How to Tell If Someone Is Using Drugs


Alta Mira writes

Most addicts are not proud of their addiction, and will go to extreme lengths to hide it for fear of judgement. In many cases, drug abuse will go by unnoticed for years, as addicts can be family men or women, hold steady jobs, and even be respected members of their community. But drugs affect all people, men and women, rich and poor alike, and even the most high-functioning addict will exhibit noticeable cracks in their facade.

Don’t let a suspicion of drug abuse go by uninvestigated. Look for changes in the person’s appearance and personality, and disruptions in their usual routine. The following signs may help you determine whether someone close to you is abusing drugs.

If you have questions about the signs or symptoms of drug abuse, please reach out to us today.

Physical Signs

There are several signs, both physical and behavioral, to look out for when investigating drug abuse. Each drug manifests differently in the body, but the following are some general indications that a person might be using drugs:

  • Keeping irregular hours, loss of sleep
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Red, watery eyes; pupils unusually large or small
  • Extreme hyperactivity; excessive talkativeness
  • Slow or staggering walk
  • Poor physical coordination
  • Tremors in the hands, feet, or head
  • Worsening hygiene or physical health
  • Frequent twisting of the jaw
  • Runny nose
  • Hacking cough
  • Blushing, pale or puffy face

Behavioral Signs

Drugs interfere with passageways in the brain, which can cause profound changes in moods and emotions. The following behavioral changes may indicate drug abuse:

  • Damaged relationships
  • Asking for money
  • Change in overall attitude
  • Drop in performance at work and school
  • Chronic dishonesty
  • Inattentiveness; forgetfulness
  • Loss of motivation, energy, and self-esteem
  • Secretiveness, unusual demand for privacy
  • Change of wardrobe
  • Sudden oversensitivity; temper tantrums
  • Loss of interest in friends and family

Effects of Commonly Used Drugs

The above are general signs of drug abuse, but each class of drug will produce its own unique manifestations.


  • Glassy, red eyes
  • Talking loudly, laughing inappropriately
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of motivation
  • Weight gain or weight loss

Stimulants (cocaine, crack, meth)

  • Hyperactivity, euphoria
  • Irritability, anxiety
  • Extreme chattiness followed by periods of depression
  • Keeping odd hours
  • Not eating or sleeping for long stretches of time
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth and nose


  • Needle marks
  • Keeping unusual hours
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing and sniffling
  • Twitching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Contracted pupil, light produces no response in pupils

Depressants (barbiturates, tranquilizers)

  • Drunken behavior without the smell of alcohol
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Clumsiness
  • Poor judgment
  • Slurred speech
  • Sleepiness
  • Contracted pupils


  • Dilated pupils
  • Strange or irrational behavior (paranoia, aggression, hallucinations)
  • Mood swings
  • Detachment from people
  • Absorption with one’s self or things
  • Slurred speech, confusion

When It’s Time for Treatment

If you suspect a loved one is using, talk with them before jumping to conclusions. If you do find evidence of drug abuse, lend them a hand by helping them seek the treatment they need. Once addiction has taken hold, it’s critical that they receive professional care to reverse the damagesubstance abuse has caused. It will take time, patience, and compassion to help a friend or family member acknowledge and deal with their disease.

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