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Independent medical expert answers on psychiatry and psychology

Signs of Drug Abuse; Symptoms of Alcoholism; Drug Abuse Dectection

This page abstract: There are symptoms, different for different drugs, but in general you need to ask people to find out if they have used a certain drug.

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Independent medical expert answers on psychiatry and psychology

Signs of Drug Abuse; Symptoms of Alcoholism; Drug Abuse Dectection

Intelligent natural language question-answering in the area of psychology and psychiatry. Ask a simple question  Local help Info

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Question(s): 
Written by: Wendy Moelker, Psychologist in charge, tutor, Emergis center for mental health care, Goes, the Netherlands.
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 12 Feb 2009.

How can you see what kind of drugs someone uses? How can you detect drug abuse? What are the signs/symptoms of drug abuse/alcoholism?

Answer:

Below we will mention some characteristics of using recreational drugs, but first let us explain some things.

To find out if someone uses drugs it is better to start a dialogue than to carefully watch for all kinds of signs. Before you start a conversation it is important to know why someone would conceal his drug use. Often it has to do with fear of a certain reaction. If you don't show blame but some interest, and are open about the situation, the user will probably be more willing to talk about it. It is also good to know what to do after you make the drug use subject of discussion. A lot of people only want to find out and then do nothing about it. In a next conversation, you could discuss the use and abuse of the drugs, or the reasons for drug use and possible alternatives.

The problem with many symptoms mentioned below is that they can also be related to something completely different. If you pay too much attention to certain symptoms, you may confuse innocent lovesickness with drug use, for example.

A general characteristic of drug use is a change of mood: one minute someone can be very cheerful and the next minute very depressed, or one minute be present and the next minute be absent. Continuous use causes less achievement and makes someone's life become more and more focused on drugs. The use of each substance has its own characteristics:

  • Alcohol: breathe smells like alcohol, dilated pupils, cheerful, noisy, more guts, loss of shyness.
  • Hashish/weed: red eyes, dilated pupils, cheerful, sleepy, slow, ignorant about what has just been said, giggling, hungry, heavy arms and legs.
  • XTC: dilated pupils, cheerful, energetic and talkative. The days after: exhausted, down and empty.
  • Amphetamines: dilated pupils, energetic, talkative, pale, and restless. The days after: down, empty, exhausted and irritated.
  • Cocaine: dilated pupils (not always), go to the toilet often, cheerful, energetic, talkative, reckless, pale, restless, irritated, hot tempered. The days after: down, empty, exhausted.
  • LSD: dilated pupils, weird ideas, hallucinations.
  • Heroin: narrow pupils, almost closed eyelids, a faraway look, passive, quiet, slow breath. More.
  • Gambling: total concentration on the game, the illusion of making quick money, borrowing money, often play alone, bad sleep, less concentration.
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