How To Discern If Someone You Know Is Abusing Drugs

Discerning if a loved one is abusing drugs

While there are many debilitating diseases that can have a profoundly negative impact on the life of the sufferer, drug abuse and addiction can be one of the most problematic conditions to grapple with. This is the case for many reasons, including the fact that misuse of drugs can negatively impact the user’s mind and body. Moreover, if a user cannot stop using a drug, she or he could lose a job, become estranged from friends and family members, or experience poor grade performance in school. If you suspect that you or someone you love is abusing drugs, you should arm yourself with as much information about drug use and drug abuse as possible.

Signs of Drug Abuse

Although drug abuse can be a difficult reality to deal with, individuals who suspect that a loved one is abusing a narcotic should first gather concrete information to determine whether this is the case. Here are some signs that may indicate your loved one is abusing drugs:

  • The abuser neglects responsibilities. When you note that your loved one is skipping work or flunking classes, such behaviors can be clear signs that drug use has evolved into drug abuse such that other activities are abandoned or performed poorly.
  • The abuser will consume the drug even when conditions are dangerous. Examples can include using dirty needles, having unprotected sex to acquire drugs, or driving while on the drug.
  • The abuser’s drug use is generating difficulties in her or his personal relationships. Examples of this would include making a boss unhappy because of poor work performance due to drug use or the loss of old friends who do not want to be in an environment marked by excessive drug use.

Signs of Drug Addiction

In some cases, drug abuse becomes consistent enough to entail drug addiction. Here are some signs you should look out for if you think that your loved one has become an addict:

  • Your loved one has built up a drug tolerance. For example, rather than consuming what most would consider a modest amount of a drug-such as one or two glasses of wine-the individual feels the need to drink alcohol in excess. The underlying principle precipitating this reality is plain: the drug addict needs to use more of the drug to attain the same desired effect that was experienced when the drug was used in smaller amounts.
  • Your loved one feels the need to consume the drug to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms. This is a clear sign that the drug is not being used as a recreational drug, but rather that the user has developed a mental and/or physical fixation with the drug that entails undesirable symptoms when she or he ceases consumption. Some of the withdrawal symptoms that a drug addict might experience upon attempting to quit a drug include insomnia, nausea, restlessness, depression, shaking, sweating, and anxiety.
  • Your loved one abandons activities they used to enjoy. This is not an unusual occurrence for addicts given that drug use often evolves into a “lifestyle” in which the user’s time, money, and thought life are dominated by the desire to acquire and use drugs. Other endeavors like hobbies, socialization events, and sports are frequently abandoned because the drugs have become such an integral aspect of the user’s life.


As you begin to grapple with learning whether or not a loved one is abusing drugs or has become completely addicted to them, you may find that learning more about drug use in general helps you understand your loved one’s problem better. Here are some statistics about the topic:

  • Illicit drug use in the United States is on the rise. This fact becomes plain when one considers that—in 2011—8.7% of the population had taken an illicit drug or abused a pain reliever, tranquilizer, or stimulant within the past month. This rate marks an increase from the 8.3% who used or abused the aforementioned drugs in 2002.
  • Marijuana use has gone up since 2007. In 2011, around 7% of individuals aged 12 and up had used marijuana in the past month. This statistic marks a rise from the 5.8% who used the drug in 2007.
  • 67.5% of new illicit drug users start with marijuana. After marijuana, the most frequently used drugs are prescription pain relievers and inhalants. (Inhalants are most common amongst teens.)
  • People in their late teens and twenties have the highest rate of drug use. In 2011, 23.8% of people aged 18-to-20 had used an illicit drug within the past month.

In addition to understanding general statistics regarding drug addiction, it is important to understand the specific impact that drugs are having on adolescents. This is especially important given that research indicates most people begin using drugs for the first time when they are teenagers. In 2012, the National Institute of Drug Abuse reported on past 30 day use in major drug categories:


  • 12th graders: 41.5%
  • 10th graders: 27.6%
  • 8th graders: 11.0%


  • 12th graders: 17.1%
  • 10th graders: 10.8%
  • 8th graders: 4.9%

Illicit Drugs

  • 12th graders: 25.2%
  • 10th graders: 18.6%
  • 8th graders: 7.7%

While these statistics may seem daunting, it is a bit encouraging to note that drinking amongst under-aged people (ranging from 12-20) declined from 28.8% to 25.1% between the years of 2002 and 2011. In addition to this, binge drinking has declined from 19.8% to 15.8%. Finally, heavy drinking has declined from 6.2% to 4.4%.

Solutions For Drug Abuse

While drug abuse and drug addiction can cause profound and long-standing problems, viable solutions exist. Once you have concluded that a loved one or friend is indeed abusing drugs or has become an addict, there are several things that you can do. One of the most advantageous measures to take is suggesting detoxification. As many health experts know, detoxification is a professional treatment of a drug addict or alcoholic that involves abstaining from the drug or drink until the bloodstream has rid itself of the harmful toxins. This detoxification process is a medically supervised form of treatment and is generally the initial step towards overcoming the psychological and physiological aspects of addiction.

In addition to detoxification, you may find that your loved one can benefit greatly from counseling services. Counseling services for drug abusers or addicts can offer a wide range of helpful services, including formal evaluations, assessments, diagnosis, and the assistance of nonjudgmental trained professionals who can offer the abuser or addict the care and advice needed to generate improvement.


Although drug abuse and addiction can negatively alter the lives of the user, determining whether an individual indeed has a serious problem can be the first step towards permanent recovery. If you suspect that someone you know has an addiction to meth or has a drug addiction, it may be advantageous to consult with both medical officials and counseling professionals so that the problem can be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible.

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