There are many different physical and socio-emotional signs of drug use and addiction. Being aware of both physical and behavioral signs of drug use or addiction will enable you to take the preliminary steps in recognizing and addressing an addiction problem with your child, loved one or friend and ultimately getting them the help they need.
While many of the following symptoms can relate to substance abuse, it is important to acknowledge that a young adult exhibiting symptoms of alcohol or drug use can be attribute to a number of different problems, other than addiction. Some behaviors can be symptomatic of stress, depression or other physical or mental health issues.
“The key to recognizing the signs of drug use is change in appearance, attitude & behavior.”
According to the American Council for Drug Education (ACDE), the key to detecting drug use is change. They suggest looking for significant changes in an individual’s physical appearance, attitude, personality, and behavior. The following physical and behavioral signs, as described by the ACDE, can be attributed to substance abuse:
Physical Signs of Drug Use & Abuse
- Extreme loss or increase in appetite, change of eating habits and unexplained weight gain or loss
- Extreme loss of, or poor, physical coordination, including slow or staggered walk
- Insomnia or increased need for sleep, keeping unusual hours or unusually lazy
- Smells of substance, foul body odor
- Unusual lack of bathing or grooming
- Blank stare, red watery eyes, over or under dilated pupils
- Hyperactivity and excessive talkativeness
- Shaking hands or cold sweaty palms
- Puffy flushed or pale face
- Runny nose and cough
- Experiences nausea and vomiting
- Tremors of the head, feet or hands
- Needle-like marks on extremities, including the bottom of feet
Behavioral Signs of Drug Use & Abuse
- Change in attitude and personality, without other notable cause
- Avoidance of friends and family
- New friends who are known users
- Developing ‘”loner” tendencies or anti-social behaviors
- A drop in grades and work ethic
- Abnormal forgetfulness and inattentiveness
- Change in habits with family and in the home
- Lack of motivation and energy
- Excessive temper and irritability
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Giddiness and excessive laughter, without known cause
- Unusually private, secretive and suspicious behavior
- Stealing money or household items disappearing
- Possession of paraphernalia, such as; rolling papers, pipes, bongs, syringes, digital scale, and razor blades
Unsure if your loved one is using drugs or alcohol?
The signs of alcohol and drug abuse can be hard to spot especially if addiction progresses more gradually. What is just normal teen experimenting and what are the signs of a problem? Take the Telltale Signs of Drug Abuse Quiz and find out if action may be indicated.
Questions about drug treatment programs we offer for a loved one?
Call 800.465.0142 to speak with an admissions counselor today.
If you think your son or daughter may have a substance abuse problem, it’s time to have a conversation with them about getting out of their addiction. Start the conversation with our guide to intervention for young adults.
More resources describing the signs of drug use and addiction: