What are the Signs of Drug Abuse and Addiction?

G. Melanson

The classic signs of drug abuse and addiction include a wide array of changes to an addict’s behavior and appearance. While there are some changes in behavior and appearance that are traditionally associated with almost any drug addiction, there are also indications of drug abuse and addiction that are specific to certain types of drugs. Signs of drug abuse and addiction will also vary, depending on the classification of the drug being abused. For example, someone who’s addicted to barbiturates and benzodiazepines (tranquilizers) will typically exhibit signs and symptoms that are completely opposite from someone addicted to stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine.

Drug addiction may be an attempt to ward off depression.
Drug addiction may be an attempt to ward off depression.

Some of the general signs of drug abuse and addiction are also signs often associated with depression. The relationship between depression and drug abuse is often a close one for addicts who struggle from depression and turn to drugs as a means of self-medicating. Some of these warning signs include withdrawal from family and friends, loss of interest in activities that were formerly enjoyable, feelings of hopelessness and a noticeable drop in performance at school or work. Among the signs of drug abuse and addiction that manifest physically is an overall loss of interest in one’s appearance and personal hygiene.

Signs of prescription drug abuse can include consistently exceeding recommended dosages or over-reliance on a particular drug.
Signs of prescription drug abuse can include consistently exceeding recommended dosages or over-reliance on a particular drug.

Signs of drug abuse and addiction to benzodiazepines or barbiturates (downers) include a slowing-down of the person’s speech, physical movements, dizziness, impaired coordination and memory loss. However, someone who’s addicted to stimulants typically exhibits the opposite: rapid speech, nervousness, twitching and inability to sit down or sleep. Addicts who snort stimulants such as cocaine may exhibit a visibly damaged septum and holes in the cartilage of the nose. Intravenous drug abuse and addiction is often visible on the addict’s arms in the form of “track marks,” which are darkened veins that run along the length of the arm.

Depression and withdrawal can be signs of drug abuse or addiction.
Depression and withdrawal can be signs of drug abuse or addiction.

As one of the most dangerous drugs — as well as one of the fastest-growing in terms of popularity — methamphetamine (crystal meth) causes an addiction that manifests in a variety of noticeable physical traits. Users may develop sores or abscesses on their body as a result of picking at imagined insects “crawling” underneath the skin. They may also lose their teeth (“meth mouth”), and exhibit restlessness, paranoia, twitching and sudden bursts of energy.

Addicts who snort cocaine may have obvious damage to their septum and holes in the cartilage of their nose.
Addicts who snort cocaine may have obvious damage to their septum and holes in the cartilage of their nose.

Support programs that are committed to helping those who struggle with drug abuse and addiction operate in cities around the world and can be found online or in the phone book. In addition, groups exist that can offer help to friends and family of people struggling with addiction. Various support groups operate under different theories and take various approaches to helping members, from group meetings with peers to assigning members to a mentor who can help them through the difficulties of recovering from and living with an addiction.

Severe addiction may lead to homelessness.
Severe addiction may lead to homelessness.
People who abuse intravenous drugs usually have arms covered in needle marks.
People who abuse intravenous drugs usually have arms covered in needle marks.
Taking medications prescribed to others is a sign of drug abuse and addiction.
Taking medications prescribed to others is a sign of drug abuse and addiction.
Methamphetamine users may experience restlessness and paranoia.
Methamphetamine users may experience restlessness and paranoia.

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Discussion Comments

DinoLeash

@googie98- You are correct. The symptoms of drug abuse can be hidden. If a person is already very outgoing, being addicted to something like methamphetamine could be ignored. People might think that the person is just being their normal bubbly self. Sometimes, the hidden symptoms are the worst because we, as their friends or family, will not recognize the problem.

googie98

I just wanted to add that not all addicts present with symptoms. My sister is addicted to diet pills, such as Adipex, and is able to function somehow. She denies that she has a problem with it but she goes to different doctors to get prescriptions and has even bought them from other people. To be around her, you would not know that she is an addict. She works a Monday through Friday job without anyone at her workplace knowing anything.

Addicts can hide their addictions and we should all be aware that signs and symptoms of drug abuse are not always obvious.

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