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How Do I Recognize Drug Addiction?

Recognizing the signs of addiction in someone that you care about can be difficult, as they will often vary from person to person; however, individuals who are addicted to drugs will often exhibit many obvious changes that will gradually begin to affect their personal relationships and work performance. Individuals who have a substance abuse problem will often begin to behave erratically. Some people that become addicted to drugs or alcohol will find that can no longer sleep well, while other addicts may experience a "crash" and will sleep for long periods of time.

The key to recognizing a drug addiction problem is to be acutely aware of the behaviors that are commonly reported to be associated with a drug or alcohol addiction problem. More often than not, friends, family members or co-workers will see the symptoms before the addicted individual will acknowledge that they have a substance abuse problem. Being aware of the warning signs of a drug or alcohol addiction can often be the first step in getting the individual the professional help that they need. The sooner that a drug addiction problem has been identified and treated, the better off the addict will be. Recognizing the warning signs of drug addiction in individuals who may have a problem is often the first step towards freedom from their substance abuse problem.

How do I recognize a drug addiction problem by noticing changes in physical appearance? A drug or alcohol addiction problem will have a recognizable impact on an individual's physical appearance. A person that is addicted to drugs may begin to exhibit physical signs that could include:

  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain is often related to a drug addiction problem. One of the reasons many women have turned to stimulant drugs like methamphetamine is to be able to lose weight. An extensive amount of government research has reported that cocaine acts as an appetite suppressant to such an extent that it can make its users vulnerable to malnutrition. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that increases metabolism in the body, which can result in a suppression of appetite; additionally, weight gain is also a sign that is often associated with a drug or alcohol addiction problem.
  • Taking notice of unusual sores on the body are a way to recognize a drug addiction problem, particularly in relation to methamphetamine use. Individuals who are addicted to meth will commonly have sores on their face and on other areas of their body, as they often will feel like they have bugs under their skin; thus, they will obsessively begin to pick at their skin until a sore begins to form. When a heroin addict injects the drug into the skin, it may cause small sores on their body that are commonly referred to as "track marks."
  • Noticeable bruises or cuts on the body are a way to recognize a drug addiction problem, as an addict's skin will often bruise easily from the slightest amount of contact. According to experts, the main reason for bruising is because addicts are usually under a great amount of stress, which commonly leads to nutritional deficiencies in the body. Intravenous drug users will often experience bruising around the area that they inject the drug into; this is commonly caused by them using dull needles or by pressing the needle too hard or too quickly into the skin.
  • Burns, particularly those on hands or face are a way to recognize a drug addiction problem, as it is not unusual for a crack user to have burns on the lips and fingers; additionally, users who smoke meth will often have burns on their lips and around areas of their mouth, because of overheated pipes, and hot smoke coming into close contact with the skin.
  • Frequently irritated eyes or red eyes can be a way to recognize a drug addiction problem, particularly in relation to marijuana use. When a person uses marijuana, it decreases pressure in the eyes and increases blood flow; thus, the arteries in the eyeball will begin to expand, due to the decreased pressure. As these arteries in the eyeball expand, they will become visible in the white portion of the eye, which makes the eye appear "bloodshot" or red.
  • Development of tooth decay or gum problems is a way to recognize a drug addiction problem, particularly in relation to methamphetamine use. "Meth Mouth" is a term that is commonly used to describe the rampant tooth decay that occurs with the chronic use of methamphetamine. Using meth has been reported to cause such devastating tooth decay, that the teeth cannot be saved, and they must be pulled out instead. Methamphetamine often contains acidic ingredients which can cause permanent damage to teeth; additionally, meth addicts have a tendency towards clenching or grinding their teeth, which can cause chronic jaw pain, headaches and gum recession.
  • Noticing strange smells on breath or on clothing and finding drug paraphernalia is a way to recognize a drug addiction problem. Smelling strange odors on clothing or in a bathroom may signal drug use; additionally, when a person begins to use room sprays or incense, it could be to cover up the smell that is related to drug use. Locating drug-related paraphernalia such as rolling papers, syringes, and single-edged razors can be a tell tale sign of a drug addiction problem.

Unusual Personality Changes

It's completely natural for personality changes to occur during an individual's teen or young adult years; this is the time when men and women commonly develop individuality; although, it is extremely important to take note of strange or unexplained personality changes that don't quite make sense, such as:

  • Sudden lack of motivation-When an otherwise highly motivated person suddenly looses the zest for life, this could be a tell tale sign of a drug or alcohol addiction problem.
  • Loss of inhibitions - Alcohol and drug use commonly will lower a user's inhibitions; thus, many people will do outrageous things when they or drunk or high that they would never consider doing while sober.
  • Extreme behavioral changes - When a reserved individual begin to displays loud and boisterous behavior, or an outgoing person begins to suddenly withdraw from family and friends , this could be an indication that the individual may be abusing drugs or alcohol.

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Drug Addiction

Recognizing Teenage Drug Abuse

It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between normal teenage angst and signs of drug use. You may be able to recognize a drug addiction problem in relation to an adolescent if they begin to experience:

  • Problems at school. Missing classes or an uncharacteristic disinterest in various types of school activities, or a sudden drop in grades, can often be indicative of alcohol or drug use.
  • Physical health issues. Lack of energy and motivation, in conjunction with other obvious health issues can be indicative of drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Neglecting physical appearance. Teenagers are generally highly concerned about how they look; a sudden lack of interest in clothing, grooming or looks can often by be a warning sign of drug use.
  • Sudden changes in behavior. Teenagers will commonly enjoy their privacy, but exaggerated efforts to keep parents or siblings from entering their rooms or knowing where they go with their friends might indicate drug use.
  • Spending money. Sudden requests for money without an explanation for its use may be a sign of teen drug or alcohol use. You may also discover that money has been stolen from previously safe places at home; additionally, valuable items may begin to disappear from your home.

Recognizing signs of drug use and dependence

The particular signs and symptoms of drug addiction can vary depending on the type of drugs that are being abused. You might be able to tell that a family member or a friend an addiction problem based on the physical and behavioral signs and symptoms associated with the drug.


An individual can develop a psychological addiction to cannabis compound, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is found in marijuana. People who have a marijuana addiction problem will usually have a strong desire to smoke the drug on a daily basis; although they may not have a physical addiction to marijuana, they may still feel the need to use the drug regularly.

Signs of use and dependence can include:

  • A heightened sense of visual, and taste perception
  • Memory problems
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Red/bloodshot eyes
  • Decreased coordination
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased appetite
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Paranoid thoughts


Benzodiazepines are prescription central nervous system depressants; these types of drug include tranquilizers, such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin). When an individual is prescribed these types of drugs, they should take them exactly as ordered, and if they begin to feel that there need for these medications is increasing, they should consult their doctor.

Signs of use and dependence can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Memory problems
  • Slowed breathing and decreased blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Depression

Methamphetamine, cocaine and various other types of stimulant drugs

This class of stimulant drugs include, methamphetamine, cocaine and methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, or Adderall).

Signs of use and dependence can include:

  • Euphoria
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rapid speech
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Depression as the effects of the drug begin to wear off
  • Chronic nasal congestion and damage to the mucous membrane of the nose in users who snort drugs
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure and temperature
  • Paranoia

Methamphetamine, which is also commonly known as "meth," is a particularly dangerous and toxic drug. It has not only been reported to be highly addictive, but it also can cause a number of short-term and long-term health consequences.

Club drugs

Club drugs are drugs commonly used by teens and young adults at night clubs, during all night dance parties that are sometimes called raves. Some examples of these types of drugs include, Ecstasy (MDMA), GHB, Rohypnol ("roofies") and ketamine. These drugs are not all classified in the same category, but they share some similar effects and dangers.

Signs of club drug use and dependence can include:

  • An exaggerated feeling of great happiness or euphoria
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • A heightened sense of sight, sound and taste
  • Decreased coordination
  • Poor judgment
  • Memory problems or loss of memory
  • Increased or decreased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Drowsiness and loss of consciousness (with GHB and Rohypnol)

GHB and Rohypnol are particularly dangerous, as these particular types of drug can cause a person to lose consciousness. At high doses, these types of drugs can also cause seizures, coma and death.

One particular danger of club drugs is that the liquid, pill or powder forms of many of these drugs that are commonly available on the street, will often contain unknown substances that can be harmful.


Use of hallucinogens produces different signs and symptoms depending on the specific type of drug. The most common hallucinogenic drugs are reported to be LSD and phencyclidine (PCP).

Signs of LSD use include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Greatly reduced perception of reality; an example of this would be interpreting input from one of your senses as another, such as hearing colors
  • Permanent mental changes in perception
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Flashbacks, a re-experience of the hallucinations, sometimes even several years later

Signs of PCP use include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Euphoria
  • Delusions
  • Panic
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Aggressive and possibly violent behavior

Narcotic painkillers

Opioids are painkilling drugs produced naturally from opium or made synthetically. This class of drugs includes heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone (OxyContin). When a person is prescribed these types of medications by a doctor, they should take them exactly as directed.

Signs of opiate addiction can include:

  • Sedation
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Needle marks (if injecting drugs)

Suggested reading: --> How to Help My Loved One to Stop Using Drugs

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