drug abuse

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse: How to Recognize a Substance Abuse Problem in a Loved One

Drug abuse, so often done in secret, can be mistaken for stress, depression or even teenage angst. Knowing the signs could very well save the life of a loved one.

According to Help Guide.org, drug abuse, also known as “substance abuse,” is defined as the continuous use of a chemical substance with the intention of achieving a certain effect. Drug abuse is not a weakness, but rather it is an illness that causes real changes in the brain, causing the user to crave more and more of the destructive substance. Both illegal narcotics and prescription medications can be abused, and are equally addictive, dangerous and havoc-wreaking on the lives of the abuser and of his family, friends and co-workers.

What are the Physical Symptoms of Drug Abuse?

Depending on the type of drug being abused, physical symptoms will vary, but are alike in that any kind of drug abuse negatively affects the body and brain. According to Help Guide.org and Mental Health.net, physical symptoms of drug abuse include sudden weight gain or loss, excessive sleeping, dental problems, puncture marks, skin infections, persistent coughing or bronchitis that may contain blood laced mucus, nose and throat problems, constricted pupils, bloodshot eyes, strange eye movements, confusion, disorientation, tremors, episodes of heightened energy, irritability and insomnia, and slowed speech, movements and reactions.

How Do Drug Abusers Behave?

According to Mental Help.net, drug abusers are typically very secretive about their drug use. However, they will display certain behaviors that will belie their facade. Typical behaviors include poor work performance, neglect of home, children or own appearance, repeated lateness or absence for work or social engagements, odd or unbelievable excuses for being late or absent, borrowing or stealing money, strange clothing changes (such as wearing long sleeves to conceal injection marks) and secretive behavior such as extended periods of isolation or keeping doors locked.

Are There Emotional Side Effects of Drug Abuse?

Because drugs are used to affect mood, naturally there will be noticeable changes in the user’s emotional demeanor, ranging from extreme highs to debilitating lows. According to Help Guide.org, drug abuse can also cause a myriad of mental and emotional disturbances including paranoia, irritability, anger, violent behavior, panic, depression, apathy, excess energy, euphoria, talkativeness, unusual calmness, appearing “spaced-out”, delusions, hallucinations and flashbacks.

What are the Physical Side Effects of Drug Abuse?

Medical symptoms of drug abuse can only be detected during an exam conducted by a medical professional. According to Mental Help.net and the Mayo Clinic, these signs can include enlarged red blood cells, high or low blood pressure, slowed breathing, fever, accelerated heart rate, elevated liver enzymes, impaired motor function and, of course, positive finding of drugs in the blood, urine or hair.

What Type of Trail Do Drug Abusers Leave?

Although drug abusers will attempt to keep their problem a secret, because of the effects of the drugs they may also get sloppy about hiding evidence, i.e. drug paraphernalia. Evidence of drug use includes pill bottles, vials, lighters, pipes, syringes, roach clips, straws, mirrors or small plastic bags.

So the Signs are There… Now What?

If a loved one is displaying signs of drug abuse, it’s vital that he or she gets into some type of treatment program. Look for a program that is accredited and licensed, has a verifiable success rate, employs qualified individuals and offers a fine aftercare program. A family physician or local hospital should be able to provide a reference and help with the first steps.

Help Guide: www.helpguide.org

Mental Help: www.mentalhealth.net

Mayo Clinic: www.mayoclinic.com

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