To help determine whether someone you know may be abusing drugs, there are signs, both physical and relating to behaviour that you can look out for. While every person’s addiction experience can be said to be unique to that individual, there are nevertheless common addiction symptoms associated with each particular drug, and also some common addiction behaviours which are consistent with all drugs. It is important to note that someone can still be addicted to a drug even if they do not display some or any of the common addiction signs.
There are many reasons for this including a drug taker’s natural personality and their tolerance to a particular drug. The drug user may also continue to take a therapeutic drug after the recommended period of prescription and consequently addiction has taken hold, yet the supply of the drug has continued resulting in the addiction signs being very subtle and the absence of any withdrawal symptoms.
Addiction signs may be those physical and behavioural effects the drug has on someone taking it and those that manifest themselves when the addict stops taking the drug and is in ‘withdrawal’. Of the signs which occur across a large number (but not all) of addictions might include extreme changes in mood, i.e. suddenly appearing extremely happy, excited, depressed or anxious without apparent cause.
Another sign might be an increase in the time someone spends asleep or the fact that they are sleeping at unusual times of the day. Unexpected and sudden bursts of energy or conversely extreme bouts of lethargy are further signs of possible drug addiction, as are sudden changes in weight (gaining or losing). There are many drugs that have the effect of causing the pupils of the eyes to change size abnormally, either becoming smaller or larger, so that is something that is important to observe if you suspect someone you know to be on drugs.
In terms of specific drugs there are particular physical addiction signs that are associated with them. In the case of marijuana evidence of dependence may include signs of poor memory, redness in the eyes, concentration difficulty, increase in appetite, paranoid behaviour, excessive sleep, delayed reactions and poor coordination.
With barbiturates and benzodiazepines, someone who is addicted to these drugs might appear constantly drowsy, slur their words, seem dizzy, clumsy and uncoordinated, be forgetful and display signs of depression.
Stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine produce signs of restlessness, lack of appetite and resultant weight loss, irritability and periods of sudden euphoria and talkativeness.
In terms of general behaviour, someone addicted to drugs might show signs of financial unpredictability, having large amounts of cash some days and nothing at all on others. They might also steal money to fund a drug habit. An addict might be overheard having strange, coded phone conversations, they might make sudden, repeated and unexplained outings or possess paraphernalia associated with drug use such as weighing scales, small, sealable plastic bags, cigarette papers (often with pieces of cardboard missing), hypodermic needles or silver foil.
Teenagers with drug problems may encounter problems at school, including a sudden drop in performance or attendance, or they may neglect their appearance, paying no attention to washing, grooming or dressing well.
It is worth saying that many signs of addiction and addictive behaviour can have a perfectly innocent explanation and many, such as mood swings, secretiveness, anxiety and excessive sleep are those found in typical adolescent behaviour. So observing some of these signs in a young person is not necessarily evidence of drug addiction.