Signs of Drug Abuse – Seven Clues to Look For

This question is one of the most often asked when one of our presenters is speaking to a group of parents or teachers. How to tell if a young person is abusing drugs?

While there is no single way to know with certainty when a person has started experimenting with drugs, there are actually many changes that can indicate drug use. These changes are in the areas of appearance, mannerisms and attitude. Also there can be changes in participation in group activities, a lessening in motivation toward prior goals and a lowering of his/her general willingness to help.

Because a person on drugs usually needs to hide his activities, usual mannerisms begin to change. This “hiding” shows up in many ways, no matter how much he tries to make everything appear normal.

Watch for Changes in the General Mannerisms

1. The person cannot comfortably look you in the eye when speaking,being spoken to or approached.

Even though this is sometimes merely a sign of low communication skills and basic shyness, when it shows up as a change, it is often an indicator of drugs.

2. The person is very unreliable.

The person is not dependable, shows up late to school/work and it keeps getting worse, despite efforts at correction.

3. Generally sad, grumpy or a not caring attitude.

This could be the person’s normal way. However it is also a tip-off that there is a drug abuse problem, especially if it is a sudden change from the usual.

4. Short attention span, does not listen well.

Children are easily distracted. That is why the average kid’s TV show is a constantly changing, flash-flash of images. Keeping them focused can be a challenge. But the inability to focus could also indicate a drug use problem, especially if it is a relatively recent change.

5. Sudden change in friends.

Another strong indicator is a sudden change in friends, especially if the new group acts a suspiciously and rarely wants to be around the parents or in the house. This is another way that the person separates himself from those who might not agree with his new activities.

6. Monday morning ‘blahs’.

Some of the new “club drugs” often leave the user with a pronounced depression the day or even days after they are used. The more often these drugs are used, the longer the period of depression can last.

7. Changes in sleeping or eating habits.

Normal sleep habits very often change when a person begins to use drugs regularly. They might stay up late and then sleep away the day. They also might begin to sleep very little for long periods and then sleep solidly for 36 hours. these are indications of drug abuse.

Always be alert

At first you might not see any physical signs of drug use. It takes time for the body to show the effects, especially when drug abuse starts

Again, the most important things to be alert for are sudden changes in attitudes, and behavior patterns. Of course, the process of growing up is a process of change, but things like being tired all morning, or suddenly happy or awake after lunch or a break could mean the person is using drugs to get through the day.

Prescription Drug Abuse and Ways to Tackle It

In an anti-drug event in Charleston, West Virginia, in October this year, President Obama spoke about the dangers of drug overdose and prescription drug abuse. The president said, “It could happen to any of us… 120 Americans die every day from drug overdoses, most involving legal prescription drugs – that’s more than from car crashes.”

President Obama also expressed his concerns about prescription drugs becoming a “gateway to heroin.” Fighting this menace will require a lot of effort from all political parties, organizations and individuals from every family. The sale of painkillers in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years, which is a clear indication of their abuse by people.

According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States is in the throes of an unprecedented drug overdose epidemic. The report states: “By 2009, drug overdose deaths outnumbered deaths due to motor vehicle crashes for the first time in the U.S. Opioid analgesics, have been increasingly involved in drug overdose deaths. Opioid analgesics were involved in 30 percent of drug overdose deaths where a drug was specified in 1999, compared to nearly 60 percent in 2010.”

This is alarming, and adequate steps should be taken to curb this rising epidemic. One important step in this direction could be setting up of a helpline in every neighborhood to help out people and also spread the awareness.

Preventing prescription drug abuse

It is pragmatic to prevent it in the first place rather than focus on its cure after its onset. It is a cost-effective option that paves the way for longer life span, improved quality of life and academic performance and healthy interpersonal relationships.

In the CDC study, scientists also came up with several remedies to prevent this. According to them, “The most effective drug abuse prevention programs are those that help individuals to develop the intentions and skills to act in a healthy manner, and those that create an environment that supports healthy behaviors.”

“A brief universal prevention interventions conducted during middle school can lead to reductions in prescription drug misuse during adolescence and young adulthood,” the study says. These findings can be instrumental in supporting educational institutions to stop drug abuse among students and help them grow into healthy individuals.

Educating the patient and public

Creating awareness about it among people is one of the most important steps to prevent and reduce it. A public education campaign – Use Only as Directed – held in Utah resulted in a significant reduction in drug overdose deaths in the state.

Although people are watchful about purchasing illicit drugs from dealers, they often believe that prescription drugs are less harmful and non-addictive. This false notion has contributed to a substantial rise in the number of prescription drug abuse cases in the recent past.

Educating healthcare providers