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Warning Signs of Drug Abuse

Knowing the warning signs of drug abuse can help prevent drug addiction. By knowing the signs of drug and alcohol abuse you will be able to help get drug treatment sooner. Warning signs of drug abuse can vary, such as cocaine and marijuana, keep reading to find out more...


What is drug abuse? Dependence on an addictive drug or alcohol and using it to excess. It is also known as substance or chemical abuse. The drugs can be legal substances used illegally, or illegal substances. Those who abuse alcohol or drugs use drugs to change something about themselves or something in their lives.

Here are four questions that you can ask to help you determine if they are exhibiting warning signs of drug abuse. Does the person you care about 

  • lament that they wish they could stop drinking and/or drug use? 
  • get annoyed by you questioning the amount of alcohol or drugs they are taking? 
  • feel sad about something they have done while under the influence of drugs or alcohol? 
  • need drinks many times throughout the day?

It is interesting that the first two questions somewhat contradict each other. However, it shows how those who are using drugs or alcohol feel contradicting feelings that they know what they are doing is harmful for their bodies and perhaps others, but still feel the need to abuse drugs or alcohol. Any “yes” answers to the above questions is a warning sign of drug abuse.

Sometimes it is harder to determine whether or not they are abusing drugs. Other warning signs include 

  • Lying about what they are doing 
  • Talking about drug or alcohol use 
  • Are depressed or maybe even suicidal 
  • Giving up things they used to love to do 
  • Getting in trouble with the law

The following are some warning signs associated with specific drugs. These are just a few of the signs, for a more comprehensive list, talk with a professional such as your doctor. 

  • Cocaine causes weight loss, seizures and panic attacks. Cocaine also gives the person a dry mouth and bad breath. 
  • Marijuana causes cough, respiratory infections and impaired memory. It also can be seen in the inflammation of the whites of the eyes and a tendency to drive under the speed limit. 
  • Heroin causes constipation, depression and unconsciousness. 
  • Inhalants cause poor muscle control, watery eyes and you can often find the bottles or rags associated with the inhalants in the person’s belongings.

To help the person get on the road to recovery, encourage them to see a doctor or professional. Teach them that they do not need to be alone and depressed, and that you will help them make and then keep the promise to be drug-free. When you see the warning signs of drug abuse, be prepared to give your total support and hopefully they can get into the right treatment program to help them get over their problem.

Warning Signs of Drug Abuse Sources

  • Help Guide, “Drug Abuse and Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Effects and Testing,” [online].
  • National Mental Health Association, “Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders,” [online].
  • National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, “Fact for Teens: Teen Drug Use and Violence,” [pdf online].

Related Article: Drug Abuse Statistics >>

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