Drug abuse and addiction are destructive and potentially life-threatening conditions that can dramatically impact the health and well-being of those who suffer and the people who love them.
It’s critical to learn how to tell if someone is high on drugs so that an intervention can be organized before the person’s disorder progresses. Moreover, the longer and more excessively an individual abuses a substance, the more challenging it is for them to quit due to intense cravings and the development of severe withdrawal symptoms.
There are many common signs and symptoms that indicate a person is high or abusing drugs, and some are specific to the substance that was used. Recognizing these signs can allow a person to determine if a loved one is indeed using drugs and is facing a high risk for encountering severe, adverse consequences.
These signs include those related to their mental and physical health, family life, academic or professional performance, legal and financial issues, social life, and more. The repercussions of drug addiction can negatively affect every aspect of a person’s life.
Common Signs of Drug Abuse
When a person is actively abusing any substance, there are several general signs to watch for, including the following:
- Worsening academic performance, a loss of interest in school-related activities, tardiness, and absenteeism
- Poor work performance, frequently being late or calling in sick to a job, or appearing lethargic and apathetic about work duties
- Adversely altered physical appearance, such as wearing disheveled or inappropriate clothing, and appearing to be unconcerned with grooming or personal hygiene
- Adverse changes in behavior, such as withdrawing socially, isolating, and an growing desire for privacy
- Significant issues with interpersonal relationships involving family, friends, or co-workers
- An apparent lack of energy when participating in everyday activities
- Spending more money than usual, requesting to borrow money, or stealing money, drugs, or other items from family, friends, and others
- Problems with finances, such as being late paying bills or neglecting to pay them at all
- Changes in eating habits and body, such as a lack of appetite and related weight loss or unhealthy eating and significant weight gain
- Bloodshot eyes, poor skin tone, sores, blemishes, and skin infections
- Denial and defensiveness when confronted about probable drug abuse
Signs of Abuse related to Specific Drugs
In addition to common signs of drug abuse, some distinct symptoms are linked to specific types of drugs.
An individual who is abusing CNS (central nervous system) stimulants such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or prescription drugs, such as Adderall, may undergo significant behavior changes. These include excessive talkativeness, a sense of grandiosity, and increased breathing and heart rates. Also, extremely elevated mood and high energy levels to the point of mania are common hallmark signs.
In some cases, users may experience crashes or comedowns, paranoia, and engage in aggressive, antagonistic, or even violent behavior. If users snort these drugs, common symptoms of abuse also include runny nose, nasal congestion, or nosebleeds.
Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates
Some CNS depressants are prescribed to treat anxiety, panic attacks, seizures, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines (benzos) include anxiolytics, such as Ativan (lorazepam), Valium (diazepam), and Xanax (alprazolam).
Despite their classification as a Schedule IV substance, in recent years, research has suggested that benzos have a high potential for abuse, dependence, and overdose. In fact, these drugs are related to thousands of overdose deaths each year, often used in combination with opioids or alcohol.
Barbiturates may be even more dangerous than benzodiazepines, and for this reason, they are not prescribed as much as they once were. However, they are still sometimes used to treat seizures or alcohol withdrawal.
A person who is abusing any of these drugs may appear lethargic, dizzy, or depressed. They may complain about experiencing blurry vision, exhibit impaired coordination, and appear confused and disoriented.
Opioids are highly-addictive drugs that include prescription painkillers and illicit substances such as heroin and street fentanyl. Common pharmaceutical opioids include OxyContin and Percocet (oxycodone) and Norco (hydrocodone).
Warning signs of opioid misuse include profound sedation, memory and motor skills impairment, poor concentration, longer response times, fatigue, mood swings, and overdose. And because opioids also suppress activity in the digestive system, even casual users often encounter severe constipation.
Staging an Intervention
If you suspect that you have seen signs that someone is high on drugs, you are urged to seek professional help promptly. An intervention is a well-planned, structured conversation between loved ones and the person who is abusing substances, often overseen by an interventionist, counselor, therapist, social worker, or other professional skilled in this process.
Effective interventions can allow loved ones to express their feelings productively. Interventions also explain to addicts how their behavior impacts those to whom they are close. The main objective of an intervention is to help the drug abuser or addict be motivated to seek treatment immediately.
How to Stage an Intervention
Contact an Interventionist – Locate a professional who specializes in interventions to ensure that conversation between all parties involved is productive and not harmful. A highly-skilled interventionist can be the key to helping the addicted person reconsider their denials and accept the reality of their disorder. In some cases, trying to help an addict without professional support may, in fact, make the situation worse. Interventions work best under assertive, expert support that can prevent the addict from thwarting the process.
Find a Treatment Center – Before an intervention is staged, it’s essential to locate a treatment center and make sure they have a bed ready for the addicted person. The person may be less likely to stall efforts if a reservation is made in advance. Also, there should be minimal time lost between the intervention and the person entering a treatment program. This outcome is the whole point of intervention.
Form an Intervention Group – Next, the interventionist will help the loved ones of the addicted person devise an intervention strategy. Because each intervention is as unique as the individuals involved, an interventionist will talk with each concerned party to personalize the plan to address their specific needs. Those who participate in the intervention may include spouses, parents, siblings, adult children, close friends, and sometimes minor children, if prudent.
Learn and Rehearse – The interventionist will inform participants about addiction and the recovery process, who will be then be prepared for potential reactions from the addicted person. During an intervention, group members should have composed narratives that have been approved by other participants and the interventionist. These narratives should be designed to trigger a “moment of clarity” for the addicted individual so he or she can begin to understand the extent of the destruction their addiction has been inflicting on themselves and others.
Be Prepared for Any Outcome – Unfortunately, even a well-planned intervention may not motivate the person to undergo treatment. Sometimes it takes multiple interventions to convince the individual that this is the best and only feasible course of action.
Treatment for Drug Addiction
Just Believe Recovery offers comprehensive treatment programs that feature a variety of evidence-based approaches, including psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and more. We employ caring addiction specialists and professionals who provide patients with the resources and support they need to be successful at recovery.
If you have a loved one struggling with drug addiction, contact us today to find out how we can help!