According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, drug abuse is a serious concern, and it affects nearly every community in the nation. Very few families remain untouched by the consequences of drug adiction, and millions of people become sick or injured each year as a direct result of illicit and prescription drugs, including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, inhalants and opiod painkillers.
Among the many obstacles faced by the friends and family of drug abusers are the myths regarding addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is an organization dedicated to stopping and preventing the unintended consequences of addictive drugs, and education is key in achieving this task. A few of the most common myths surrounding drug abuse and addiction is that the person in question is taking drugs voluntarily and that he or she must want to receive treatment for it to work.
The fact of the matter is that many people only receive treatment after they are pressured by close friends and family. However, this help often comes too late because those who care either do not know or are unable to read the signs of abuse. Following are 10 common signs of drug abuse that should not be ignored:
- Physical displays – Most people who abuse drugs will display physical evidence of doing so. For example, if the person’s eyes are often bloodshot or have pupils larger or smaller than usual, this is a good sign that drugs are a factor. Other indicators in this category include strong, unusual odors, lack of coordination, inability to speak clearly, shaky hands and needle marks on arms or legs.
- Mood swings – Drug abuse can wreak havoc on a person’s psychological well-being, and mood swings can be frequent and dramatic. While alcohol is known to cause wild mood swings in some people, many other drugs do so as well. Be aware, however, that nearly everyone has mood swings from time to time. You only have to worry when they are very drastic and unexplainable.
- Daily routine changes – Most people are aware of the daily routines of their close friends and family, and these routines rarely change as they get older. When someone begins abusing drugs, he or she will often alter daily routines in order to accommodate an alternate lifestyle.
- Unusual energy levels and altered sleep patterns – Some drugs, known as depressants or downers, such as alcohol, barbiturates, sedatives and opiates reduce energy levels while other drugs, known as stimulants or uppers, such as cocaine, Ritalin and methamphetamine can increase energy beyond what is considered normal. Drug abusers may be awake at all hours of the night or sleep through the day. In addition, some drug users may stay up for days at a time or only sleep a couple of hours per day while others have a hard time just getting out of bed.
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain – Most illicit substances and many prescription drugs have an effect on a person’s metabolism. They can also affect his or her appetite, leading to overeating and weight gain or malnourishment and weight loss.
- Disappearance of valuables – Drugs can be expensive, and people under the thumb of addiction make poor decisions regarding their personal finances. However, addicts still have to support their habits, so they resort to theft. This may take the form of stealing household items and selling them to pawnshops, but in drastic cases, an addict may steal cars or engage in identity theft.
- Memory loss – If someone close to you suddenly begins to forget important appointments or details about his or her own life, it could be the result of drug abuse. This may be difficult to spot at first, but an early sign of memory loss is choosing to stay out of conversations in which they would normally engage. While some drugs, such as marijuana, can cause short-term memory loss, alcohol and several other drugs can cause complete blackouts lasting for several hours.
- Spending time alone or keeping secrets – Drug abusers will go to great lengths to hide their activities, especially when such activities are directly related to drug use. If a friend or family member seems to have suddenly closed himself or herself to you or is always away from home for no particular reason, it could be a sign that drugs are involved.
- Telling lies – Most drug abusers will never admit they are doing drugs, so they tell lies to account for their time and disposition.
- Drug paraphernalia – Hardcore drug addicts require hardware to use their substances as efficiently and effectively as possible. Drug paraphernalia may include anything that is associated with drug use, including syringes, pipes, lighters and small, amber vials or tiny ziplock baggies.