Signs of Drug Use

Table of Contents


What are the warning signs of drug use” is one of the most common questions asked by those with loved ones who are abusing addictive substances.

Some signs of drug use are common to all substances, while some signs are unique to specific substances of abuse. Today’s guide outlines both types of signs of a drug addict.. Addiction is a progressive condition, so identifying substance abuse early can streamline intervention and simplify treatment.

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Common Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use

Addiction is clinically described as substance use disorder, a chronic and relapsing brain condition. Central to addiction is the compulsive use of drugs in the face of adverse outcomes. 

For some people, addiction stems from experimental use of substances in social settings. Over time, tolerance, dependence, and addiction can develop. Others start taking prescription medications like opioids or benzodiazepines as directed and then develop dependence and addiction. 

If you suspect that a loved one is abusing drugs, physical signs are often the first indicator. Psychological and behavioral changes often follow.

Physical Signs of Drug Use

If someone abuses drugs, various physical signs may manifest. Some signs might be readily apparent – signs of drug use on face, for instance – while others are more easily hidden or occur more gradually as less noticeable changes. 

These are the most common physical signs that could indicate drug abuse:

  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Insomnia or disrupted sleeping habits
  • Changes in appetite or eating habits
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent runny nose (associated with cocaine addiction)
  • Tremors
  • Impaired coordination
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Chemical smell on clothes or breath
  • Pinpoint pupils (associated with heroin and opioid addiction)
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Marks on skin (track marks)
  • Clenching jaw

Psychological Signs of Drug Use

Often, a person who is abusing drugs will act in uncharacteristic ways. Psychological markers of drug abuse can include changes in a thought patterns, beliefs, attitudes, and priorities. 

These are the most common psychological signs of substance abuse: 

  • Mood swings
  • Apathy and disinterest
  • Reduced motivation
  • Social and emotional withdrawal
  • Changes in personality traits
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Poor self-image
  • Negative attitude toward life

As well as these general signs of drug abuse, some signs are more specific to particular substances. 

Signs of marijuana abuse can include

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Unexplained cough
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweet scent of smoke in clothing
  • Sleepiness
  • Loss of motivation
  • Excessive laughter
  • Talking too loudly
  • Eating lots of food at irregular times
  • Weight gain

Signs of heroin or prescription opioid abuse can include

  • Sniffing
  • Coughing
  • Track marks on arms or legs
  • Wearing long sleeves in warm weather to cover marks
  • Sleeping in the day
  • Sweating
  • Clammy skin
  • Appetite loss
  • Vomiting
  • Constricted pupils

Signs of benzodiazepine abuse can include

  • Muscle weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Doctor shopping for multiple prescriptions
  • Social withdrawal

Signs of stimulant abuse can include

  • Hyperactivity
  • Excessive talking
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Euphoria
  • Grinding teeth
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushed skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sore jaw
  • Skipping meals
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Weight loss

Other Notable Signs

A person who is abusing may also exhibit other behavioral signs of addiction that include: 

  • Financial issues
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Self-isolation
  • Secretive behavior
  • Legal issues
  • Persistent deceit, lying, or dishonesty
  • Poor performance at work or in school
  • New hobbies and activities or hobbies
  • Changes in social circles
  • Reduced participation in family activities
An image of a woman who is clearly struggling, and showing signs of drug use

Signs of Drug Use in Teens

Identifying drug use in teens can be challenging as many adolescent mood swings are attributable to fluctuating hormone levels. Pay attention, though, if your teenaged son or daughter is experiencing mood swings in combination with other signs like: 

  • Weight loss
  • Nosebleeds
  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Tremors
  • Sleeping more than normal
  • Losing interest in hobbies and activities they once enjoyed
  • New groups of friends
  • Aggression
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Breaking rules
  • Poor hygiene
  • Changes to appearance
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty staying focused
  • Pupils bigger or smaller than normal
  • Sweaty palms
  • Shaking hands
  • Headaches
  • Sores on mouth
  • Puffy face
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Rapid weight loss or weight gain
  • Missing school
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Breaking curfew
  • Acting irresponsibly
  • Asking for money or stealing
  • Making secretive calls
  • Locking bedroom doors
  • Spending less time with friends and family

Many teens who abuse drugs also have co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety. In most cases of teen dual diagnosis, inpatient rehab offering integrated dual diagnosis treatment provides the optimum pathway to recovery.

Signs of Drug Use at Work

Drug use and abuse by U.S. workers causes social, medical, and safety issues. Drug use at work can also: 

  • Threaten public safety
  • Reduce productivity and impair performance

Learning how to recognize the signs of workplace substance abuse can help to cut the cost associated with addiction at work, and it might help someone to connect with the help they need.

Physical signs of drug use at work 

  • Slurred speech
  • Drop in personal hygiene standards
  • Changes to physical appearance
  • Reduced awareness
  • Sluggish reaction times
  • Distorted hearing
  • Restricted mobility
  • Sudden incapacity

Psychological signs of drug use at work 

  • Abrupt mood changes
  • Confusion
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Impaired judgement
  • Lapses in memory

Behavioral signs of drug use at work 

  • Erratic behavior
  • Dishonesty
  • Absenteeism
  • Poor performance at work
  • Bad time-keeping
  • Theft
  • Poor relationships with colleagues, managers, and clients
  • Reduced functionality
  • Difficulty performing routine tasks
  • Distorted reasoning
  • Fluctuations in energy and focus
  • Reduced levels of perception
  • Impaired coordination

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reports that individuals who use drugs at work are more likely to injure themselves and others, to be absent from work, and to make claims for worker’s compensation claim as those who do not use drugs at work. Substance abuse in the workplace also seriously impacts productivity.

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Getting Help for Drug Addiction at California Detox

While there is no cure for substance use disorder, most cases of drug addiction respond positively to evidence-based treatment. We can help you with this at California Detox in Laguna Beach. 

Before you engage with inpatient or outpatient therapy, take advantage of our supervised medical detox program. Access FDA-approved medications and continuous care as you detox from drugs over a week or so. You will then be ready to transition into one of the following drug addiction treatment programs: 

  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program)
  • Inpatient program (residential rehab)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program

All drug addictions are unique. At California Detox, your treatment team will draw from the following interventions to individualize your treatment plan: 

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

When you are ready to initiate a sustained recovery from drug addiction, reach out to California Detox in Orange County for treatment at all levels of intensity. Call 949.390.5377 for immediate assistance.


All addictions are unique, but a central component of substance use disorder is the compulsive use of substances regardless of adverse outcomes.
The last stage of addiction is also known as the end stage or chronic stage. By this point, the addiction has become severe and deeply ingrained in an individual’s life. They may have lost control over their substance use and they may experience significant negative consequences as a result of their addiction. They may have difficulty maintaining relationships, employment. Physical health often suffers. They may also have a high risk of overdose or other serious health complications. In the last stage of addiction, professional treatment is typically necessary to help the person overcome the physical and psychological components of substance use disorder.


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