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We all want to give our loved ones the benefit of the doubt. But if you suspect someone you know may be using drugs, there are certain signs you simply shouldn’t ignore. Some signs of drug or alcohol abuse are subtle, such as withdrawal from friends and family or a grumpy mood. Others—a meth pipe on the coffee table, for example—are more obvious. To help you figure out whether your friend or family member is using drugs, here are some things to look out for.
Each drug has its own effects, but there are some general signs that someone might be using. These include:
- A sudden change in behavior
- Drastic mood swings
- Carelessness about personal appearance and hygiene
- Withdrawal from friends and family members
- Bloodshot or glassy eyes
- Loss of pleasure in things he or she used to enjoy
- Changes in sleep habits
- Mysterious loss of money
- Problems with the law
- Increase in risky behaviors, such as driving fast or under the influence
- Failure to meet obligations with family or friends or at work
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Possession of drug paraphernalia or drugs themselves
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Other symptoms of drug use are more specific to the substance at hand. Here’s a quick guide to some of the most popularly abused drugs and signs of abuse:
Abuse causes impaired thinking, jitteriness, dilated pupils, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, irritability, excessive chattiness, hallucinations, loss of appetite and paranoia.
“Meth” causes sleeplessness (sometimes for days on end), loss of appetite, weight loss, dilated pupils, talkativeness, excited demeanor, depression, nervousness, excessive shaking, hallucinations, dizziness, mood changes, mental confusion, irritability, aggression, violence and loss of control.
Marijuana, or pot, causes a distinctive sweet smell on the body and clothing, compulsive eating, bloodshot, squinty eyes, excessive laughter, dry mouth, forgetfulness, loss of motivation, fatigue, short-term memory loss, delayed motor skills and reaction time, paranoia, hallucinations and mood swings.
Heroin produces powerful effects, often rendering the user incapacitated. In some users, it yields a dream-like state that can cause him or her to nod off for a few minutes or hours at a time. In other more experienced, long-term heroin users, the drug acts like a stimulant and allows them to go through their normal daily routines.
Someone high on ecstasy will experience an altered mental state, including perceptions of sound, time and light. He or she may experience an increase in body temperature and heightened sensual feelings. Other signs include teeth clenching, nausea, chills and sweating.
Acid may cause euphoria, a false sense of power and altered perception of time and space. Someone high on LSD may have dilated pupils, skin discoloration, loss of coordination, confusion, paranoia, anxiety and self-destructive behavior. Other potential signs of use include panic attacks, nausea and vomiting.
PCP, also called angel dust, causes bizarre, sometimes violent behavior. People high on PCP have been known to commit suicide. Other signs of use include paranoia, anxiety, aggression, sweating, skin flushing, dizziness, numbness and impaired perceptions of reality.
Barbiturates and benzodiazepines:
Barbiturates and benzodiazepines (“benzos”) are prescription pills that act on the central nervous system. Examples include Amytal and Seconal Sodium (barbiturates) and Ativan and Xanax (benzos). Symptoms of barbiturate or benzo use include slurred speech, drowsiness, clumsiness, dizziness, lack of inhibition, slowed breathing, lowered blood pressure, problems with thinking or concentration, involuntary eye movements and depression.
Inhalants produce a quick high but can cause health problems and brain damage over time. Some of the most common inhalants include glue, household aerosol products, paint thinners, gasoline, cleaning fluids and felt tip markers. Signs of use include possession of inhalants with no explanation of use, short-lived intoxication or euphoria, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, decreased inhibitions, involuntary eye movements, irregular heart rate, and slurred speech and other general symptoms of intoxication. No matter which drug you think your loved one is using, you will also want to be on the lookout for symptoms of overdose, including unconsciousness, trouble breathing, seizures, convulsions or chest pains. If you suspect your loved one is using drugs, contact your doctor or a recovery center. The sooner your loved one gets help, the better his or her chances of a successful long-term recovery.
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