Thursday, August 27, 2009

Identifying Drug Abuse

Identifying if a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol is the first step in getting them to recovery. It is not always easy to be sure, especially in today's world – prescription drugs represent the most widely abused drugs in America today.

People abusing drugs tend to lie about their usage. Using a home drug testing kit can be difficult and embarrassing.

Products can be purchased on the internet that obscure positive test results. A family member may be doctor shopping and convince you that all the drugs they are taking are prescribed, easing your concerns – yet they may be addicted.

It can be difficult to be sure, yet the life of a friend or family member may utterly depend on you correctly identifying their drug or alcohol abuse. Once the problem is out in the open, it can be addressed.

Signs of drug abuse are listed below for most drugs abused in our society today:

Opiate Abuse

Opiates include heroin, morphine and a range of prescription drugs. Oxycontin, Dilaudid, Percoset, Percodan and Oxycodone all fall under the category of opiates. Whether they are bought on the street or are prescribed, the symptoms of abuse will be the same.

A person on opiates will have constricted pupils that look like pinpoints or small dots. If the method of ingestion is sniffing, the nostrils may appear raw or red. If the method of ingestion is by injection there will be needle marks in the arms, behind the knees or the ankles.

Heroin users have been known to inject themselves under the tongue, or directly into open sores. These locations are not as easy to detect.

Opiates affect people in different ways: some may get very "hyper" (active or frantic) and run around working or looking busy while others get very lethargic (nodding or doping off). The person may go around asking others for money. This will not be small change for cigarettes, but more like $20 or $40 here or there.

Amphetamines and Cocaine Abuse

Amphetamines include meth bought on the street and Adderal, which is prescribed. There are other amphetamine type prescription drugs, such as Ritalin, which can be abused.

The symptoms of those on cocaine and methamphetamine are similar and are listed below.

A person on cocaine or speed will usually have glassy eyes and very, very large pupils. They may try to hide this condition by constantly wearing sunglasses or other dark glasses.

The behavior will be erratic. A person on cocaine or amphetamines cannot relax or confront and is restless.

One will observe uncharacteristic activity, irritability, nervousness or aggression. Remember, stimulants speed up the body's functions and the person may have trouble sitting still, remaining inactive or controlling his or her temper. For this reason, there may be long periods without sleeping. The body, quickened by the chemicals, avoids sleep for extended periods of time. The person may exhibit this tendency of insomnia and then "crash" and sleep for similarly long periods of time.

The person will tend to move fast and ramble or be non sequitur in conversation-jumping from one topic to another. He or she will also experience "cotton mouth" and may drink inordinate amounts of water to satiate thirst and constantly be licking the lips.

There may be constant sniffing despite the lack of a cold or allergies.The person might exhibit unexplainable changes in appetite or weight. Stimulants diminish the user's appetite (which is why they are found in diet pills.) One might see a sudden lack of interest in food.

Aside from the physical signs of abuse, a person may show other signs by often borrowing money in odd increments (like $20, $30, $40). Other signs may be overuse of the person, or significant other's ATM card - like financial transactions taking place a few hours apart, several times per day - this pattern might be carried on through the night until the following morning.

Marijuana, Pot Abuse

People on marijuana, pot, hash or hash oil will have irritated eyes. They may be bloodshot or appear to have a dazed or expressionless appearance and will also experience dry lips and "cotton mouth."

They can walk around in a daze or euphoric stupor, staring out into space or at nothing, and may go into fits of laughter or laugh when there is nothing to laugh about.

Marijuana has a strong, pungent, virtually unmistakable odor. It's long lasting and difficult to mask. This is a telltale sign that a person has either smoked marijuana or it has been smoked in his or her presence. The person may attempt to eliminate this sign by putting clothes in the wash immediately upon coming home or taking a quick shower before being around other people.

LSD Abuse

A person who has taken LSD or other psychedelics will manifest glassy eyes and have a blank, vacant stare.

There will be inappropriate and extended interest in common objects -for example, examining an ashtray or a drawing for a long time, turning it, viewing it from different angles. The person may also have a similar interest in body parts, such as a finger, hand or food. Conversation tends to be esoteric, like a "head trip." And they will hallucinate.

A person on LSD will experience anxiety for no apparent reason. PCP users may experience sweating episodes, salivate heavily and have flushed skin. They may have dilated pupils and may be inexplicably high-strung.

Depressants - Alcohol Abuse

A person under the influence of depressants such as barbiturates or Valium may act intoxicated (slurred speech, stumbling gait, droopy eyes, etc).

Depressants slow down the body's functions, which may prompt unwarranted sleep episodes. There will be a pronounced tendency to fall asleep in unusual situations such as at dinner and the person will show signs of overall listlessness.

Alcohol can be detected on the breath. A user may attempt to mask it with extraordinary use of mints, mouthwash or even garlic. Speech will be slurred.

Watch for drawn-out speech and rambling, sometimes illogical talk. Symptomatic of alcohol abuse are headaches and nausea. Watch for telltale signs of hangover, disinterest in breakfast, late sleeping and an overall grouchiness throughout the day.

In all instances of substance abuse, watch for a tendency on the part of the abuser to refrain from and shun conversation and face-to-face meetings with others. You are watching for behavior that represents a somewhat dramatic change in character from previous experience.


An inhalant abuser may leave evidence of paint or glue on their face. There will be a runny nose and eyes and inappropriate drowsiness. The odor of the substance inhaled will be on the abuser's clothes or body. They might try to not give themselves away by attempting to walk slowly and straight, but this effort is very obvious.

There is help. You do not have to face this alone.

No comments: