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How to Tell If Your Loved One Is on Drugs

Posted on November 24, 2010 in Research & News

He shuts down his laptop the minute you enter the room. He takes all his phone calls outside. He loses interest in school or his job. He gives up his favorite hobbies to sleep all day. When you ask him what’s up, you get an evasive answer or he tells you to mind your own business.

You suspect drugs, but how can you tell for sure? There are general things to look for that are universal to all abusers, regardless of which drug they are using, and then there are specific symptoms of certain kinds of drugs.

Here’s what you need to know.

General signs of drug abuse:

The person changes in behavior, attitude, and appearance. An easy-going person becomes moody and irritable; a party-person suddenly sleeps all the time and becomes withdrawn. She may have severe mood swings – within an hour, she goes from happy and silly to angry and aggressive. Her sleep habits change — she either sleeps too much or not at all. She is secretive.

He loses interest in activities he used to love. He has a new set of friends and speaks to them in code. He listens to a new kind of music (Rap is associated with marijuana and cocaine; heavy metal is associated with methamphetamine, LSD, Ecstasy, and cocaine). He starts smoking cigarettes. He goes to Emergency Rooms or doctors too often, and always comes back with a prescription.

She stays out all night or hangs out at friends’ houses. She disappears at odd moments of the day and evening, and comes back disoriented. She spends hours behind locked doors. She is accident-prone.

His appearance changes. He loses interest in grooming — he "lets himself go." He gains or loses a lot of weight, or suddenly "buffs up." He wears clothing that has to do with drug use, such as "Goth" styles with skulls and crossbones.

She steals your money or prescription drugs. She runs up your credit cards and starts selling household items.

You find drug supplies in his room, and he uses substances to cover up smells, such as breath mints, incense, and room deodorizers.

She may have nosebleeds, sore throats and coughs from snorting or smoking drugs. If she is injecting them, she may have boils, skin infections, and abscesses that she tries to hide under long sleeves.

Signs Your Loved One Is Abusing "Downers"

Certain drugs slow down the workings of the human body. They include prescription drugs such as barbiturates and painkillers, and opium-based street drugs such as heroin. These drugs produce feelings of euphoria and relaxed stupor-like states. Look for pinpoint pupils, slowed or slurred speech, dizziness, slowed breathing and walking, low energy levels, sleeping more than usual, cold clammy skin or shallow bluish skin, apathy, sleepiness, and confusion. Abusers hide their pills in Pez dispensers, make-up kits, breath mint boxes, or even hollowed-out pens or soda cans with false bottoms.

Heroin users may have plastic baggies with white powder and syringes, and you may find baking soda, used to dilute heroin.

When an addict does not have access to his "downers," he becomes anxious, hostile, irritable, and nervous.

Signs that the person is abusing "uppers" or stimulants

Some drugs stimulate the central nervous system, "speeding up" the human body. These can be amphetamines, prescription drugs for attention deficit disorder, cocaine, methamphetamine, and diet pills. Stimulants cause people to appear "caffeinated" or "cranked up" — they are too talkative, jumpy, overly energetic, and able to go without sleeping or eating for days. They can be aggressive and irritable, short-tempered. Other signs are dilated pupils, extreme dryness of the mouth, picking at imaginary sores, anorexia, insomnia, and tremors. If you enter his room unannounced, you may find a meth addict with dilated pupils on his hands and knees, "tweaking" or picking up imaginary things off the floor or from his clothing.

Drug equipment associated with meth are Sudafed, pipes, lighters, light bulbs, soda cans with holes in them, coffee filters, tubing, Mason jars, iodine, drain cleaners or lye, muriatic or battery acid, rock salt, propane tanks, and ammonia. Cocaine users often use mirrors, razor blades, lighters, and pipes or syringes. Cocaine comes as a crystal or a white powder.

Miscellaneous kinds of drugs:

Steroid abusers are nearly always male body-builders. As they "buff up" by weight-lifting or other means, they can become extremely aggressive and prone to rages. Marijuana users can appear drunk, with slurred speech and unsteady walking. They can act silly, disoriented and confused, and unable to remember things. Look for rolling papers, lighters, and dried "weed" hidden in cans, pillow cases, and so forth. Those who abuse inhalants or "sniffers" may collect common household chemicals such as lighter fluid, correction fluid, glue, and gasoline, and they are prone to nosebleeds. Hallucinatory drugs such as ecstasy and LSD are often consumed at all-night parties. The person may wear baby pacifiers or suck lollipops, and have posters and clothes that say "Special K". Solitary users of hallucinogens often lock themselves in their rooms for as long as eight or ten hours.

REFERENCES

Colvin, Rod. Prescription Drug Abuse. Omaha, NB: Addicus Books, 2002.

Aretha, David. Methamphetamine and Amphetamines. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Books, 2005.

Bellenir, Karen. Drug Abuse Sourcebook. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2000.

Grinnell, Esther (MD). Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008.

Hallucinogens and Dissociative drugs, the National Institute of Health, posted at http://www.nida.nih.gov/PDF/RRHalluc.pdf

"How can we tell if someone is abusing or addicted to drugs?" MedicineNet.com, see http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=24408

Johnson, Dirk. Meth: The Home-Cooked Menace. Center City, MN: Halzenden Press, 2005.

METHAMPHETAMINE (Trade Name: Desoxyn®; Street Names: Meth, Speed, Crystal, Glass, Ice, Crank, Yaba), United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, posted at http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drugs_concern/meth.htm

Physicians Desk Reference, Edition 63, Blackwell Publishing, 2009.

"Signs of cocaine abuse," Dennison, Iowa Police, posted at http://www.denisonia.com/policeDept/cocaine.asp

Sonder, Ben. All About Heroin. London: Franklin Watts, 2002.

"Suspect Your Teen is Using Drugs? An Action Guide for Parents," Parents: the Anti-Drug, a pamphlet posted at http://www.theantidrug.com/pdfs/ei/parents_brochure.pdf

Hallucinogens and Dissociative drugs, the National Institute of Health, posted at http://www.nida.nih.gov/PDF/RRHalluc.pdf

Walker, Pam and Ellen Wood. Stimulants. San Diego: Thomson-Gale Books, 2004.

Weil, Dr. Andrew. From Chocolate to Morphine. (New York: Howard Mifflin), 1998.

"Where Your Child Hides Drugs," Parents Helping Parents, posted at http://www.parentshelpingparents.info/documents/Where_Your_Child_Hides_Drugs/
 

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