Skip to main content

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse and Addiction

By DeAnza Bonzelaar

Adapted from

Common symptoms of drug addiction

You keep taking a drug even after you no longer need it for a health problem.

You start to feel withdrawal symptoms (nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety) if you try to stop, so you just continue to use to ease the pain.

You develop a tolerance and have to increase the amount of drugs you take to get the same effect.

You lose interest in things you once liked to do.

Your life revolves around drug use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about drugs, figuring out how to get them, or recovering from the drug’s effects.

You recognize that the drugs are hurting you, but you can’t stop. It’s causing major problems in your life—blackouts, financial issues, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia. You might feel powerless.

Physical warning signs

Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
Issues sleeping; can’t sleep or an irregular sleeping pattern
Sudden weight loss or weight gain; as well as sudden increase or decrease in appetite
Decline of physical appearance and personal grooming habits
Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
Tremors or decreased coordination, slurred speech

Behavioral warning signs

Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
Unexplained financial problems; borrowing or stealing
Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors; dishonesty
Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)

Psychological warning signs

Unexplained change in personality or attitude
Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out”
Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid

Warning signs of commonly abused recreational drugs

Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss.

Stimulants (including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth): Dilated pupils; hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go long periods of time without eating or sleeping; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.

Inhalants (glues, aerosols, vapors): Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; lots of cans/aerosols in the trash.

Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP): Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.

Heroin: Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light; needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite.

Warning signs of commonly abused prescription drugs

Opioid painkillers (including OxyContin, Vicodin, Norco): Drooping eyes, constricted pupils even in dim light, sudden itching or flushing, slurred speech; drowsiness, lack of energy; inability to concentrate, lack of motivation, decline in performance at work or school; neglecting friendships and social activities.

Anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, and hypnotics (including Xanax, Valium, Ambien): Contracted pupils; drunk-like, slurred speech, difficulty concentrating, clumsiness; poor judgment, drowsiness, slowed breathing.

Stimulants (including Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Dexedrine): Dilated pupils, reduced appetite; agitation, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, high body temperature; insomnia, paranoia.

Subscribe to the resource blog below

We strive to be a resource for those involved personally in addiction and for affected loved ones. Within our resource blog, we post information on topics such as substance use disorder and addiction, mental health, and treatment and recovery among others. Let us know what other topics you would like to learn more about.

Leave a Reply