Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse


Knowing the signs and symptoms of drug abuse is so important. Waiting for full on collapse of a person’s life due to addiction is too late. If you can catch it early on, the easier it is to handle the drug abuse and potential addiction.

Addicts come in all shapes and sizes and from all strata of life. Drug abuse and addiction has a considerable effect on the body, the mind and behaviour that usually cannot be hidden for long. Being able to recognise these effects means you are more able to do something about it before the situation escalates.

Mental/Behavioural Changes

1. Negative Changes in Attitude

Upset woman

It is not true that teenagers just have a negative attitude to parents or those in authority. It is not true that people sometimes go negative for no reason. Something happens that changes that attitude from sweet, friendly and open to sneering, annoyed and resentful. This is true of children, partners or friends.

Now, of course, this is not always drug use, there are many things that can cause a change in attitude. But what is true is that it will usually be something negative and hidden, something that they don’t want to talk about. This closure causes a rift to open up.

Do anything you can to try and make an open communication and find out what really is going on.

2. Changes in social circles

Now again, friends do change, and it is not necessarily a sign of worse things. But if especially the old crowd don’t seem to be around at all anymore or the new friends seem to be a bit shady then we have signs of trouble. This can be true of teenagers or adults alike.

3. Giving up of hobbies and enjoyable activities

If things that used to be enjoyed are no longer done, hobbies or clubs are dropped there is another sign that something is not quite right, especially when combined with other signs. Sometimes people move on to new interests, but if you find that the interests are dropping and are not being replaced by anything new, then it is a good time to investigate.

4. Secrecy

In an environment where drugs are not tolerated then any drug use is going to be kept hidden. Locks on doors, or certain drawers, trips out to you don’t know where, conversations that are kept quiet. You know something is being kept from you, that something may be drug abuse.

5. Lies and dishonesty

Because something is being kept from you, lies will start to be invented to explain the absences or changes that you observe. They may start out small, but they can grow. Don’t think this behaviour is just normal—it isn’t, it only accompanies some hidden situation.

Physical Effects

Physical changes come second to those mental ones, ideally, you can spot and do something about drug abuse before it gets as far and obvious as physical effects. These effects generally vary depending on the type of drug being abused, but these first ones are the most general.

1. The nose

Continued sniffing and blowing of the nose without any other cold/flu-like symptoms as well as frequent nosebleeds.

2. The eyes

Both a blank, dull stare and frequent twitchy glances around can be signs of drugs. As well as the more well-known dilated or constricted pupils or red, watery eyes.

3. Sleep Habits

Changes in sleep patterns can accompany drug use, shown either as insomnia or regular oversleeping.

4. The skin

A flushed or very pale complexion or unhealthy, unwell looking skin.

5. Muscles

Trembling of the muscles, especially in the hands, feet or face.

Drug Specific Signs & Symptoms

These following drugs have a few specific signs that you can look out for:


Needle marks on the veins, wearing long-sleeved shirts even in very warm weather and drastic changes in sleeping habits.


Lack of appetite, talkativeness, sleeplessness, coughing, sweating, irritability or excessive cheerfulness, weight loss and skin problems such as open sores on the neck, face and arms.


Look for weird smells, acting drunk, drowsiness, nausea, headaches, redness around the nose and mouth and irrational behaviour.


Oversleeping, staying out all night, missing Monday work or school, dilated pupils and slurred speech, late nights and sleeping late in the morning are symptoms of heavy drinking.

Note – Alcohol contains another little factor. Due to the fact that it is not illegal, the attempts to hide it will often be directed more at hiding the actual amounts of alcohol being consumed rather than hiding the fact of drinking altogether. It is common for developing alcoholism to go undetected until it is very advanced because prior to that, friends just consider that the drinker “likes to party.”


Loss of motivation, arguing, giggling, sleepy, red eyes, blank stare, pointless laughter and slacking off on things which were once very important are indications of marijuana use.

I hope you can use these signs to stop drug abuse going undetected and allow you to do something about it.

If you have discovered that a loved one is abusing alcohol or drugs

please call us


Narconon UK

Welcome to Narconon United Kingdom At Narconon, we are dedicated to one thing: helping you overcome addiction for good. Part of what makes this possible is the Narconon environment. Every detail has been taken into account to give you the stability and comfort to help you free yourself from addiction and rebuild your life without drugs.