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Are you worried that your family member or friend is addicted to a drug? There are signs and symptoms of drug abuse that should give you a clear indication. There are both general symptoms that someone may present if they are abusing drugs, as well as specific symptoms for specific drugs.
If you want to know more about what drug addiction is and how it begins, you can learn more in our guide here.
Early intervention is so important to help an addict recover from their addiction before the negative effects of drug abuse build up. If you want to be able to spot the signs of drug addiction, you can learn them all in our guide.
Table of Contents
- What are drug abuse symptoms?
- What Are the Symptoms of Heroin & Opiate Abuse?
- What Are the Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse?
- What Are the Symptoms of Methamphetamine & Stimulant Abuse?
- What Are the Symptoms of Cocaine & Crack Abuse?
What Are Drug Abuse Symptoms?
Some physical symptoms of drug abuse are common to all types of addiction. The symptoms alone won’t give you an idea of what a loved one is using, but there are signs of an addiction. Here is a list of general addiction symptoms:
- Appearing tired, disinterested, or lacking energy, especially in moments where they would normally be full of life
- Looking more unkempt in terms of grooming and cleanliness
- Having increased and odd-smelling body odor
- Losing weight and looking thinner or even gaunt
- Having red or glazed eyes, as well as extremely dilated or constricted pupils
- Displaying reduced physical coordination, having more accidents or displays of clumsiness
These are good signs to use to determine that there is an actual addiction. They touch on the physical effects of addiction rather than of a specific drug: fatigue, declining mental health and faculties, loss of self-care, and so on.
What Are the Symptoms of Heroin & Opiate Abuse?
Heroin and other opiates are a type of drug that creates the sensation of extreme relaxation and euphoria. It achieves this by flooding the parts of the brain that controls pleasure with chemicals to create those sensations.
However, the nature of heroin abuse will leave physical signs and characteristic symptoms that you should be able to spot. They include:
- Frequent runny nose without any cold or other illness
- Needle marks on their arms
- Infections on their arms caused by frequent needle use
- Signs of picking at their skin such as cuts or bruises
- Frequent shortness of breath for no obvious reason
- Very small pupils
- Changing from hyper and alert to nodding off and drooping
If you see any or multiples of these symptoms, that is a major red flag that they have an addiction to opiates. Heroin is the drug most frequently reported by addicts as the drug they primarily abuse when they seek rehab treatment. This is because of how highly addictive it is. If you see any of these signs of heroin abuse, you should do everything you can to get them help.
Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse
Marijuana is a substance similar to alcohol, in that it is not as inherently addictive as some of the other drugs mentioned here. Many people can use it recreationally without becoming addicted, but like alcohol, there is a very large number of people in America who report they abuse marijuana. In fact, approximately 4.1 million Americans over 12 years old reported marijuana abuse as of 2017.
- Increase appetite and weight, unlike other drug addictions
- Impaired coordination and reaction time
- Increase anxiety and fear, maybe even paranoia
- Lower motivation, lazy movement and behavior
- Frequent and wet coughing with no illness to explain it
- Dry mouth, if they seem to be drinking more often
- Rapid heartbeat
- Impaired learning and memory
- The level of addictiveness and negative effects of marijuana are not as severe as other drugs. However, it can still do lasting harm when abused for a long period of time. It is just as important to help your loved one seek addiction treatment through a professional rehab facility.
Symptoms of Methamphetamine & Stimulant Abuse
Methamphetamines (or Meth) and other stimulant drugs are addictive for giving the sensation of getting a “rush”. Rather than being a downer like heroin, it floods your brain with dopamine — a natural chemical your brain produces when you get a mix of excitement and hyper-focus. It is common for thrill-seekers to get a rush of dopamine when they go mountain biking, skydiving, and even competitive sports.
Because of its nature, methamphetamine addicts will show the following symptoms and behaviors:
- Cycling between hyper-focused attention while under its effects and then a crash down to extreme fatigue when it wears off
- Increased activity and rapid talkativeness
- Faster and irregular breathing and heartbeat
- Signs of picking at the skin such as cuts, scabs and bruising
- Complaints that their skin feels like it’s crawling
- Extreme tooth decay
- Hair loss, due to lack of nutrients in the body
If they have been abusing meth for a long time, they may begin exhibiting paranoia and aggressive behavior. Meth addicts often turn violent and develop psychosis. If you spot any of these physical signs of meth abuse, it is always best to get them help as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Cocaine & Crack Abuse
Cocaine and crack are the same drugs but consumed in a different way. Cocaine is a powder that is typically inhaled through the nose, while crack is derived from cocaine powder but smoked in a pipe as a type of rock. The effects are generally the same — they are a stimulant that gives a heightened state of joy and feeling “high”. Here are some of the physical symptoms of cocaine or crack abuse:
- Reduced sense of smell
- Red and irritated nostrils, as well as frequent sniffing, nosebleeds and runny nose without any illness to explain it
- Reduced ability to swallow
- Sounding hoarse when they speak
- Irregular heartbeat and breathing, potentially causing a heart attack, stroke, or respiratory failure
- Frequent digestive issues
- Frequent skin infections
Cocaine and crack are more similar to meth and other stimulant drugs. You may see a cycle of your loved one showing high amounts of energy and euphoria, followed by a dramatic crash in energy and focus. While cocaine or crack addiction is not as common as it used to be, it is still highly addictive and one of the more common drugs people abuse.