance misuse. Over time, as the addiction progresses, the gap between their perceived control and the reality of their dependency widens.

  3. Visible Physical Signs of Drug Abuse

Addiction often manifests through visible physical signs that can provide clues of a substance use disorder.

  • Bloodshot eyes are common with alcohol, marijuana, and certain other drugs. A glazed or unfocused look can indicate intoxication or withdrawal.
  • Abnormal pupil size can be a tell-tale sign. Opiates typically cause pinpoint pupils, while stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine can cause dilated pupils.
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Skin problems, such as acne, sores, or infections, especially with substances that are injected.
  • Methamphetamine is known for causing severe acne and sores, often referred to as “meth sores.”
  • Alcohol and certain drugs can cause noticeable changes in skin colour, including redness in the face or an overall pale appearance.

It may produce motor skills and coordination problems, such as tremors or shakes, trembling hands or body shakes. It can also cause impaired coordination, such as slurred speech, stumbling, or difficulty with coordination.

Many drug users will go to great lengths to hide some of these indicators as well. However, if their drug use is past the complacency stage, they may not be committed to hiding their drug use from other people.

  4. Change in Sleep Patterns

Someone who is facing an addiction use disorder may experience different sleep patterns. Some patterns might include insomnia (lack of sleep) or oversleep (hypersomnia). If you’re using drugs frequently, you are unable to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Additionally, you may find yourself sleeping during unusual times of the day or unable to sleep at night.

Remember, sleep plays a vital role in our cognitive abilities. If you’re not sleeping for the recommended hours, you may do yourself more harm than good. Again, if you’re oversleeping, you might feel lethargic and miss out on important life events like going to work or school.

5. Display of Erratic Behaviour

Erratic behaviour can be one of the signs of drug abuse and can appear in various ways. Individuals struggling with substance use disorders often exhibit behaviours that are atypical and also unpredictable. These can include sudden mood swings, impulsivity, and irrational decision-making. For example, a person might display excessive excitability or euphoria in situations that normally require a serious demeanour.

Depression and Drug Use

Drug use can amplify symptoms of depression. Substances like alcohol, opioids, and certain stimulants can lead to a worsening of depressive symptoms. Mind-altering substances create the inability to find pleasure in activities once enjoyed. Over time, it can lead to a dependence on drugs to feel “normal.” Conditions like depression or anxiety are strong influences on drug abuse.

Conversely, depression can also be a consequence of prolonged drug use. Chronic use of substances can result in long-term mental health issues. For example, the use of stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine can lead to severe depressive episodes during withdrawal phases. Similarly, the sedative effects of alcohol and opioids can mask underlying depression, only for it to resurface more intensely when the effects wear off.