This is a common question that we are asked at Addiction Helper; Families, loved ones and friends often call us with a concern that their loved one may be using drugs. Yet when they ask them, they deny or offer a plausible reason. Whilst their excuses or justifications may carry a degree of validity, there is still a nagging doubt inside.  Things just don’t add up.  We ask Family members to trust their intuition, after all you know this person far better than anyone else does.

There is no single indicator that will confirm your love one is using drugs. Drug takers and addicts tend to display a number of symptoms emotionally and physically. There are some signs and symptoms to look out for that that are strong indicators of a habit or addiction. Recreational or occasional use will rarely have a huge impact on their lives, but an addiction or habitual drug taking is hard to hide for very long. Their denial and secrecy may at times leave you feeling perplexed, powerless and questioning your own sanity.

Physical and Emotional symptoms of drug abuse

Drugs alter the state of mind and body and are taken essentially for their effects. The vast majority of individuals who take drugs will display some outward emotional and physical changes.  It can be helpful to know what to look out for. Depending on whether they are using a stimulant or depressant their physical symptoms can be different:

Stimulants (Cocaine, Amphetamines, Crack)

  • Unexplained and rapid weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Unusual amounts of energy
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Appearance of being wired
  • Aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sweating
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Paranoia (seeing or hearing things that aren’t real, or feeling that everyone is out to get them or against them)
  • Fast speech and hyperactivity
  • Risk taking
  • Loss of interest in family, hobbies, education, work and socializing
  • Secret and deceitful behaviour

Depressants (Heroin, Benzodiazepines, Cannabis, Opiates)

  • Unexplained and rapid weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Slurred and
  • Pin prick pupils
  • Little or no motivation
  • Slowed reactions and movements
  • Depression and
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Aggressiveness
  • Loss of interest in commitments, family, friends and loved ones
  • Uncommunicative and shut down
  • Secret and deceitful behaviour
  • Spending large amounts of time alone
  • Neglect of physical appearance
  • Appearance of being stoned

Drug Paraphernalia

As well as some physical and emotional symptoms, it may be that you think you have found some drugs or paraphernalia.  Paraphernalia are items that are associated with drug taking.  The following items can all be used to take or conceal drugs

  • Pipes (used to smoke Crack, Cannabis and Heroin)
  • Burnt and folded tinfoil, spoons, syringes (Heroin paraphernalia)
  • Straws, rolled bank notes and rolled paper (used to snort Cocaine, speed, amphetamines)
  • Small pieces of used Clingfilm, folded card and small re-sealable plastic bags (all can be used to store drugs
  • Bongs, cardboard filters, disassembled cigarettes (used to smoke Cannabis)
  • Plastic bottles or cans with holes punctured in or have been cut in half to inhale substances
  • Hollowed out pens that act as a pipe to inhale

There are different signs for someone that is abusing over the counter or prescription medications, please read our article on Is my family member addicted to prescription drugs?

Feeding a Drug Addiction

Most individuals that have a drug dependency will have to resort to various immoral methods and even criminal activity to feed their habit.  Drugs are expensive and as they build a tolerance, they will need more and more in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms and to keep a balance.  You may begin to notice money, credit cards or valuables going missing if they have access to your property. They may never seem to have any money, and are always borrowing with the intention to pay it back, but never do so and will always seem to have numerous excuses.  These are signs that should ring alarm bells.

As previously stated there is no one symptom that indicates a definite habit or addiction, the addict will usually present a combination of the above symptoms. Any marked change in behaviour or personal appearance should not be disregarded.  Ignoring the problem is not going to make it go away, but will only enable it to continue and progress. We understand that it can be very difficult confronting a loved one that you suspect is taking drugs, especially if they are hostile and defensive.  How they react can be very telling in itself.  For help on speaking to your family member or loved one about this very subject, please read our article How To Broach The Subject Of Drug Taking With A Family Member

For further help and advice on how to spot the symptoms of drug taking and getting the appropriate help for family members, please call and speak to one of our trained Addiction Experts now on: 0800 024 1480/ 0203 131 8340. Addiction helper will be happy to assess if your loved one has an alcohol or drug problem that requires professional treatment from our services.