CALL  803.808.0905

Signs & Symptoms Someone You Know Is on Drugs


Having someone close to you using and abusing drugs or other illicit substances can be worrying. If you care about someone’s well being and you suspect that they may be dependent on substances, it’s natural to worry about their health and safety.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • How to tell when someone you know is using or abusing drugs or alcohol
  • The signs and symptoms associated with some of the most commonly used drugs
  • The impact drug use can have on a person’s life and why it’s important to know whether or not someone you care about is using drugs

Where Do You Start When You Think a Loved One is Using Drugs?

Chronic drug use and abuse are serious circumstances. Pop culture and other mediums may make light of drug use, but there’s a reason many illegal substances are regulated as heavily as they are: they can have a tremendously damaging impact on major areas of a person’s life, including:

  • Their personal relationships: People who use drugs may isolate themselves or lash out at friends, family members, and other members of their peer groups when under the influence.
  • Their education: According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), young adults and teens who use drugs and alcohol are more likely to drop out of school.
  • Employment: People who abuse drugs are less likely to be gainfully employed than those who don’t. Drug use causes people to behave unreliably and erratically, and one of the signs of regular drug use is the inability to hold a job.
  • Legal standing: Most drug use is illegal and those who use drugs face penalties levied by the justice system across the country if and when their drug use leads them to put human lives in danger.

Long-term drug use can come with a great number of very serious health conditions. For example, people who smoke illegal substances often put their lungs, throats, and mouths at risk from exposure to noxious gas. People who inject heroin and other drugs face the risk of transmitting disease from bloodborne pathogens. This isn’t even considering the risk of overdose from a variety of substances, and lasting effects on cognitive function and development.

The point is this: if you suspect that a loved one or someone close to you is using drugs, you may have the chance to intervene before they put their own lives and the lives of those around them at risk.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use

If they’re using drugs, your loved one’s behavior will change, but there’s no tried and true way to predict just how. Different drugs make people react in different ways, and it’s difficult to diagnose exactly what substance is involved by the actions of the person in question.

There are some behaviors common to most if not all drug users:

  • Sudden changes in behavior, appetite, habits, or hobbies: Any time a person undergoes what appears to be a complete shift in their priorities or practices, you have to suspect that there might be more to it than meets the eye.
  • Abrupt changes in mood: When a person is using drugs, the drug use may cause them to behave erratically.
  • Loss of interest in social behaviors, sports, hobbies and other activities that previously were stimulating
  • Loss of personal hygiene or sudden changes in sleep or eating habits: A person using drugs is likely to be less concerned with their personal health and cleanliness.
  • Sudden suspicious behavior, including lying, theft, and other shady dealings: People who use drugs are more likely to engage in dishonest behaviors, especially when it’s involved with their drug use.

Signs and Symptoms of Specific Drug Use

Many of the above behaviors can be a sign that a person is using drugs, but may also be due to mental health conditions or other reasons. Here are some common drugs and the way they affect the user’s body, mind and behavior:

Effects of Meth Use

Methamphetamine, or “meth”, is a stimulant and those who take it usually seem more excitable or “wired” than usual. They may act erratic and aggressive with periods of mania, depression, nervousness and paranoia, abrupt mood swings, confusion, and agitation.

Physical effects of meth use include sleeplessness, shaking and fever, dilated pupils, extreme weight loss, and over a long time of use, serious dental issues.

Effects of Ecstasy Use

Ecstasy, Molly, Ketamine, MDMA, and other “club” drugs and substances are marked by their ability to make the user react differently to mental and physical stimulation. These drugs make the user dehydrated and cause them to lose their appetite completely.

Physical effects include elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, along with teeth grinding and clenching, muscle spasms and cramps, nausea, fever, and chills.

Effects of Cocaine Use

Cocaine is a stimulant that makes the user feel a rush of euphoria, but can also make them panicked and anxious, paranoid, short-tempered, and talkative. Cocaine use is marked by dilated pupils, restlessness, decreased libido, and a potential bloody nose from using the drug.

Effects of Heroin Use

Heroin, which is an opiate like morphine, and prescription opioids all share a drug class called “opiates” and are all made from the opium poppy. These drugs are commonly used as prescribed for pain or recovery at first and then abused due to their highly addictive potential.

Heroin and opiate users feel an intense feeling of happiness for a period of time, during which they are incapable of moving or functioning for up to hours at a time. For long-term users, heroin may act as a stimulant, provoking a sort of manic state. Most users find that heroin, morphine, and other powerful opiates render them powerless to do anything.

What Can You Do?

If you find that a family member or other loved one is using drugs, you have the opportunity to give them the support they need in order to stop before they do more harm to themselves, their relationships and obligations, and those around them.

Other potential risks and consequences aside, drug use can come with a variety of potential legal implications. If you or a loved one are facing drug charges, you need access to a team of defense attorneys that have your best interests at heart. Contact Kent Collins to learn more.

Get Your Free In Person Consultation