Drug Abuse - Warning Signs & Ways to Help
Schneck Medical Center - September 11, 2020

Drug Abuse in America 

The Reality of Drug Abuse

Drug abuse and addiction pose critical threats to the health and wellbeing of many Americans today. Let's begin with a few quick facts: These numbers remind us that Americans in all walks of life can struggle with substance abuse. A combination of social and biological/genetic factors lead to substance abuse, a disease which takes on many different forms (alcohol, marijuana, and opioids being among the most widely used). In this article we will equip you to identify the key warning signs of drug abuse or addiction—whether in yourself or in someone you know—and offer resources for finding help.

The Signs of Drug Abuse

Every drug affects the human body differently; however, there are a number of general warning signs which apply to most forms of drug abuse. These may be broken down into physical and behavioral signs.

Physical Signs of Drug Abuse

Drug abuse elicits negative changes in the way users look and feed. Drugabuse.com identifies the following physical warnings signs:
  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Abrupt weight changes
  • Negative changes in hygiene
  • Dental issues
  • Skin changes
  • Problems sleeping or sleeping too much
Isolated symptoms could be rooted in causes other than drugs, but an individual manifesting several of these physical warning signs may be struggling with drug abuse. 

Behavioral Signs of Drug Abuse

Of course, drug abuse also impacts human behavior. This is largely due to how drugs affect the brain, the control center of all our behaviors. Many of the behavioral changes are connected to the physical signs above. According to drugabuse.com, warning signs may include the following:
  • Increased aggression
  • Irritability
  • Changes in personality
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Sudden changes in habits and/or priorities
  • Slurred speech
Such behavioral signs may also be triggered during a withdrawal, when an individual has gone a certain period of time without using his or her drug of addiction.

Finding & Providing Help

The nature of addiction makes it difficult, and at times impossible, for individuals to seek help on their own. This is why it remains our responsibility to intervene if we suspect someone we know is struggling with drug abuse. Early intervention is crucial. The sooner you can find or provide help, the greater the chance of a stronger recovery. Because addiction is a treatable disorder.
Although intervention by loved ones could be enough to stop minor instances of drug abuse, most cases will require medical treatment and/or rehabilitation. Drug abuse can harm many areas of an individual's life—physical, mental, social, vocational—so an effective treatment plan must address the whole person.
If someone is unwilling to address their addictive behavior, it can be difficult to change their mind. However, you can still take the initiative to search out contact information for an appropriate physician or health professional and provide it for your friend or family member. Drugabuse.gov offers numerous resources and helplines. The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry also has a Patient Referral Program.
Caring for someone struggling with drug use disorders requires patience, but change is possible. Visit our Mental Health & Wellness page to learn more or take next steps.