The Top 5 Physical Signs of Drug Use

While it may be difficult to notice if a loved one is internally struggling with addiction, physical signs are often the most tangible way to detect a potential addiction. When there is a dramatic and noticeable change to someone’s physical appearance in a short time span, it is often hinting at a larger problem. If you are able to notice the most common physical signs of drug use, you may be able to help a loved one before it is too late.

The top five physical signs of drug abuse include:

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1. Lack of personal hygiene and neglect of appearance

When someone is struggling with addiction, their addiction often is prioritized higher than any other needs. There are many reasons that people who are struggling with a substance use disorder neglect their personal hygiene including the lack of self-esteem that is often associated with addiction. With a poor self-image, many people struggling with addiction do not feel the need to take care of themselves.

As a result of this lack of hygiene, a struggling addict may forget to take care of many aspects of their lives. For example, their homes may be unkempt, and their possessions are not well taken care of. Also, this neglect of hygiene can lead to health complications, especially rotting teeth and other dental issues.

2. Extreme weight gain or weight loss

Many times, eating habits change as a result of drug abuse. This is often accompanied by a drastic change in appearance, as a result of both weight gain and weight loss. Some drugs also serve as appetite suppressants which leads to a reduction of food intake and very sudden weight loss. More than this, insufficient food intake can negatively affect the body’s metabolism and lead to an inability to provide the proper level of nutrients. This may also lead to a pale and under-nourished appearance.

On the other hand, substances such as narcotics, opioids, and alcohol have been linked to extreme weight gain, “mainly as substance abuse disrupts the body’s ability to control nutrient levels.”[1] Because of the decrease in efficacy levels, often times the body does not have enough energy to function properly.

3. Bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils

One of the most noticeable ways to spot someone who is abusing drugs is to look in their eyes. Because blood vessels in the eyes expand as a result of alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, or other drug use, the eyes appear bloodshot red. In addition, changes in the color or pupil size can also point to signs of intoxication.

4. Injection marks on the body

For drugs like heroin that are often injected into the body, one of the most noticeable signs of addiction is physical marks on the body. Injection sites usually appear like bruises on the skin, and dark veins along the arm, which may even lead to infections. Sometimes, individuals trying to hide their addiction will inject it in less noticeable places like between their fingers or toes or constantly switch places to avoid scars.

5. Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone is experiencing withdrawal due to dependence on a drug, there are many physical symptoms that appear. During withdrawal, the body is trying to readjust after adapting to functioning with the drug. After trying to quit cold turkey or significantly reducing the intake of a drug, the body will produce withdrawal symptoms in order to cope with functioning without the drug. Some of the most common noticeable simooms of withdrawal include nausea, loss of appetite, headaches or fever, depression, insomnia or confusion, and hallucinations.

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