When you think about the changes and odd behavior you’ve noticed in your teenage son, your adult sister, or your close friend, you have to suppress a gnawing feeling in your stomach. Your gut’s trying to tell you something: This person you love may have a drug addiction. Keep your eyes open for the tell-tale signs that show up in people who are addicted to mind-altering drugs.
Marijuana (Pot, Mary Jane, Bud, Chronic, Indo)
- Behavioral Changes: Shortly after smoking marijuana, users may appear very relaxed, to the point of being sleepy. This drug can impair coordination, causing the user to walk and move in ways that appear awkward. A heightened craving for food is typical with marijuana use.
- Mental/Emotional State: Cognitive processes such as recalling past events, acquiring new knowledge, or responding to a problem are markedly limited under the influence of marijuana. Consumers of the drug usually experience reduction in stress or anxiety during the high, which peaks after 15 minutes and slowly fades over the course of several hours. Repeated use of marijuana is known for reducing levels of motivation and drive. Many of the stereotypes of pot users draw on this “laissez-faire” attitude the drug induces.
- Physical Appearance: Users may have dry, bloodshot eyes, prompting them to use eye-wetting drops frequently. Their clothes and body may emanate the scent of marijuana, a pungent and slightly sweet odor.
- Behavioral Changes: Acid often creates disorientation and a sense of distorted surroundings. These episodes can last up to 12 hours with one dose. With larger quantities, users are more likely to experience hallucinations. These visualizations may prompt strange behaviors as the person attempts to respond or interact with what they think they’re seeing. Speech may be slurred, bordering on incoherent.
- Mental/Emotional State: Variance in emotions is a hallmark of LSD use. Unpredictable and erratic emotions can cause extreme and frequent mood changes. Users may experience a disproportionate sense of panic.
- Physical Appearance: When combined with the other signs, sweaty hands and an increase in underarm perspiration are another clue that a person is using LSD. Pupils may appear larger than normal.
Cocaine (Coke, Crack, Blow, Snow)
- Behavioral Changes: A person on cocaine may act as though they have little self-restraint, meaning they may engage in activities that they would normally find embarrassing, frightening, or stressful. Cocaine disrupts sleep, and frequent users can act violent. Whether snorted, injected, or smoked, cocaine imbues the user with energy, allowing them to stay active longer than normal. This means a coke user can stay up all night. Instead of acting sleepy, users often act jittery and jumpy. The increased energy may speed up speech.
- Mental/Emotional State: It’s the promise of extreme happiness that attracts many first-time users. However, this feeling is so brief it’s usually measured in minutes. The sense of joy is usually quickly replaced with depression or a very intense emotional low. Difficulty recalling memories and shifts in mood are common with cocaine use. This drug can create feelings of ambivalence toward people and activities that the user used to find engaging.
- Physical Appearance: Cocaine is a stimulant, which increases metabolism and can lead to rapid weight loss. A gaunt appearance often marks a regular user who can’t keep on the pounds. In users who snort the drug, the nose bleeds frequently. The eyes may appear red with large pupils.
Mushrooms (Magic Mushrooms)
- Behavioral Changes: Intense laughter typically begins 20-25 minutes after ingesting a mushroom. For about six hours, users may vomit, feel physically weak, and be uncoordinated in moving their body.
- Mental/Emotional State: Users may feel confused and uncertain about their surroundings. This may cause them to feel “spaced out.” In some cases, users have hallucinations and may be so mentally impaired that they can’t identify the hallucinations for what they are.
- Physical Appearance: Their eyes may be dilated and may not focus on what is in front of them. They may also be nauseated by mushroom intake.
Heroin (Horse, Smack, H, Black, Junk)
- Behavioral Changes: Because this drug is connected to morphine, it tends to slow breathing and make the user sleepy. Frequent nodding off can be a problem for heroin users.
- Mental/Emotional State: The drug envelops users in a sense of relaxation. Mental activity declines, replaced by lethargy and depression.
- Physical Appearance: Marks (lines) from repeated injections appear on the arms of many heroin users. They may also have neglected good hygiene habits.
Methamphetamine (Meth, Crank, Tina)
- Behavioral Changes: Individuals addicted to meth report being able to stay awake for days at a time. They may accomplish a large number of tasks in a short period of time because they aren’t stopping to sleep. Methamphetamine use can look similar to mania from bipolar disorder, with rapid speech, erratic behavior, easy irritability, and high levels of energy.
- Mental/Emotional State: Agitation, paranoia, and a sense of being on high alert can stem from meth use. Some people who use meth feel increased aggression and have hallucinations while taking the drug.
- Physical Appearance: Meth use can create a dramatic shift in the appearance of the skin, from healthy to sagging and acne-prone. It’s hard to mistake the look of meth mouth—rotting teeth and infected gums. In its worst manifestations, meth use transforms vibrant-looking people into haggard shadows of themselves. Hair and weight loss often occur from meth use, which can suppress the appetite.
Amphetamine (Speed, Crank)
- Behavioral Changes: People taking amphetamine may talk a lot, take quick breaths, and act excited and shaky. With the effects lasting up to 12 hours, speed makes it hard for users to sit still and go to sleep. Jittery feeling may indicate a sharp increase in anxiety and may manifest itself in physical symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea. Violent outbursts can be a sign a person is using speed. The effects of methamphetamine can be quite similar.
- Mental/Emotional State: Taking speed produces feelings of exhilaration, hyper alertness, and overblown self-confidence.
- Physical Appearance: The pupils may look large, and profuse sweating can occur from speed use. Their mouth may appear dry. Nose bleeds and sinus/nasal problems show up on a regular basis.
Looking for the Signs of Drug Addiction
With almost any drug, people suffering from addiction may resort to desperate measures, including stealing, to fund the disease. They may also abandon long-time friends and family to associate with people who also use drugs. Often, these may be the first tip-offs that an individual is grappling with an addiction.
Remember that one sign in isolation does not indicate your loved one has a drug problem. Instead, watch for a combination of the signs that accompany each drug. This guide enables you to take the first step toward helping your family member or friend regain control.