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Signs & Symptoms of Drug Use

opiates pills & syringe

Marijuana & Hashish

It’s possible to develop a psychological addiction to cannabis compounds including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana and hashish. People who have a marijuana addiction generally use the drug on a daily basis. They don’t actually have a chemical dependence on the drug but rather feel the need to regularly use the drug.

Signs of use and dependence can include: a heightened sense of visual, auditory and taste perception; poor memory; increased blood pressure and heart rate; red eyes; decreased coordination; difficulty concentrating; increased appetite; slowed reaction time; paranoid thinking.

Barbiturates & Benzodiazepines (Depressants)

Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are prescription central nervous system depressants. Phenobarbital, amobarbital (Amytal) and secobarbital (Seconal) are examples of barbiturates. Benzodiazepines include tranquilizers, such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin) and chlordiazepoxide (Librium).

Signs of use and dependence can include: drowsiness; slurred speech; lack of coordination; memory problems; confusion; slowed breathing and decreased blood pressure; dizziness; depression.

Methamphetamine, Cocaine & Other Stimulants

This class of drugs includes amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine and methylphenidate (Ritalin).

Signs of use and dependence can include: euphoria; person may seem “wired”; decreased appetite; rapid speech; irritability; restlessness; depression as the drug wears off; nasal congestion and damage to the mucous membrane of the nose in users who snort drugs; insomnia; weight loss; increased heart rate, blood pressure and temperature; paranoia.  It is common for those addicted to methamphetamine to lose large amounts of weight and look gaunt, thin and undernourished.

Methamphetamine can be swallowed, snorted, injected or smoked. If you are looking for traces of meth use, you may find small bags of white powder or crystals or syringes. Other items that could be left behind after meth abuse are small pieces of crumpled aluminum foil, soda cans with a hole in the side or the shafts of inexpensive ball-point pens that might be used to snort the drug.

Cocaine, crack, and methamphetamine users often go on binges, continuing to use over and over (hourly or less with cocaine and crack, every 4-6 hours with methamphetamines), to maintain the euphoria. As tolerance builds, more of the drug is needed to get the same effect. Delirium may also follow binge use. This binge can result in a severe crash when the drug runs out or exhaustion takes over. The person may be exhausted and sleep for several days. This exhaustion is normally accompanied by severe depression due to the disruption of the normal balance of the body’s chemicals and depletion of physical resources.

Inhalants (Glues, Aerosols, Vapors)

The signs and symptoms of inhalant use vary depending on what substance is inhaled. Some commonly inhaled substances include glue, paint thinners, correction fluid, felt tip marker fluid, gasoline, cleaning fluids and household aerosol products.

Signs of use can include: brief intoxication and a decreased feeling of inhibition; watery eyes; impaired vision, memory and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; giggling, silliness, dizziness; drowsiness; fainting or going unconscious; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; lots of cans/aerosols in the trash.


Use of hallucinogens produces different signs and symptoms depending on the drug. The most common hallucinogens are LSD and phencyclidine (PCP).

Signs of LSD use include: hallucinations; greatly reduced perception of reality, for example, interpreting input from one of your senses as another, such as hearing colors; permanent mental changes in perception; rapid heart rate; high blood pressure; tremors; flashbacks, a re-experience of the hallucinations — even years later.

Signs of PCP use include: hallucinations; euphoria; delusions; panic; loss of appetite; depression; aggressive, possibly violent behavior.

Narcotic Painkillers (Opiates)

Opioids are narcotic, painkilling drugs produced naturally from opium or made synthetically. This class of drugs includes heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone and oxycodone (OxyContin).

Signs of narcotic use and dependence can include: reduced sense of pain; euphoria; sedation; depression; confusion; constipation; slowed breathing; needle marks, if injecting drugs; contracted pupils, no response of pupils to light; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite; “nodding,” which is a dreamlike state, near sleep, drifting off for minutes or hours. For some long-time abusers, heroin may act like a stimulant and they can have a normal daily routine.

Withdrawal looks like a severe flu; a deep twitch and restlessness throughout the body; insomnia; depression; vomiting.

Club Drugs

Club drugs are commonly used by teens and young adults at clubs, concerts and parties. Examples include Ecstasy (MDMA), GHB, Rohypnol (“roofies”) and ketamine. These drugs are not all classified in the same category, but they share some similar effects and dangers.

Signs of club drug use and dependence can include: an exaggerated feeling of great happiness or well-being (euphoria); reduced inhibitions; a heightened or altered sense of sight, sound and taste; amphetamine-like effects (with ketamine and Ecstasy); decreased coordination; poor judgment; memory problems or loss of memory; increased or decreased heart rate and blood pressure; drowsiness and loss of consciousness (with GHB and Rohypnol).




In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)