How Can I Tell If Someone Is A Drug Addict?

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Drug use can start out because of a variety of reasons including; trauma, experimentation, boredom, anxiety and social pressures. While virtually any substance can be abused, some drugs carry a higher risk of dependency and addiction than others. Click here to read more about why people do drugs.

There’s no question that substance use and abuse are widespread in the US. Per 2013-2015 data from NIDA’s National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 65.7 percent of individuals 12 and older used alcohol the prior year, 13.5 percent used marijuana or hashish, and 17.8 percent reported using illicit drugs. In their lifetime, 81 percent of those surveyed reported drinking alcohol, 44 percent said they smoked marijuana or hashish, and 48.8 percent had used illicit drugs. The longer one uses a substance, the harder it is to stop without experiencing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. As a result, recognizing the signs of drug use sooner rather than later is important.

Knowing these signs can help to identify whether a loved one may be using drugs and risking harmful consequences to their health, school, job, and family life.

Signs of Addiction

  • They keep taking a drug after it’s no longer needed for a health problem.
  • They need more and more of a substance to get the same effects (called “tolerance”), and They can take more before They feel an effect.
  • They feel strange when the drug wears off. They may be shaky, depressed, sick to Theyr stomach, sweat, or have headaches. They may also be tired or not hungry. In severe cases, They could even be confused, have seizures, or run a fever.
  • They can’t stop Theyrself from using the drug, even if They want to. They are still using it even though it’s making bad things happen in Theyr life, like trouble with friends, family, work, or the law.
  • They spend a lot of Theyr time thinking about the drug: how to get more, when They’ll take it, how good They feel, or how bad They feel afterward.
  • They have a hard time giving Theyrself limits. They might say They’ll only use “so much” but then can’t stop and end up using twice that amount. Or They use it more often than They meant to.
  • They’ve lost interest in things They once liked to do.
  • They’ve begun having trouble doing normal daily things, like cooking or working.
  • They drive or do other dangerous things (like use heavy machines) when They are on the drug.
  • They borrow or steal money to pay for drugs.
  • They hide the drug use or the effect it is having on They from others.
  • They’re having trouble getting along with co-workers, teachers, friends, or family members. They complain more about how They act or how They’ve changed.
  • They sleep too much or too little, compared with how They used to. Or They eat a lot more or a lot less than before.
  • They look different. They may have bloodshot eyes, bad breath, shakes or tremors, frequent bloody noses, or They may have gained or lost weight.
  • They have a new set of friends with whom They do drugs and go to different places to use the drugs.
  • They go to more than one doctor to get prescriptions for the same drug or problem.
  • They look in other people’s medicine cabinets for drugs to take.
  • They take prescribed meds with alcohol or other drugs.

Brett’s True Story of Addiction

Brett’s descent into addiction started out as a bundle of teenage angst and an identity built around rebellion. Skateboarding turned into smoking cigarettes, which turned into smoking Marijuana.

“I found my identity as the bad kid,” Brett said.

“For so long, I thought that drugs were cool. I thought that making money was cool. My whole perception was wrong,” Brett said.

His rock bottom happened when he overdosed shortly after leaving prison on the day of his brother’s wedding.

“My mother almost had to bury and marry a son in the same day,” Brett said.

“That took a lot of courage to finally walk in and realize that I was defeated by this disease. My probation gave me another chance. I had been to prison twice. I had been to 10 rehabs at that point. I had no other choice,” Brett said.

One of the principal factors that helped get him to the point where he realized he couldn’t continue in his addiction—beyond his rock bottom moment was his family going to Al-Anon programs.

“I can’t continue to use if I’m not being enabled by somebody,” Brett said.

His parents learned to take care of themselves. At first he was resentful when they began the program, but he was able to follow shortly after when he wasn’t enabled by them anymore.

Forming a New Identity from the Inside, Out

“My new identity really has nothing to do with these outside things. It has more to do with who I am and who God made me to be,” Brett said.

One of the things that gives him purpose in life now is helping kids who are in recovery.

“I believe my purpose in the program is to make recovery look cool,” Brett said.
Brett feels obligated to gain wisdom from the older guys and pass it on to the younger people. “I might attract them with my humor and intellect. I have things to offer these days, not stuff to hide behind,” Brett said.

Giving Back, Moving Forward

Brett wants to encourage people who have loved ones struggling in addiction that the person isn’t doing drugs because they want to hurt them. He’s celebrating six months sober and doesn’t want to go back to that life.

“I’m not going to lie and say drugs aren’t fun. It just was a managing thing. I was doing them just to get by,” Brett said.

However, now Brett realizes that he has a higher purpose, connected to the youth and to his higher power.

When he talks to people who struggle in addiction, he tries to put himself back in their shoes in order to relate to them.

“I’m in a place today where [just] yesterday I had a few mothers asking for suggestions and help. Before that it was my mother calling frantic. Today I get to sit in front of these cameras and carry a message of hope,” Brett said.

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20 comments
  1. Wow, I had no idea that addiction could involve all those negative effects. It’s like being in a trap where it’s very hard to escape.

  2. I can see why people on drugs suffer a lot and make suffer their family and friends. I’m glad when somebody gets to escape from that terrible condition and start a new life.

  3. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you are dealing with signs of drug use or it could be something else entirely. It could also be signs of depression, or something else. But it really pays off to be always aware and take caution when a person you love exhibits these signs. It’s because people sometimes just label it off as something not worth their time, until it is too late to do anything for a drug addict.

  4. One of the signs someone is on drugs is that they keep taking a drug after it’s no longer needed for a health problem. Resulting in the abuse of the drugs

  5. Being a graduate of psychology, I can name a few that are signs of drug abuse. The most obvious is physical or change in the structure of the body. Most drugs will clearly show manifest itself in the body of the person within 24-72 hrs of use.

  6. Thank you for listing the signs of drug use? I know it is common know how now bur still. Anyway, I guess this is why the government must reduce the casualties. If this is a war then it is one that we must win.

  7. Seriously, how to tell if someone is on drugs atimes is easy when the signs are on the body. Atimes it takes some of this observations to know. Thanks, I will take note

  8. This signs someone is on drugs you have here is really true, I can see some of it in my neighbours behaviour. Always checking people prescription bag.

  9. One of the most telling signs of drug use is losing interest in things one used to be fond of. I am particularly happy you pointed that out.

  10. People on drugs should not be viewed as evil but rather just people who are in need of our help. Thanks for sharing the inspirational story of Brett’s recovery.

  11. Thanks for the very detailed outline of the signs of drug use. I will be sure to be checking these in my friends that I suspect may be addicts.

  12. I must admit that I have seen these signs of drug use in so many people. I just was never really sure though. Thanks so much for this insightful article.

  13. People on drugs go through so much everyday in their fight against addiction. What they need is love, understanding and care to help them get over the addiction.

  14. I finally know how to tell if someone is on drugs thanks to your great write up. The article is very well researched and written 🙂

  15. People on drugs really should read Brett’s remarkable story. I bet it would give them some hope that with the right mind set it is possible to conquer your addiction!

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