Drug use is a growing problem in the United States. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), about 50% of Americans aged 12 and older have used illegal drugs at least once. With this shocking trend, it's no wonder many people are worried about their loved ones using illegal drugs.
If you're concerned that your loved one may be using drugs, it's important to identify the instance of abuse early, so you can intervene before it turns into a full-blown addiction. The longer your loved one abuses drugs, the harder it will be for them to quit without experiencing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Long-term drug or alcohol abuse can also lead to serious health problems, like liver damage, heart disease, and brain damage.
How to tell if someone is on drugs
It can be difficult to tell if your loved one is using illegal drugs. However, some warning signs may indicate drug use. If you notice any of the following signs, it's important to talk to your loved one and get them help:
A shift in mood and personality
One of the most common signs is a dramatic change in mood or personality. This can manifest itself in various ways, from sudden outbursts of anger to withdrawing from social activities. For example, a person who is usually cheerful may become withdrawn and sullen. Or a person who is typically outgoing may become more introverted and subdued.
These changes in behavior may be accompanied by other signs, such as changes in sleep patterns, appetite, or energy level. Drug use can also cause a person to become more impulsive, irritable, or paranoid. If you notice any sudden or dramatic mood swings or changes in personality, it could be a sign that the person is using drugs, and you should take action accordingly.
Another common sign of drug use is a change in behavioral health. This can include neglecting responsibilities, engaging in risky behaviors, or exhibiting criminal behavior. For example, a person who suddenly starts skipping work or school, getting into fights, or breaking the law may be using drugs. They may also isolate themselves from friends and family, become withdrawn and outspoken, avoid eye contact, lock doors, borrow money, disappear for extended periods and chew gum to cover up.
Changes in hygiene and appearance
A change in physical appearance can also be a sign of drug use. The reason is that people abusing drugs don't care about their appearance much more than finding the next shot of drugs. They also may be unable to eat or sleep, leading to weight loss.
Besides, drug admission modes like injection can cause visible track marks and infections that can change a person's appearance. As a result, a person may look unkempt, have bloodshot eyes or red eyes, and dilated pupils. They may also look thin and tired; their skin can be pale or odd in color.
Changes in physical health
If someone is using drugs, it can sometimes cause them to have physical health problems. This might include weight loss, frequent sickness, mouth sores, runny nose, etc. That's because drug use can lead to a weakened immune system, making it harder for the body to fight infection.
Drug use can also lead to accidents or injuries that result in bruises and skin abrasions. But the most obvious physical sign of drug use is slurred speech, like when a person's words are jumbled or they have difficulty speaking. This happens because drugs can slow down the body's central nervous system.
Last but not least, if you see any drug paraphernalia, it's a sure sign that the person is using drugs. This includes pipes, syringes, rolling papers, lighters, and roach clips. Drug paraphernalia is often used to store, prepare, and consume drugs.
So, if you see any of these items lying around it's a good indicator that the person is using drugs. You can find paraphernalia in your loved one's room, car, or even on their body.
Tips when looking for signs of drug use
People who abuse drugs won't make it obvious that they're doing so. In fact, they will often try to hide their drug use from others. So it's important to be vigilant and look for the subtle signs of drug use. Here are some tips:
Talk face-to-face with a loved one
When your loved one comes home, take some time to talk with them face-to-face. This will give you a better opportunity to look for any signs of drug use, such as changes in appearance or dilated pupils. You might also catch some smell of drugs like marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco.
Observe their behavior
Are they more withdrawn than usual? Do they seem more tired or have less energy? Have they been skipping work or school? Are they engaging in risky behaviors? Do they have any mental health disorders? These are all potential signs of drug use.
Listen to what they say
Do they avoid eye contact when talking to you? Do they make excuses for their behavior? Do they seem paranoid or anxious? These could all be signs that they are using drugs.
Trust your gut
If something doesn't feel right, trust your gut instinct. If you think your loved one is using drugs, there's a good chance they are.
Search their spaces
If you suspect your loved one is using drugs, it's important to search their personal spaces, such as their room, car, or locker. Check the drawers, wardrobe, inside prescription drugs containers, in a plant, under the bed or sofa, between books, inside containers, candy bags, etc. Most drug users hide drugs or paraphernalia in such places.
Check their phone
Nowadays, people use their phones for everything. So it's not surprising that drug users also use their phones to keep track of their drug supply and contact dealers. If you have access to your loved one's phone, check it for any suspicious texts or calls. You can also look for apps associated with drugs, such as those used to buy or sell drugs.
Drug use can be difficult to spot, but there are some warning signs to look out for. If you think your loved one is using illegal drugs, take action and talk to them about it. If they are unwilling to get help, you can reach out to a professional addiction treatment center for help.