Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by Joshua Isibor
Drug addiction isn’t always easy to spot. Not everybody knows the signs of addiction, and some of those signs depend on the drug itself. For instance, someone with a meth addiction may experience different symptoms than someone with an opioid addiction.
However, many addictions share the same signals. If you suspect that a loved one may be dealing with addiction, but you’re not sure which drug they may be using, you can look for the signs of addiction in general.
If a friend or a family member has sudden and extreme behavioral changes, those changes may signal a drug addiction. For example, someone with an addiction may become especially secretive. They may lie about where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing to cover up their drug use.
When someone has an addiction, their relationships may also change. For instance, they might stop seeing old friends who don’t use drugs and spend time with people who do use drugs instead. Or they may stop seeing friends altogether, becoming more socially withdrawn instead.
Violent behavior can also indicate an addiction. If your loved one has extreme mood swings and lashes out against others, they may be under the influence of drugs.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or text START to 88788.
Drugs and alcohol affect people’s energy levels. A person who uses drugs may either have extremely low energy or extremely high energy, depending on the drug that they use. Opioids and depressant drugs, for example, can make people sleepy. A person who uses these drugs may struggle to stay awake and hold a conversation.
Stimulants such as meth and cocaine have the opposite effect. They create heightened energy levels and temporarily reduce the need for sleep. While using stimulants, a person may stay awake late into the night. They may also feel more talkative and social.
Drug addiction can lead to job loss, which creates financial strain. However, if a person regularly uses drugs, they don’t necessarily need to lose their job to experience money-related struggles.
These struggles may be easiest to spot if the person abusing drugs is your spouse or partner, especially if you share a bank account with the person. If a credit card is declined unexpectedly, or if you notice missing funds from your bank account, those signs could point toward drug use.
Other signs may be spotted by friends, family members, and others. For example, someone with an addiction might frequently borrow or steal money.
Drug use impacts health, and that impact can alter a person’s physical appearance. The longer a person uses a drug, the more obvious the changes can become.
Some of the changes are temporary. For example, if your loved one uses needles, they may wear long sleeves to hide the resulting scars, even in warm weather. Although the scars themselves may be permanent, the clothing change is not. Drug addiction can also cause a person to neglect self-care and hygiene, so they may appear unkempt.
Other physical changes may be more long-lasting or even permanent. Some of these signs of drug addiction may include:
- eye changes (constricted or dilated pupils, bloodshot eyes)
- sudden weight gain or weight loss
- bloody nose or frequent sniffling
- skin changes (redness or infection from skin picking)
Mental and Emotional Health
Drug use can cause or worsen certain emotional health struggles. Many people with addictions also have a co-occurring mental health disorder, and that disorder may contribute to the addiction. Different drugs can have different emotional effects, but some of the most common ones are:
- mood swings
- hallucinations and delusions
- temporarily elevated mood followed by a “crash”
Could Your Loved One Have a Drug Addiction?
Individually, these signs may not necessarily indicate drug use, but if you’ve noticed several of these changes in your loved one, they may have an addiction.
If your friend or family member does have an addiction, they will need to make the decision to get treatment. However, they may not know where to start. Though you cannot force a person to see a doctor or go to rehab, you can offer your support. Talk to a local drug and alcohol counselor for advice about your next steps.
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