Signs and symptoms of drug addiction and abuse

In the beginning, signs of drug addiction are easily masked or explained away with excuses. “I’m tired,” or “I don’t feel well,” are common answers to curious questions about the new addictive behavior. However, it is important to keep an eye on changing patterns of performance, appearance and behaviour may also signal signs and sympoms of abuse. 

 The list below shows different ways to identify if someone is using drugs. The items on the first list prove direct evidence of drug use, while items in the other categories offer signs that may indicate drug use. 
For this reason look for extreme changes in behaviour, changes that together form a pattern associated with drug use.

Signs of Drug Abuse and Drug Equipment

  • Possession of drug-related equipment such as pipes, rolling papers or small decongestant bottles. Other equipment such as small mirrors, small spoons, razor blades, lighters, rags for sniffing, tubes of glue, balloons, nozzles
  • Possession of drugs, peculiar plants, butts, seeds or leaves in ashtrays or in clothing pockets. Bags of candy to hide pills, aerosol cans,  tubes of glue
  • Odour of drugs, smell of incense or other "cover-up" scents

Signs of Physical Deterioration

  • Memory lapses, short attention span, difficulty in concentration
  • Poor physical co-ordination, slurred or incoherent speech
  • Unhealthy appearance, indifference to hygiene and grooming
  • Bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils - often find them using eye drops in their eyes

Changes in Behaviour

  • Chronic dishonesty (lying, stealing, cheating)
  • Changes in friends, evasiveness in talking about new friends
  • possession of large amounts of money
  • Increasing and inappropriate anger, hostility, irritability and secretiveness
  • Reduced motivation, energy, self-discipline and self-esteem
  • Diminished interest in extracurricular activities and hobbies


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