Addictions - Substance Abuse: Signs and Symptoms

The physical signs of abuse or addiction can vary depending on the person and the drug being abused. For example, someone who abuses marijuana may have a chronic cough or worsening of asthmatic symptoms. Each drug has short-term and long-term physical effects. Stimulants like cocaine increase heart rate and blood pressure, whereas opioids like heroin may slow the heart rate and reduce respiration. Symptoms and behaviors of drug addiction include:

  • Confusion
  • Continuing to use drugs even when health, work, or family are being harmed
  • Episodes of violence
  • Hostility when confronted about drug dependence
  • Lack of control over drug abuse - being unable to stop or reduce alcohol intake
  • Making excuses to use drugs
  • Missing work or school, or a decrease in performance
  • Need for daily or regular drug use to function
  • Neglecting to eat
  • Not caring about physical appearance
  • No longer taking part in activities because of drug abuse
  • Secretive behavior to hide drug use
  • Using drugs even when alone


Signs of Marijuana Use and Addiction

Someone taking marijuana can:

  • Get dizzy
  • Laugh for no reason
  • Have red, bloodshot eyes
  • Forget things that just happened

Marijuana makes you feel like time is slowing down. Minutes can feel like hours. At the same time, everyday sights, sounds, and tastes may seem really interesting or funny.

Marijuana can make you feel very hungry. You want to eat lots of junk food. Some people call this "the munchies."

When someone smokes marijuana, they often smell like it afterwards. Marijuana smells sweeter than cigarette smoke. A person might use incense, cologne, or perfume to hide the smell.

Some people get addicted to marijuana after using it a lot. They might need to smoke more and more of it to get the same high.

People who are trying to quit using marijuana can:

  • Be in a bad mood
  • Feel nervous
  • Have trouble sleeping

They will feel a strong need to take the drug.

Signs of Pain Medicine Abuse and Addiction

Pain medicine abuse can make you throw up.

Pain medicine abuse makes the pupils (the black circle in the center of each eye) get very small.

Pain medicine abuse can cause constipation (trouble having a bowel movement).

When people smoke, snort, or inject pain medicines, they get a stronger reaction than they would if they swallowed the pills. The high might be stronger, but it's even more dangerous and can cause problems breathing.

People who get addicted to pain medicine need to take more and more of the drug to get the same high.

People who are addicted to pain medicine might secretly visit many different doctors to get as many painkiller prescriptions as they can. Then they might visit different pharmacies (prescription drug sellers) so no one realizes that just one person is buying all these pain pills. This is called "doctor shopping" and it is not safe.

People who are trying to stop abusing pain medicine might:

  • Have pain in muscles and bones
  • Get chills
  • Throw up
  • Have diarrhea ("the runs")
  • Feel nervous, angry, or very sad
  • Be unable to sleep

They will feel a very strong need to take the drug.