What is drug abuse? Drug abuse describes a pattern of using a substance that causes distress and significant harmful changes in one’s life. Drug abuse isn’t something you always see coming, though. Instead, it can be sneaky and pop up when you least expect it.
You may think you’re just socially or casually partying. However, you may use substances once, and it’s all you can think about moving forward. The mind starts to obsess, and the body starts to crave. If you are wondering if you or a loved one are abusing substances, there are a few ways to decide.
Common Signs of Drug Abuse
Drug abuse looks different in every person. But, there are a few main signs and symptoms of drug abuse that seem to be universal. Physical changes like sunken or bloodshot eyes, dark circles, and rapid weight loss/gain are just a few. Emotional signs of drug use can include defensiveness, lashing out, emotional outbursts, and mood swings.
Other signs could include drug-seeking behavior, changes in sleep habits, mood swings, loss of interest, isolation & detachment, neglecting responsibilities, impaired judgment, or legal & financial problems.
Drug-seeking behavior could be the first clue that someone is abusing substances. Drug-seeking behaviors usually start with spending a lot of time thinking about the drug, how to get more, where to get it, and when you’ll be able to take it next.
Some people even go as far as using multiple doctors or pharmacies to obtain prescriptions. Drug-seeking behavior can also look like opening medicine cabinets at a family member’s home or the glove box of a friend’s car, seeking out any way to get the high being craved.
Changes in Sleeping Patterns
Changes in sleep patterns are a sign of drug abuse, too. It is common for people using stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine to have difficulty sleeping. Since stimulants are a class of drugs that speed up messages traveling between the brain and body, they can make a person feel more awake, alert, and energetic. Because stimulants can also have adverse effects on the body, like anxiety, panic, headaches, stomach cramps, and paranoia, people often stay up for days at a time.
On the other hand, people using depressants like alcohol, heroin, morphine, and oxycodone could fall asleep without even realizing it. As a result, nodding off, or passing out, is common. Sleeping for inordinate amounts of time can also be a side effect of depressants.
Changes in Mood
Mood swings are another adverse side effect and warning sign of drug abuse. When abusing drugs, one side effect seems to lead to another until someone’s life completely falls apart. Mood swings are when someone has a sudden or intense change of emotional state.
Going from elated to completely devastated and seeing no way out of a situation is just one example of a mood swing a drug abuser may experience. It could also be the opposite, where someone is in the lowest depths of depression and inexplicably becomes giddy with excitement.
Loss of Interest
Loss of interest is also a destructive life change that can happen during drug abuse cycles. Because of things like sleep changes, and mood swings, a person’s personality starts to be altered. The brain chemistry changes. Things they were once passionate about become dull. People they used to love being around become boring. Basic everyday things become tedious and of no interest.
Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters. The euphoria of the high hits when the brain’s “reward circuit” gets over-activated by drug use. After repeated exposure, the circuit adapts to the presence of the drug and makes it hard to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug.
Isolation and Detachment
Isolation & detachment commonly go along with loss of interest. The same neurotransmitters that get overwhelmed to cause loss of interest also cause detachment. Over time, someone who shows signs of drug abuse will detach from those they used to be close to and isolate themselves. Keeping their circle small helps keep their addiction large. The more people care for them, the more chance they will have to face what their life has become.
Neglecting responsibilities seems to follow isolation & detachment. Sometimes drug abuse can even lead to detaching so much that children and pets could be completely put on the back burner. When isolated, it can be difficult to get up and go to work regularly. Detaching can make someone not care about the tasks they are responsible for at their job, which can lead to loss of income and all of the things that come along with that.
Drug abuse or its side effects can lead to impaired judgment. Someone who does not have a healthy mind or body usually has difficulty making healthy choices. Impaired judgment can be driving under the influence, holding a baby when the person is high, or even cooking dinner drunk and leaving the stove on when they are done. So many small decisions can lead to huge consequences.
Legal and Financial Problems
Legal and financial problems are also risk factors for drug abuse. For example, spending money on drugs before bills or obligated expenses can cause bankruptcy, loss of living space, repossession of vehicles, or pawned possessions.
When financial problems start, legal problems aren’t usually far behind. Some drug abusers resort to stealing, some accidentally hurt someone else while intoxicated, or maybe they hurt themselves while operating their vehicle when they were over the legal limits. Legal troubles also cause more financial troubles, and it can become a circle of devastation for the drug abuser.
Absolute Awakenings Can Help
If you or someone you love may be struggling with drug abuse and addiction, we can help. Absolute Awakenings offers confidential assessments without obligation to commit to our treatment program. So give us a call today.
- Drug addiction (substance use disorder) – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Accessed January 15, 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/symptoms-causes/syc-20365112
- Rosenblum M. Substance abuse and insomnia. Minn Med. 2017;100(3):38-39.
- Roe L, Proudfoot J, Tay Wee Teck J, Irvine RDG, Frankland S, Baldacchino AM. Isolation, Solitude and Social Distancing for People Who Use Drugs: An Ethnographic Perspective. Front Psychiatry. 2021;11:623032. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2020.623032