Learning how to tell if someone is using drugs can help you get lifesaving help for a loved one. People with substance use disorders typically try to hide their symptoms, making it more challenging to notice when someone needs specialized care. However, you can recognize the warning signs more easily when you know what to look for.
Behavioral changes can help you determine if a loved one has an addiction. You can spot physical, mental, emotional and social signs of drug use to decide whether someone close to your heart is struggling behind closed doors. Recognizing addiction can be challenging because maintaining a drug habit requires denial and secrecy, so you should know what to look for.
Understanding how to tell if someone is under the influence is an integral part of recognizing addiction. Your friend, partner or family member may have drugs in their system or use substances regularly if you notice the following physical signs:
Drug use can quickly lead to dependency and addiction. Here are some warning signs to look for.
Drug use changes brain chemistry, and you may notice a loved one gradually needing more of a substance to feel the same sensations. Mental health and addiction professionals refer to this phenomenon as tolerance.
Drugs flood the brain's reward circuit with chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, producing intense positive emotions and pleasant feelings. As a person's substance use continues, their brain adjusts to the changes and reduces the reward circuit's response to the drug. The amount they started using may no longer cause the euphoric feelings they seek, motivating them to use higher amounts.
Your loved one may have an addiction if you notice them using higher amounts of an illegal substance or misusing a prescription substance.
A person with an addiction may experience sudden mood swings and unexplained personality changes. They may appear calm, happy or excited when they are under the influence and display intense irritability or angry outbursts when the drug wears off. If you notice your loved one acting differently than they previously did or exhibiting unexplained mood swings, they may have an addiction.
A loved one with an addiction may also display unexplained fear, paranoia or anxiety. Anxiety is a common drug and alcohol withdrawal symptom, so your loved one may appear overly anxious when they are sober. A person may also appear overly fearful or jumpy while under the influence of a drug because some substances, such as hallucinogens, can cause temporary or long-term paranoia.
A friend, partner or family member who uses drugs may hide them in the following places and objects:
While hidden drugs are the most significant indicator of addiction, you should also look for drug paraphernalia if you suspect a loved one needs intervention and help. Items such as lighters, needles, syringes, bongs, burnt spoons, broken glass, pipes, vape pen wrappers and cartridges and excessive amounts of eyewash solutions are often signs of addiction.
Drug use and addiction can affect people's families, social circles and romantic relationships. Often, people experiencing substance use disorders prioritize drugs over the people they care about because of their intense physical and mental dependence. Your loved one may cause conflict with family members due to their mood and personality changes, potentially damaging connections with their nearest and dearest. They might treat you or others differently than they used to, leading to strained relationships.
In addition to relationship complications, someone in the throes of addiction may exhibit sudden changes in their social connections. They may abandon their favorite hobbies and relationships to spend time on unhealthy activities. They might lose friends due to their drug use or avoid specific people to hide their addiction. If your loved one suddenly shows little to no interest in activities they used to enjoy, they could be using their time to buy and use drugs.
Substance misuse causes people to prioritize drugs over every other facet of their lives, including their responsibilities. If your friend, partner or loved one has an addiction, they may gradually neglect obligations such as attending school, showing up to work regularly, paying their bills or caring for their children.
Ignoring responsibilities and buying drugs can eventually lead to financial difficulties. People living with addiction might ask to borrow large amounts of money or lose their job due to their erratic behavior. You may also notice a loved one struggling to pay their bills if they spend most of their money obtaining drugs.
A person with addiction may display symptoms resembling depression or mania. Stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines can cause bursts of intense energy or physical activity, and a person may feel lethargic and unenthusiastic when one of these drugs wears off. In contrast, methamphetamines and marijuana can significantly lower motivation during and after use, causing a person to appear “spaced-out” or excessively tired.
If your partner, friend or family member has a substance use disorder, they may engage in high-risk behaviors and find themselves in legal trouble. Driving under the influence and theft are typical consequences of addiction because substance use impairs judgment, and they may steal money or valuable items to pay for drugs.
The compulsive desire to abuse substances may persist despite adverse repercussions like legal trouble, co-occurring mental illness, withdrawal symptoms, blackouts or damaged relationships. In this case, the person you care about most likely needs professional treatment to get sober and start recovering from their addiction.
Another sign your loved one may have a substance use disorder is suspicious or secretive behavior. They might communicate less than usual, spend more time alone or provide little detail about their actions. It may be time to talk to your friend, partner or family member about their behavior if they seem excessively withdrawn or closed off.
When you recognize the signs of addiction, you can get your loved one the help they need. At Diamond House Detox, we offer inpatient residential and outpatient addiction treatment, and we are one of Northern California's only treatment centers offering incidental medical services. Our compassionate team provides effective individualized treatment to help each client work toward recovery and wellness. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you or a loved one find freedom from addiction.