Drug Addiction Symptoms

Drug addiction is formally called substance abuse disorder, and it is a disease. When someone has substance abuse disorder, they are unable to control their use of either legal or illegal drugs, including alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine.

Often, people with substance abuse disorder will continue to use the drug even if it is negatively affecting them. Often, it just starts with experimental use, but it can quickly develop into an addiction.

For some people, this is a gradual problem, but for others, it is almost immediate. There are various signs and symptoms of drug use, abuse, and addiction, and it is important to have a good understanding of them.

Importance of Early Intervention

Early intervention is crucial for drug addiction or substance abuse disorder.

The earlier someone can receive help and get over the addiction, it will not only be easier to recover from the addiction, but the person may be able to get sober before the addiction takes over and hurts multiple areas of their life such as work or school, social, and financial.

For this reason, if you suspect that your loved one might be dealing with addiction or using drugs, it is a good idea to speak up early on.

There is more instruction about what you can do if a loved one has a substance abuse disorder below.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse or Addiction

There are some symptoms and signs that are fairly good indicators of drug abuse or addiction, no matter what the substance is.

The signs include the following:

  • A need to use the drug on a regular basis, possibly even several times a day
  • The inability to focus on anything due to the intense urge you have to consume/use a drug or other substance
  • Increased levels of tolerance, which means you will need to take more of a drug to get the same results
  • Taking more of a substance or using it for a longer time period than you or your doctor intended
  • Having a need to maintain a constant supply
  • Spending money on the substance, even if you cannot afford it. This may include stealing money from loved ones to do so
  • Not fulfilling other responsibilities because of drug use
  • Inability to quit the substance even though it is causing problems in your life
  • Inability to quit the substance even though it is causing you physical or mental anguish
  • Partaking in risky or illegal behaviour in order to get the drug
  • Partaking in risky or illegal behaviour while you are under the influence of the substance
  • Attempting to quit using the substance and relapsing
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you are unable to use the substance
  • Problems at work or school
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Neglecting your appearance
  • Extreme behavioural changes
  • Financial problems due to substance use
Call us now for help

Signs and Symptoms for Specific Drugs

Beyond the above list, there are some symptoms and signs that are related to specific drugs, and therefore cannot be generalised to all substance abuse problems.

Below are some of the most common signs and symptoms of drug abuse divided by the substance.

1. Cannabis

Cannabis can be consumed by smoking, eating, or inhaling it. People often do not believe that they can become addicted to cannabis because it is a more common drug that is generally regarded as less dangerous.

Sometimes people start out by developing cannabis addictions but then move on to other, more dangerous or intense, substances.

Signs and symptoms of cannabis use include:

  • A euphoric or high feeling
  • Heightened visual, taste, and auditory perception
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Red eyes
  • Slower reaction time
  • Poor coordination
  • Concentration problems
  • Bad memory
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxious or paranoid thinking
  • Cannabis odour (can be on clothes, breath, or in house or car.)
  • Yellowed fingertips
  • Food cravings, otherwise known as the munchies

Chronic use can also cause:

  • Decreased mental intelligence
  • Poor work or school performance
  • Loss of friends

2. K2 and Spice

These drugs can be smoked, but they are also drunk as a tea. The symptoms related to these substances can be extremely unpredictable and, therefore, dangerous, especially since they are pretty much all illegal therefore, there is absolutely no way to guarantee what is in it.

Signs and symptoms of use are:

  • A euphoric or high feeling
  • Elevated mood
  • A shift in visual, auditory, or taste perception
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Increased agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Heart attack

3. Bath Salts

Bath salts are cathinones, which are psychoactive substances similar to ecstasy and cocaine. Bath salts can be snorted, eaten, inhaled, or injected.

No matter which form you use, they are highly addictive. Signs and symptoms of use include:

  • A sense of euphoria
  • Increased sociability, sex drive, and energy
  • Agitation
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Unclear thinking
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Paranoia
  • A sense of panic or panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychotic behaviour
  • Violent behaviour
  • Delirium

4. Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, and Hypnotics

All three of these are drugs that depress the central nervous system, and they all can be prescribed by a doctor, but any time you use one outside of a doctor’s direction, you are abusing it, and you can develop an addiction even if you are not purposefully abusing it.

Signs and symptoms of use include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Unclear thinking
  • Memory problems
  • Slowed breathing
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Falls and accidents
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of inhibition

5. Meth, Cocaine, and Stimulants

Stimulants include a wide range of different drugs, including amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine, methylphenidate, and amphetamine-dextroamphetamine.

People often take these drugs to find a high, receive an energy boost, improve their performance or efficiency, lose weight, or control appetite, but there is a large range of dangerous symptoms and side effects, including the following:

  • Feelings of exhilaration
  • An excess of confidence
  • Increased alertness
  • High energy levels
  • Restlessness
  • Rambling speech
  • Rapid speech
  • Behaviour changes
  • Aggression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Impaired judgment
  • Congestion
  • Damage to the mucous membrane (only with snorting)
  • Mouth sores
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

6. Club Drugs

Club drugs include a number of different drugs that are consumed at clubs, concerts, and parties on a regular basis.

Club drugs are things like ecstasy, molly, GHP, and ketamine. Some of the drugs like GHB and flunitrazepam have side effects like sedation, muscle relaxation, and confusion which leaves space for sexual misconduct and sexual assault.

Other symptoms and signs of club drug use are:

  • Hallucinations
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Paranoia
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Behaviour Changes
  • Cramping
  • Teeth Clenching
  • Muscle Relaxation
  • Poor Coordination
  • Movement Problems
  • Reduced Inhibitions
  • A Heightened Sense Of Sight, Sound, And Taste
  • Lack Of Good Judgment
  • Memory Loss
  • Reduced Consciousness
  • Elevated Or Decreased Heart Rate
  • Elevated Or Decreased Blood Pressure

7. Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens are drugs that produce hallucinations and a variety of other symptoms.

Common hallucinogens include things like LSD and PCP. Symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Reduced Perception Of Reality
  • Impulsive Behaviour
  • Shifts In Emotion
  • Changes In Perception Which Can Be Permanent
  • Rapid Heart Rate
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Termors
  • Flashbacks
  • Feelings Of Being Separated From Your Body
  • Coordination Problems
  • Movement Problems
  • Aggressive And Violent Behaviours
  • Involuntary Eye Movements
  • Lack Of Pain Sensation
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Elevated Heart Rate
  • Memory Problems
  • Speaking Problems
  • Impaired Judgment
  • Noise Intolerance
  • Seizures
  • Coma

8. Inhalants

Inhalants include a wide variety of different substances, which create a wide variety of different effects.

Inhalants include things like glue, household aerosol products, paint thinners, cleaners, correction fluids, and felt tip marker fluid.

The severest symptoms include things like brain damage and sudden death, but other symptoms also include:

  • Brief Euphoria
  • Intoxication
  • Decreased Inhibition
  • Combativeness
  • Belligerence
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Involuntary Eye Movements
  • Slurred Speech
  • Slow Movements
  • Poor Coordination
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Lingering Odours
  • Rash Around The Nose And/Or Mouth

9. Opioid Painkillers

Opioids are painkillers that are either produced from opium or made synthetically in a lab. This category includes drugs like morphine, codeine, heroin, methadone, and oxycodone.

Signs and symptoms of opioid painkillers are:

  • Reduced Sense Of Pain
  • Agitation
  • Sedation
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred Speech
  • Attention Problems
  • Memory Problems
  • Constricted Pupils
  • Lack Of Awareness
  • Inattention
  • Poor Coordination
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Runny Nose
  • Nose Sores
  • Needle Marks
Call us now for help

Emergent Signs and Symptoms

There are two levels of emergent signs and symptoms. The first just means you should see a doctor at some point soon to get help with detox and recovery.

These symptoms include things like being unable to stop using the drug, your drug use leading to unsafe behaviour, and withdrawal symptoms.

The other level of emergent signs and symptoms means you need to call 999 for you or your loved ones.

This includes if you think you may be overdosing if there are changes in consciousness if you have trouble breathing, if you have seizures or convulsions, or if you show signs of a possible heart attack.

How to Identify Drug Use in Adolescents

In adolescents, it can be difficult to figure out if they are using drugs because many of the signs and symptoms of drug use are the same signs and symptoms of just being a teenager.

This includes things like moodiness, mood swings, irritability, sleeping odd hours, lack of interest in activities, slacking off at school, etc.

The main signs to look out for are being newly withdrawn, tired, depressed, or hostile.

You may also want to pay attention to whether or not the child has begun to hang out with a different friend group, as that can often be related to substance abuse.

The most important thing is that when you consider the symptoms above, consider whether it is a new and/or sudden change or if it developed as they entered their teenage year.

If it is new, drastic, or sudden, it may be a reason to be concerned. However, if the symptom came gradually as they entered their teenage years, there is not necessarily anything to worry about.

Myths about Drug Abuse/Addiction

Below, we list five common myths associated with drug abuse and addiction:

When someone becomes addicted to drugs, it changes the way their brain works and their entire body adjusts to functioning with the drugs.

This means that when they quit, the cravings and compulsions making it almost impossible to be successful with willpower alone.

Opioids and other prescription drugs may be prescribed by the doctor, but that does not mean they are safe to take recreationally.

Doctors prescribe these drugs to help people cope with severe pain and other severe symptoms, but they can be dangerous, even when they are given by a doctor, and are more so when done recreationally.

While it is true that addiction is a disease, those who deal with addiction are not helpless. Brain and body changes caused by substances can be dealt with medication, exercise, therapy, and other treatments. Receiving these treatments is one reason why it is so important to seek help if you or a loved one is dealing with addiction.

Rock bottom is a point where many people do turn themselves around and seek help, but it is not necessary to reach rock bottom in order to get better.

If you notice someone in your life is dealing with addiction, intervene as soon as possible, because the longer addiction goes on, the stronger it gets.

Recovery is a long process and setbacks and relapse are often a part of that. Just because you or a loved one has had a relapse, does not mean that you should not try to recover again.

Most people relapse, but you can still get sober if you keep at it; either go back to treatment or try a new one.

Get in touch today

Call now on 0800 088 66 86 for confidential and immediate advice.

Request Call Back

Leave your details and we will discreetly call you back. All calls are completely confidential.




Please enter the number into the box: captcha

Do you need…

Help for yourself?
Help for a friend or loved one?

We can help: call us now.

"Thank you for helping me to make the right choice for myself and my family." 
Sheila, Chelmsford (Read More)

MapWith Clinics throughout the UK we can help you get back on track

Contact Us

We accept most private
health insurers

Health Insurers
|