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Dilated Pupils: What Drugs Cause Them

Dilated Pupils | What Drugs Cause Them | Just Believe Recovery

In This Article

If someone close to you is abusing substances, you may have noticed multiple signs and symptoms that are worrisome. These can be behavioral or physical. For example, one warning sign that someone is abusing drugs is dilated pupils.

Becoming more aware of the signs of alcoholism and drug addiction allows you to act quickly if you recognize that there may be a problem.

The Science

Pupils are the small black dots in the center of the eyes that change in size to control the amount of light that enters. This light regulation is crucial to things such as normal vision and focus. The size of the pupil is directed by the colored portion of the eye known as the iris.

Although pupils are generally responsive to a person’s needs for improved visibility, they sometimes change size as an emotional response or due to specific chemical changes in the body.

Chemical variations that can affect pupils include prescription medications and illicit drugs such as heroin, meth, cocaine, and marijuana. Dilation caused by substance use or taking certain medications is usually a temporary reaction. Poisoning can also cause pupils to dilate, as can brain injury and disease.

While these other non-drug-related issues can cause dilated pupils, it is one of the most common signs of drug abuse. Knowing what drugs cause dilated pupils can be beneficial in recognizing that a person has a substance use problem and can also help determine what kind of drugs they are abusing.

What Drugs Cause Dilated Pupils?

Knowing what drugs can cause dilated pupils can help determine what substance a person is using or abusing. Prescription medications and illicit drugs that can cause dilated pupils include the following:

  • Meth
  • Amphetamines
  • Antihistamines
  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • LSD
  • Heroin withdrawal
  • Atropine eye drops
  • Eye drops such as Visine

If a person is withdrawing from opioids rather than actively using them, their pupils may be dilated. Conversely, when a person is under the influence of drugs such as heroin, their pupils may become significantly restricted and extremely small. This is often referred to as having pinpoint pupils.

Dilated Pupils | What Drugs Cause Them | Just Believe Recovery

However, once the person begins withdrawing from those drugs, their eyes have a counter-reaction, and the pupils dilate. Therefore, it is crucial to consider dilation as one potential sign of drug use, but it is not the only determinant.

Substance abuse tends to come with many severe and concerning signs and symptoms, all of which can help the loved ones of a person who is using drugs determine how dire the situation is.

The earlier drug or alcohol addiction is recognized, the more favorable the prognosis of a loved one once admitted into an inpatient drug treatment center.

Other Signs Of Substance Abuse

Unfortunately, substance abuse problems can present themselves differently depending on the severity of the condition and various other factors. Also, some people can conceal their issues very well, making it quite challenging to determine whether or not they have a problem.

There are many ways to identify if a loved one is struggling with drug abuse or addiction, and pupil size is among the most common ways to determine this easily. That said, there are many other signs and symptoms that can characterize these conditions, including the following:

  • Slurred speech
  • Insomnia/sleep disturbances
  • Social withdrawal/isolation
  • Manic or depressive affect
  • Sudden weight loss/gain
  • Runny nose or sniffling
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Changes in friends/activities
  • Legal problems
  • Financial/employment issues
  • Lack of motivation
  • Poor hygiene/grooming habits

Also, people who are on substances often tend to attempt to conceal the extent of the problem from loved ones. For example, alcoholics may hide alcohol and drink in secret. Heroin addicts may go missing for days at a time.

Meth and cocaine addicts tend to be very high-strung, hyperactive, and may be prone to bouts of mania and mood swings.

Finally, one of the critical factors among all addicts is compulsive drug-seeking behavior that persists despite the adverse consequences of this behavior. For example, they may steal items or money from loved ones or engage in illicit activities, such as prostitution, to procure their drug of choice.

Get Help for Drug Addiction

Just Believe Recovery is a specialized addiction treatment center that offers residential and intensive outpatient programs. Our approach features various therapeutic, evidence-based services, such as psychotherapy, counseling, group support, relapse prevention, art and music therapy, aftercare planning, and more.

We provide those we treat with the care, support, education, and tools they need to forge a new life in sobriety, prevent relapse, and enjoy health and wellness and remain abstinent indefinitely.

We Believe Recovery Is Possible For Everyone.
If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Recovery PA at (888) 380-0342. Our specialists can assess your needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.
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