Whether you’re a parent, friend or family member, seeing someone you care for act out of character can be concerning. If you’ve recently noticed changes in a loved one’s behaviour and suspect there might be drugs involved, you’re probably wondering how to spot the signs of drug use.
Firstly, it’s important to realise that drug addiction symptoms may vary greatly depending on the type of drug that’s being misused and the extent to which a person has become dependent on it.
If you’re worried that a young person you know might be using drugs, try to start a conversation about it and express your concern without being overly confrontational. Taking time to engage with them respectfully and listen to their point of view can help the conversation go more smoothly.
Of course, being aware of the warning signs can help you recognise a problem and intervene early on. So with this in mind, here are some of the common signs of drug use.
1. Physical symptoms
Usually, the most noticeable signs someone is on drugs are the physical ones. Even if there are no obvious signs of drug use such as tremors and shaking, poor coordination or slurred speech, you might notice more subtle physical symptoms.
These may include clenching of the jaw, sweating, eyes that are red or watery, pupils that are smaller or larger than usual, and paleness or flushing. You may also notice changes in a person’s sleeping and grooming habits, and a sudden loss of or increase in appetite.
2. Dramatic changes in mood
In addition to their physical affects, drugs can dramatically alter a person’s mood. Someone who frequently uses drugs might seem uncharacteristically anxious, irritable, depressed or even aggressive. Alternatively, a person using drugs might come across as more energetic and talkative than usual, even when there is no obvious reason for this.
3. Neglecting responsibilities
Someone who frequently uses drugs may struggle to meet daily obligations such going to work or school, meeting deadlines, or caring for pets. They may also show a sudden disinterest in hobbies or activities they normally enjoy, such as socialising with friends or playing sports.
4. Reclusive or secretive behaviour
Because addiction can be very isolating, another common sign of drug abuse is uncharacteristically reclusive or secretive behaviour. You may notice that your loved one seems increasingly withdrawn, is more adamant about their need for privacy, and avoids giving clear answers when questioned about their whereabouts or activities.
5. Drug paraphernalia
Many drugs require specific tools to be administered, so the presence of drug paraphernalia such as lighters, rolling papers, pipes, bongs, straws, empty pill bottles or plastic baggies can also be an indication of drug use.
If you recognise some of the above signs and worry that your loved one might be using drugs, try to broach the subject with them without jumping to conclusions. You should also take the time to learn about substance abuse and how you can support your loved one without enabling them.
Remember that drug abuse, if not dealt with, can quickly develop into an addiction, so if you suspect a more serious problem, it can be a good idea to enlist the help of a counsellor or trained addiction specialist who will be able to advise you on the best course of action.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to interact and work with young people, the Open Colleges’ CHC40413 Certificate IV in Youth Work is an excellent starting point. You’ll gain the skills you need to build relationships and trust, respond to critical situations, and support young people struggling with mental distress.
Want to know more? Get in touch with us today to receive a free course guide as well as a consultation with one of our experienced Education Advisors.