Behavioral Signs of Drug Abuse

Addiction is a complex disorder, ignoring the problem or pretending it doesn’t exist won’t make it go away. Understanding the warning signs may help determine if a family member or friend is struggling with drug abuse or addiction.

Behavioral signs of drug abuse vary considerably depending on the substance (e.g. cocaine, heroin, cannabis, methamphetamine, prescription medictaion or other drugs), but there are several common indicators that a person is abusing drugs, including the following:

  • Extreme moods such as severe depression or anxiety. A person abusing drugs may also display mood swings, aggressiveness, confrontational behavior, extreme energy, restlessness or agitation. They might be more talkative than usual or they may speak loudly.
  • Fatigue, sleepiness or exhaustion.
  • Blackouts or memory loss.
  • Changes in regular routines, including unexplained differences in appetite or sleeping more or less than usual.
  • Poor performance at work or school, including tardiness or missed days; frequent complaints by employers, co-workers or teachers.
  • Secretive behavior, including hiding drug paraphernalia or other evidence of use.
  • Denial or lying when confronted about drug use.
  • Financial problems, including unexplained credit card bills, borrowing large amounts of money or petty theft.
  • Frequent encounters with the police or the court system.
  • High-risk behavior, such as erratic driving or dangerous sexual behavior.
  • Social isolation or changes in friends and associates.
  • Loss of interest in activities that are usually pleasurable, including sports, hobbies, time with friends and family or sex.
  • Deterioration in personal appearance, grooming and hygiene.

Addiction is not a sign of lack of willpower or weakness. It is a chronic disease that unfortunately never gets better without help. If a friend or family member displays signs of drug abuse or addiction, encourage the person to seek treatment as soon as possible. Although it isn’t easy, addicted people can recover and lead full, substance-free lives.

Trying to help an addicted person is exhausting and it needs courage to no longer look away, so be sure to take care of yourself. Remember that you cannot fix the problem and it is not your fault.

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