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Signs of Drug Use (Substance Abuse)

What are the signs of drug abuse and dependence?

The signs of drug abuse and dependence depend on the drug and the person using the drug. Behaviours that may be signs of a drug problem include:

  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits, less attention to dressing and grooming, or less interest in sex.
  • Up and down moods, a mood or attitude that is getting worse, or not caring about the future.
  • Anger toward others or treating others badly.
  • Sneaky behavior, lying, or stealing.
  • Poor family relationships, or relationships that are getting worse.
  • New problems at work or school, or problems with the law.
  • Dropping old friends and activities, finding new friends, and not wanting old friends to meet them.

Having these signs doesn't always mean a person is using drugs. The behavior could be because of work or school stress, or it could be a sign of depression or another medical problem. But behavior changes like these are common in people who abuse drugs.

Physical signs of drug abuse and dependence include:

  • Red eyes, a sore throat, a dry cough, and feeling tired.
  • Needle marks on the arm or other area of the body.
  • Small, "pinpoint" pupils in the eyes.
  • Losing weight without trying to, or not feeling like eating.
  • Changes in sleep behavior, such as not sleeping as well.
  • Seeing things that don't exist (hallucinations).
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Last Revised October 13, 2011

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