Symptoms of drug use – is your child using drugs?

red eyes telltale signs of drug abuse

Drug & Alcohol Use – Telltale Signs

Today Sober College launched its Telltale signs of drug use tool. Simply provide some information about relevant symptoms demonstrated by your child and the tool will assess whether they are likely using drugs or alcohol.

This blog post contains a more detailed breakdown of symptoms associated with alcohol and some of the main recreational drug types.

Drug Types

Some of the most popular recreational drugs used by young people are alcohol, marijuana, stimulants and opiates. Use and abuse of these drugs can cause several physical and behavioral problems.

Alcohol

Alcoholism is widely considered a progressive disease, so the symptoms and effects of the addiction worsen over time. There are many symptoms associated with alcoholism include:

  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite/weight loss
  • Shakes and tremors
  • Erratic behavior
  • Nosebleeds
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Red eyes
  • Seizures
  • Sweating
  • Headaches

Early signals of a drink problem are drinking regularly, “blacking out” when drinking and becoming angry or violent. As the addiction worsens sufferers may start to make reckless decision, including missing work or school, driving drunk and generally being irresponsible. Alcohol problems become particularly dangerous when an individual uses alcohol as a way to forget about their problems or de-stress.

withdrawal symptoms can be severe and include hallucinations, seizures, shakes, fevers, agitation, irritability, sweating, anxiety, nausea and insomnia.

Marijuana

Using marijuana can result in a range of symptoms including:

  • Red eyes
  • Loss of motivation
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Faster breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Appetite
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Paranoia
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Stimulants

Stimulants or ‘uppers’ tend to provide users with a temporary increase in alertness and energy levels. The most common stimulants are cocaine and amphetamines including speed, base, crystal methamphetamine (or ‘ice’), ecstasy, MDMA and similar chemical compounds.

Prescription stimulants such as Dextroamphetamine, Levoamphetamine, Lisdexamfetamine, Methamphetamine, Adderall and Dexedrine are also used recreationally by some.

After the ‘up’ provided by the stimulants will usually experience a low soon after, and this often triggers the desire to use the drug again. Instead of getting ‘high’ repeat users are just trying to feel ‘normal’.

Stimulants can lead to a range of symptoms including:

  • Exhaustion
  • Aparthy
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Shakes and tremors
  • Erratic behaviour
  • Nosebleeds
  • Cuts
  • Sores and bruises
  • Anger issues
  • Deceit
  • Loss of motivation
  • Seizures
  • Paranoia
  • High body temperature
  • Irregular heartbeat

Opiates

Opiates (or narcotics) include heroin, opium, morphine, codeine, and synthetic opiates include Demerol, Numorphan and percodan. Opiates vary greatly from dark coloured chunks to white crystals or powder. They can also come in powder or liquid form. Opiates are injected, smoked or ingested depending on their form.

Use of opiates can lead to a range of symptoms including:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Needle or ‘track’ marks
  • Loss of appetite
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow reflexes
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Bad coordination
  • Depression
  • Loss of motivation

Red Eyes

red eyes telltale signs of drug abuse

Red eye is the swelling or dilation of blood vessels on the outer surface of the eye. This condition can flare up suddenly or develop slowly over time, and can affect one or both eyes.

What are the symptoms?

Painful, itchy, swollen or irritated eyes. Sufferers may experience blurred vision or discharge.

What are the causes?

If only one eye is affected it is unlikely to be due to drug use. If the eyes are only affected for a short period of time it is likely to be due to drug or alcohol use:

Marijuana contains THC, which causes significant dilation of blood vessels on both eyes, and lasts several hours.

Alcohol decreases the flow of oxygen to red blood cells, causing blood vessels to cluster, sometimes resulting in red, bloodshot eyes.

Medical explanations include conjunctivitis, allergies, computer vision syndrome, eye injuries and ulcers.

Weight Loss

weight loss telltale signs of drug abuse

A sudden loss of weight is a possible side effects of many types of drug abuse.

What are the symptoms?

A loss of weight which may be gradual or sudden, significant or subtle. Drug abusers may tried to hide their weight loss by wearing loose clothing.

What are the causes?

Weight loss can occur for many reasons, including loss of appetite, increased exercise, stress, and drugs use.

Weight loss can be caused by stimulants like cocaine, methamphetamines and amphetamines, which suppress the appetite and speed up metabolism.

It also can result from the lifestyle involved in drug abuse: people abusing stimulants can go on binges during which they refrain from eating for days at a time. It is, however, not unusual for teenagers to experience weight fluctuations.

Alcohol can also rapidly alter eating habits and, like marijuana which increases appetite, a side effect can be weight gain as well as loss.

Cuts, sores or bruises

cuts sores bruises telltale signs of drug abuse

Drug abuse will leave physical signs on the body, varying from track marks and bruises to sores and burns.

What are the symptoms?

Track marks from heroin or other intravenous drugs range from small red marks to sores and bruises, and they form clusters down the inside of the arm. People who abuse meth or crack will also frequently have sores on their face and body, or burn marks on the face and hands.

What are the causes?

Bruising, red marks, and sores can be left by a needle when a drug like heroin is injected. Track marks are the darkening of veins due to scarring and toxin build-up from injecting drugs like heroin or meth (IV drug use).

One effect of meth is having the sensation of bugs under your skin, and it is the compulsive picking of the skin which can cause sores. Burns on the hands and around the mouth can be a sign of crack and meth abuse: too-hot pipes and scorching smoke can cause burns on the lips.

Drug abusers on the whole bruise more easily than non-users, due to the stress placed on the body and the subsequent nutritional deficiencies, so many mysterious bruises can be a sign of general drug use. However, sometimes unexplained bruises can be a sign of a different medical condition unrelated to drugs, such as a bleeding disorder, inflammation of blood vessels, infection or disease.

Deterioration of physical appearance

deterioration of physical appearance telltale signs of drug abuse

Drug users often overlook hygiene and a drug habit can lead to complacency about appearance.

What are the symptoms?

Drug users often overlook normal hygiene habits (showering, brushing teeth) but other habits, such as spraying perfume or cologne, can be picked up.

Drugs users may wear sunglasses at odd times to conceal bloodshot eyes, or wear long-sleeved garments in an attempt to hide possible track marks.

What are the causes?

Fixation on a drug habit can lead to complacency in other areas of life and appearance is often one of them: people who previously took a lot of pride in their exterior appearance and in the clothes they wore can lose all interest.

However, it is also worth remembering that it is not uncommon for teenagers to drastically alter their appearance or to want to look deliberately dishevelled!

Shakes and tremors

Tremors can affect the hands, arms, head or eyelids and often occur when you move. The shaking is usually fast, at about 4 to 12 movements per second.

What are the symptoms?

Tremors can affect the hands, arms, head or eyelids but rarely affect the lower body, and often occur when you move or try to hold your arms, hands, or head in a certain position. Tremors can be sometimes be accompanied by head nodding, a shaky voice and a loss of balance.

What are the causes?

Stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines can lead to drug-induced tremors, which are reactions of the muscles and nervous system to specific substances.

Alcohol and alcohol withdrawal can also induce tremors, as can nicotine.

There are several medical causes of tremors too, such as hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s disease and too much caffeine.

Shakes and tremors

shakes tremors telltale signs of drug abuse

Tremors can affect the hands, arms, head or eyelids and often occur when you move. The shaking is usually fast, at about 4 to 12 movements per second.

What are the symptoms?

Tremors can affect the hands, arms, head or eyelids but rarely affect the lower body, and often occur when you move or try to hold your arms, hands, or head in a certain position. Tremors can be sometimes be accompanied by head nodding, a shaky voice and a loss of balance.

What are the causes?

Stimulants such as cocaine, meth and amphetamines can lead to drug-induced tremors, which are reactions of the muscles and nervous system to specific substances.

Alcohol and alcohol withdrawal can also induce tremors, as can nicotine.

There are several medical causes of tremors too, such as hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s disease and too much caffeine.

Anger Issues

anger issues telltale signs of drug abuse

Prolonged drug use can affect neurochemistry, which can lead to angry outbursts. It can also be a sign of medical problems.

What are the symptoms?

Outbursts of anger that are out of proportion to any cause; this can range from aggressive and abusive responses to ordinary discussions to damaging property and assaulting other people.

What are the causes?

Prolonged use of cocaine and crack affects neurochemistry, which can lead to angry outbursts, suspiciousness, paranoia and violence.

Meth affects levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine and causes changes to brain structure. This can lead to mood disturbances, violent behavior and psychotic symptoms.

Increased anger can also be a sign of medical problems like diabetes, brain injury, depression, borderline personality disorder, as well as anger management issues.

Financial Difficulties

financial difficulties telltale signs of drug abuse

Increased expenditure with no explicable cause can signal a drug problem. Financial problems can also be caused by other addictive behaviors or medical issues.

What are the symptoms?

Increased expenditure with no explicable cause and repeatedly needing to borrow money, especially if it’s not being paid back. Other symptoms include stopping spending money on things that used to be important, selling valued personal possessions, going without essentials like food, running up debts and failing to pay bills on time.

What are the causes?

One of the most immediate causes is the high cost of many drugs and alcohol, especially when increased tolerance levels mean that the abuser needs more and more to get the same effect.

Drug abuse can lead to widespread cognitive impairment. Heroin affects the ability to plan ahead, while MDMA and marijuana damage memory. Alcohol impairs prospective memory. This means that substance abuser can struggle to remember to do specific actions, like paying bills, at the appropriate time.

Cognitive impairment can lead to difficulties with financial management and holding down a job.

Financial problems can be caused by other addictive behaviors like gambling or compulsive shopping, or medical issues such as bipolar or depression.

Erratic behaviour

erratic behavior telltale signs of drug abuse

While young people do sometimes act in a way that is out of character, particularly risky behaviour is a common symptom of drug abuse.

What are the symptoms?

Risky behavior that exhibits poor judgement is a common symptom of drug abuse, and includes dangerous driving, unsafe sex, criminal acts or doing things that are physically dangerous.

Excessive animation and excitability is a frequent side effect of many drugs, as are periods of lethargy or depression. These two states often cycle as the user moves between the high and withdrawal.

What are the causes?

Cocaine and crack cocaine reduce inhibitions, intensify sexual desire and create feelings of euphoria, which can all cause people to take risks.

Alcohol causes a reduction in inhibitions, a loss of critical judgement and also impairs perception.

Other causes of erratic behavior in teenagers includes increased willingness to take risks and hormonal fluctuations.

Medical causes include bipolar and personality disorders, Graves’ disease and brain tumors.

Deceit

deceit telltale signs of drug abuse

Drug abusers frequently start becoming secretive and deceitful, lying and even stealing from friends, family, teachers and employers.

What are the symptoms?

Drugs users may lie to family and friends about what they are doing, who they are spending time with, how they are spending money and causes of problems such as failing classes. People close to drug abusers may also notice that money or personal possession go missing, stolen to fund their addiction.

What are the causes?

Deceit comes about because drug abusers want to hide their problem from other people, are ashamed of what they are doing and need money to support their habit.

With amphetamine and crack cocaine, changes to brain chemistry can result in paranoia, delusions and even psychosis, which can lead to secretive, deceitful and confused behavior.

In adolescents, lying can be a behavioral stage as they test boundaries, or a sign of attention seeking behavior.

It can also be a result of trying to hide personal difficulties, or a symptom of medical problems such as antisocial personality disorder, bipolar or narcissistic personality disorder.

Nosebleeds

nosebleeds telltale signs of drug abuse

Nosebleeds occur when blood vessels in the nose are broken. Using drugs, especially drugs that are snorted like cocaine, can cause nosebleeds.

What are the symptoms?

During a nosebleed, blood will flow from one or both nostrils and can last from seconds to minutes. Sometimes liquid is first felt in the back of your throat; this typically occurs if you’re lying down.

What are the causes?

Using drugs, especially drugs that are snorted like cocaine, can cause nosebleeds. When somebody snorts a drug the substance can directly irritate the nasal membrane.

Abuse of alcohol can also cause nosebleeds, as alcohol dilates the blood vessels and inhibits the activity of platelets which prevent blood clotting.

There are many different medical causes of nosebleeds and many conditions that can cause unprompted nosebleeds (aspirin can do this).

Nosebleeds are also far more frequent in winter due to the drying effect of central heating and cold weather; if the membrane inside your nose dries out and cracks it is likely to bleed.

Loss of motivation

loss of motivation telltale signs of drug abuse

Drug abuse can cause loss of enthusiasm for tasks and activities that were previously enjoyed or easily completed.

What are the symptoms?

Stopping participating in hobbies, such as sports or extra-curricular activities. In school or college students may demonstrate slipping grades, failure to complete assignments, skipping classes and being chronically late.

What is it?

Loss of motivation is a common symptom of substance abuse, as the ability to focus on anything other than obtaining and using drugs diminishes.

MDMA causes confusion, depression, anxiety and sleep problems which can lead to lack of motivation.

Heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana diminish mental functioning, which reduces the ability to plan and complete tasks as well as clouding the abuser’s capacity to discern their own impairment.

Medical causes include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, insomnia, stress, anaemia, hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia.

Seizures

seizures telltale signs of drug abuse

A seizure is the uncontrolled electrical activity of the brain which can lead to a physical convulsion.

What are the symptoms?

There are many different symptoms for seizures – some of the most common are: blacking out followed by confusion; uncontrollable muscle spasms; drooling or frothing at the mouth; falling; clenching teeth; sudden, rapid eye movements; losing bladder or bowel control.

What are the causes?

Amphetamines and stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine can induce seizures, particularly when used in combination with other drugs. Heavy drinking has been linked to seizures in epileptics, and alcohol withdrawal can also be responsible for seizures.

There are other many medical causes of seizures such as disease, epilepsy, sleep deprivation and injury.

Sources:

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www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
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drugabuse.com/library/crack-abuse
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2396566
familylives.org.uk/advice/teenagers/behaviour/what-to-do-if-your-teen-is-lying-to-you-or-stealing
healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/nosebleeds-separating-fact-from-fiction
www.medicinenet.com/nosebleed/article.htm#what_causes_nosebleeds
www.medicinenet.com/fatigue/article.htm
www.healthline.com/symptom/seizures

Images:

http://farm1.staticflickr.com/141/328658980_a14868303b_o.jpg
http://www.treatmentsolutions.com/teen-stress-and-drug-abuse/
http://www.canstockphoto.com/game-in-a-mobile-phone-is-more-18028890.html
http://www.canstockphoto.com/nosebleed-3531271.html
http://www.canstockphoto.com/suspicious-mother-spying-a-daughter-18330030.html
http://www.canstockphoto.com/the-young-man-against-a-wall-14092266.html
http://www.canstockphoto.com/addicted-person-17314036.html
http://www.canstockphoto.com/dissatisfied-and-upset-student-with-hand-18237649.html
http://www.canstockphoto.com/frustrated-high-school-boy-9655823.html
http://www.canstockphoto.com/woman-looking-into-a-broken-mirror-13359765.html
http://www.canstockphoto.com/feet-on-bathroom-scale-6171356.html
http://www.canstockphoto.com/bloodshot-eye-8676044.html
http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=180630020
http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=118928809