Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

By: Dzhingarov

Drug addicts often go to great pains to hide any signs or symptoms of their addiction. They’d prefer to avoid the scrutiny and interference of friends and family, or they may be simply scared to admit their problem to themselves. Whatever the reason, they will often try to disguise their behavior or make excuses.

But if you live with or care for someone who you suspect is using drugs, the best thing you can do is make sure they get help. Here are some signs and symptoms of drug use, covering anything from pot smoking to opiate addiction.


drug addiction
By Hash Milhan under CC BY 2.0


Poor Memory

One side effect of many drugs is poor memory. It may be that the addict forgets simple things such as library due dates or completing homework assignments. This may spiral into bigger problems, such as missing deadlines at work, forgetting a loved one’s birthday or leaving the stove on after preparing dinner.

The reason behind this is twofold. Many drugs are dangerous chemicals that attack brain cells. But at the same time, addicts are also often so distracted by trying to get their next fix that they let everything else fall by the wayside.


Drug addicts can become extremely paranoid. This is usually a side effect of the drugs they are taking, which alter the chemical balance in their brains. They may accuse loved ones of plotting against them or taking things that they don’t remember moving. This can be extremely trying for those living with a drug addict, of course.

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But sometimes this paranoia is also a product of their fear of being found out. They may be scared that their family members will try to send them to rehab without their consent.

Red Eyes

Red, tired-looking eyes are one of the hallmarks of drug use. Many describe addicts as looking “strung out.” This may be from lack of sleep, a side effect of some drug use, extreme paranoia, or a chemical effect of the drug itself. Red eyes can also be a symptom of allergies, but those will subside after a few days and are usually accompanied by itchiness.

Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

Especially when abusing “uppers,” or stimulants, such as cocaine, meth or certain prescription drugs, users may experience an increased heart rate. They may say their heart feels like it’s racing. Rising blood pressure may also be tied to use of such drugs. Other symptoms of such addiction to “uppers” include irritability as the drug wears off, weight loss and insomnia.

Slow Reaction Times

Drugs can really do a number on the central nervous system. This can lead to slower-than-usual reaction times, one reason why operation of a motor vehicle is strictly prohibited when you are under the influence of drugs. This is tied to the difficulties drug users have concentrating on any one thing. The drug interferes with our bodies’ abilities to process information. Something that may have taken two seconds before can take five or more, and that can mean the difference between life and death when operating a vehicle.