Illegal substance usage, as well as misuse of legally prescribed prescription medications, can both lead to drug dependency. Since many episodes of adult drug abuse can be traced back to the adolescent and teen years, recognizing warning signs in you or a loved one early on is critical to a successful recovery.
Symptoms of drug abuse may include:
- A change in behavior such as being very withdrawn, tired or depressed
- A tendency to end longstanding friendships
- A decision to neglect one’s appearance
- A reduction in job performance or suddenly getting poor grades in school
- A tendency to miss work frequently or skip out on family functions
- A loss of interest in favorite hobbies, activities or sports
- A disinterest in obeying rules at school, work or within the community
- A significant change in eating or sleeping habits
- A difficulty relating to family members and friends due to anger or hostility
- A tendency to struggle with thinking clearly or solving problems as well as issues with pre-existing levels of motor control, balance and endurance
Prolonged drug abuse can damage almost every organ in the body, leading to cancers, respiratory disorders, heart diseases, strokes, and other illnesses. After alcohol and tobacco, marijuana is the most-used drug in the United States.
Regardless of the type of drug selected, symptoms of prolonged abuse include:
- Failure to control drug usage despite recognizing the serious consequences
- Development of a physical tolerance resulting in the need to use more drugs
- Spending increased amount of time seeking ways to obtain and use drugs
- Experiencing serious symptoms of withdrawal when unable to get drugs
- Risk of serious illness or death due to eventual drug overdose
Prescription medications such as stimulants have been legally used to successfully treat conditions such as obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but these have unfortunately also been diverted for illegal use. Commonly abused stimulants that are taken orally, intravenously or snorted may be synthetic (amphetamines) or plant-derived (cocaine). Withdrawal symptoms specific to stimulant use disorders may include fatigue, vivid and unpleasant dreams, sleep problems, increased appetite, or irregular problems in controlling movement.
Opioids may be legally available pain relievers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, but they can cause serious health effects in those who misuse them. Opioids can produce drowsiness and euphoria. They can also cause nausea, constipation, and depressed respiration. Illegal opioid drugs, such as heroin, have gained in popularity because of greater availability and lower price. Death and overdose with heroin is common due to the large number of impure chemicals and other unknown drugs mixed with the substance on the black market. Symptoms of withdrawal that are specific to opioid use disorders include negative mood, nausea or vomiting, muscle aches, diarrhea, fever, and insomnia.
Hallucinogens can produce feelings of detachment from one’s environment and oneself, and distortions in time and perception due to visual and auditory distortion. They can be chemically synthesized (as with LSD) or they may occur naturally (as with peyote). Rare but serious health effects that can occur even after stopping usage can include heart failure and flashbacks.