How to Tell if Someone You Know is Abusing Drugs

How to Tell if Someone You Know is Abusing Drugs

You know your friends and family very well. So you’ll be the first to notice if there are any changes in habits or lifestyle that should concern you. But as much as you know someone, sometimes it’s hard to see the truth. What makes it even harder is that you can’t imagine your friend or family member might be abusing drugs. So the signs are ignored or go unnoticed. As they say, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.


Common Signs of Addiction

There is no fool proof way to know if your friend or family member is abusing drugs other than talking with them. But the following are warning signs to look out for. One sign alone doesn’t point to addiction, but it is a great first step to knowing what might be happening with your loved one.



Drug abuse often shows itself in the way a user carries him or herself. They may try to hide or cover up these physical changes. But be on the lookout for the following:

  1. Sudden weight loss or gain – A shift in eating habits is common among addicts. This may lead to sudden fluctuations in their weight, either gaining or losing.
  2. Lethargic – They may find it difficult to become physically motivated to do things they did before like exercise or go out.
  3. Hyperactive – At the opposite end of the spectrum, you may see your loved is experiencing short bouts of hyperactivity.
  4. Slurred speech and loss of coordination – Drugs impact one’s ability to manage their body at times. You will see things like slurred speech or difficulty walking.
  5. Dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes – Eyes are easy to notice. You will see a redness or large pupils that are difficult to hide.
  6. Odors – You may find a change in smell with your loved one. It could be from the drug or a shift in personal grooming.


Behavioral Signs of Addiction

  1. Neglecting personal grooming habits – Your loved one may suddenly stop showering or washing their clothes regularly.
  2. Financial problems – Drugs carry a financial burden as abusers must find ways to pay for their addiction. You may see your loved one ask to borrow money. Or they may lose their job. They may even steal from you or someone else.
  3. Change in personal activity like new friends or avoiding old friends – Be aware of who your loved one is spending time with and take notice if they stop seeing lifelong friends or family.
  4. Suspicious or clandestine behavior – Long before they are able to admit they have a problem, an addict is still likely aware of their physical and mental changes and will become more secretive by hiding information from you. Covering up financial problems or hiding physical changes. Be aware of secretive activity.
  5. Legal trouble – As with financial problems, drugs also bring legal problems. Your loved one may suddenly find themselves getting into trouble with the law.
  6. Mood shifts. Quick to anger. – Mood swings are one of the most common symptoms as drugs greatly impact a user’s emotional state. Your loved one may quickly jump to anger and then shift to moments of elation.
  7. Paranoia – Your loved one may stop trusting you or people close to them because they are fearful that you or someone else, without cause, may want to harm them.


This is by far not an exhaustive list. It’s designed to provide you with a set of early signs to look out for. If you have a question or are concerned about yourself or a loved one, reach out to a HARP counselor and we’ll help you find the help you and your loved ones need.

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