You might be wondering why your friend or loved one is choosing drugs over friends and family. Or perhaps you are struggling with emotionally supporting someone you care about as they go through legal problems due to drug or alcohol use. Maybe you are even worried about yourself, and wondering why you can’t seem to stop using drugs or alcohol, when you promised yourself a few hours or days ago that you would cut back or stop.

Many people think addictions to drugs and alcohol are issues of weakness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. People who abuse drugs or alcohol are going through a vicious cycle that causes changes in their brain, which leads to a stronger desire and drive to use again. If they do not receive help, the addiction can take over their life. Find out how to recognize the different signs and symptoms of drug abuse or addiction, which is the first step in support and treatment on the road to recovery.

Different drugs have different effects on physical and mental health, but the basic pattern of addiction is the same. The drugs slowly become the focus of the person’s life, and take priority over friends, family, school or work. Some symptoms of addiction may also be caused by other issues like depression, underlying mental health issues and stress, so take the bigger picture into consideration when you suspect someone may be using or abusing drugs or alcohol. The most important thing is that you recognize the person’s behavior is a change from what they would normally show. The most common physical and behavioral symptoms of addiction are:

  • Cycles of increased energy, restlessness, and inability to sleep; awake at unusual times (often seen in stimulants)
  • Abnormally slow movements, speech or reaction time, confusion and disorientation (often seen in opiates, benzodiazepines and barbituates)
  • Changes in overall attitude/personality with no other identifiable causes
  • Change in friends, activities or hobbies
  • Change in habits at home; loss of interest in family and family activities
  • Difficulty in paying attention; forgetfulness
  • General lack of motivation, energy, self-esteem, “I don’t care” attitude
  • Sudden over-sensitivity, temper tantrums, or resentful behavior
  • Excessive need for privacy; unreachable
  • Secretive or suspicious behavior
  • Chronic dishonesty
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain; any changes in eating habits
  • Cycles of excessive sleep
  • Slowed or staggering walk; poor physical coordination
  • Unexpected changes in clothing, such as constantly wearing long sleeved shirts, to hide scarring at injection sites
  • Needle marks on lower arm, leg or bottom of feet
  • Suspected drug paraphernalia such as unexplained pipes, roach clips or syringes
  • Progressive severe dental problems (especially with methampetamines)

Drug Specific Symptoms:

Alcohol: Clumsiness; difficulty walking; slurred speech; sleepiness; poor judgment; dilated pupils; possession of a false ID card (if underage).

Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking and inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; a sweet burnt scent; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss.

Depressants: (including barbituates 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; and 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.

If you recognize any of the signs or symptoms of addiction in yourself or a loved one, realize that professional help is available. Imagine Hope Counseling Group provides addiction counseling to Indianapolis and the surrounding areas of Noblesville, Fishers, Carmel, Westfield, and Zionsville. We can be reached at (317)569-0046 or via or website at .

Source: American Council on Drug Education (ACDE).