Signs of Drug Abuse - Symptoms of Drug Use and Drug Abuse

It’s important to recognize the signs of drug abuse and symptoms of drug use so drug use can be addressed quickly. Learn about drug abuse symptoms now.

Signs and symptoms of drug use and drug abuse are critical to know if you suspect someone is using drugs. Some signs of drug abuse or use are easily seen by those around the drug user, but others are more subtle. It's important to remember though, even if signs and symptoms of drug abuse are seen, only a professional evaluation can truly say if the signs are those of drug abuse and not another behavioral or psychological condition.

Signs of Drug Use and Symptoms of Drug Use

Symptoms of drug use can often be spotted if risk factors for drug use have been identified. Risk factors for drug use include:

  • Easy availability of drugs
  • Drug users in the family
  • Friends who are drug users
  • An unhappy home life
  • A mental illness

Read more about drug abuse causes.

If a person has these risk factors, it's reasonable to look for symptoms of drug use.

The first sign of drug use is often a change in behavior. The user may lose interest in activities and hobbies and spend more time with friends than at home. Another symptom of drug use is sleeping changes and decreased performance at work or school. These symptoms of drug use may indicate another problem; however, so it's important to talk to the individual directly to confirm what you're really seeing are symptoms of drug use.1 (read about drug abuse effects)

Other signs and symptoms of drug use include:

  • Smell of drugs on person and clothing
  • Constant discussion of drugs
  • Pressuring others to do drugs
  • Frequent washing of clothes, showering or spraying room deodorizer to remove drug smells
  • Presence of drug paraphernalia like a pipe, bong or rolling papers
  • Changes in mood such as anxiety or depression
  • Skin that is cool and sweaty or hot and dry
  • Needing more money or unexplained expenses

Drug Abuse Symptoms

While the above are signs and symptoms of drug use, the signs and symptoms of drug abuse tend to be more severe. Signs of drug abuse are more pronounced as the user now has an extreme urge (craving) to use the drug. The user is no longer experimenting with the drug; they now feel a need to use it.

Symptoms and signs of drug abuse vary depending on the specific drug, but typically seen across all drugs is the exclusion of activities in order to use the drug. When the person no longer participates in anything but drug use, it is a clear sign of drug abuse. Further decreased performance in work or school and a vast change in mood and sleep are also signs of drug abuse.

Additional signs and symptoms of drug abuse include:

  • Unusual, bizarre behavior
  • Abnormal vital signs like respiration, heart rate and blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Chest or lung pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain
  • Diseases such as hepatitis B or C, or HIV from needle-sharing
  • Frequent hangovers
  • Hiding drugs

Info on teenage drug abuse signs here.

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 15). Signs of Drug Abuse - Symptoms of Drug Use and Drug Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: December 29, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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