Drug abuse contains telltale signs. Moodiness, isolation and change in grooming are red flags. Addicts will do anything to keep people from finding out.
It’s no secret that these days, alcohol and drug abuse is a prevalent problem. Though some people can use recreational or prescription medications without becoming addicted, for many others, substance abuse can cause problems at home, work, school, and in relationships.
If you’re worried that a loved one maybe abusing drugs the first thing to know is some telltale signs of drug abuse.
Many addicts will go to any lengths to conceal signs of drug abuse. This is not because they are bad or weak people; they cannot help themselves in the grips of addiction. Hiding drug abuse requires a definite finesse and because being drunk or high results in not being in complete control of bodily functions, behavior or consciousness, the addict or alcoholic will oftentimes slip and leave a trail behind them.
Although different drugs have different physical effects, common symptoms of drug abuse are fairly similar. Here are some key behaviors and signs to keep your eyes, ears and nose open to:
Physical Symptoms – Some easy-to-spot physical symptoms are bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, constant sniffing, itching and injection marks. Alcoholics and addicts will frequently stumble or get into altercations during blackouts, so look for bruises, bumps and scrapes. Some will also wet the bed when they are too high to get up to use the bathroom.
In and Out Quickly – This includes constant visits at random times of the day or night for short bursts of time (and may mean that there is a buy/sell occurring). You might know this person or you won’t – a dealer or friend is popping by to drop something off or pick something up. The attitude is very casual, “Yeah, my co-worker just stopped by to pick up a registration form for a seminar we’re hosting,” or “Oh, that’s my new friend from the gym, she saw my car in front and stopped in to say hello,” and if it’s your child, “Charlie left his baseball bat here yesterday.” The excuses can sound innocent enough but the short duration and frequency of visits should be cause for alarm.
Change in Sleep Patterns – either sleeping longer than usual, nodding out at the dinner table/during conversations, etc., staying awake until the early hours of the morning, unable to wake up early, sleeping during the middle of the day or not sleeping much at all.
Change in Physical Appearance – People abusing alcohol and drugs can go through a variety of physical appearance changes. Some will gain or lose a lot of weight rapidly. People once taking pride in their grooming will look disheveled and sloppy. Meth addicts may have sores on their face and body and be unable to stop them selves from picking at them. Discolored and rotting teeth and raw, red noses are symptoms of crack and cocaine respectively. **It is important to note here that young substance abusing women will be harder to detect that young men, as they mature faster and present them selves better – they keep up their grooming and fashion choices where a young man will not bother to bathe, shave or put on clean clothes.
Rapid mood swings – Taking into account the personality of your family member, friend or co-worker, watch for behavior that’s off the beam. If they are normally shy and withdrawn and suddenly they are the life of the party, something’s up. Substance and alcohol abuse can cause someone to become unusually angry and perhaps physically violent. Being overly sensitive, especially when the subject of drugs and alcohol are brought up could mean a problem is lurking.
Isolation, Withdrawal and Secrets – A common symptom addict’s share is feeling lonely. Their solution to this is to pull away – seems strange but it’s true. They may also suffer from degrees of paranoia and may become increasingly private, locking their doors and whispering into the telephone. Increased reclusive behavior is an indicator that they may be hiding an addiction of drug abuse. Addiction brings out an unhealthy side of the personality. Often there are stories of infidelity and so, secretive phone calls, long chunks of unaccounted time and possessions not belonging to the home could point in the direction of a substance abuse issue.
Drug Paraphernalia – Drug paraphernalia is a black and white method for confirming the signs of drug use and abuse (keep in mind that addicts and alcoholics will most likely lie when confronted with drug paraphernalia but it’s rock solid evidence that someone in the vicinity is drinking and using). Drug use requires utensils and accouterments used to deliver the substance or liquid to the body. These are things such as: needles, burnt spoons, burnt tin foil and small empty (or full) balloons with small writing on the outside (heroin), glass pipes, bongs, rolling papers, metal “one-hitter” fake cigarette (marijuana), razor blades, cutting surfaces and rolled up dollar bills (cocaine). There might be empty prescription bottles in the trash that belong to someone else or to your loved one, yet you had no idea they needed pain pills!
Drug paraphernalia might also include articles that conceal being under the influence like: eye drops/wash, incense (always burning), gum, mints, room freshener spray, perfume and cologne. These items alone do not mean much but multiple bottles; packages, etc. could be used to disguise the smells and appearance that go along with drug and alcohol abuse.
Now That You Know, Help is Available
Once a parent, friend, spouse or co-worker finds out what is really going on, the most important thing is how they handle it. Fortunately, there are many resources an individual can go to receive alcohol and drug treatment. Support groups, interventionists and drug counselors can assist you in getting your loved one the appropriate drug treatment.
Whatever road you choose when finding help for someone, it’s imperative to choose one and follow it through. Some of the best people, the most gifted, creative and talented souls have addiction issues and they have all had to come to terms with their demons in order to live a happy, more purpose-filled life.