Know the symptoms of drug use

Know the symptoms of drug use

Know the symptoms of drug use

Drugs are everywhere and most children have easy access to them. By recognising the symptoms of drug use early on, you have a better chance of helping your child prevent addiction.

If you are worried about any strange behaviour your child may disclose or if you have even the slightest suspicion that he or she may be using drugs without your knowledge or consent, you have to act immediately.

The first step is to recognise the signs and symptoms of drug abuse or addiction. When drug use is faced and thoughtfully addressed as soon as it is discovered, there is more hope for overcoming drug abuse and addiction. Although the intoxicating effect of drugs can be seen immediately, becoming addicted may vary according to the type of drug and the individual drug user.

Drugs and their symptoms

As addiction progresses, irrespective of the substance, a general change in behaviour and appearance without any apparent cause can be seen in drug users. Changes may include:

  • Untidiness, slovenly manners, lack of care in appearance
  • Disinterest in activities where previously there was active participation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Withdrawal from social activities and family
  • Changing friends or isolating from friends and becoming loners
  • Unaccountable and unpredictable mood swings
  • Irrational or risky behaviour
  • Spending more money than before
  • Pre-occupation with themselves, defensiveness, over reaction to criticism
  • Fluctuating energy levels
  • Memory lapses, impaired concentration
  • Lying, secretiveness, dishonesty
  • Impaired school or work performance
  • Absenteeism from school or work
  • Changes in sleeping patterns.

Drug specific symptoms

  • Marijuana (including hashish and cannabis): Glassy, red eyes; loud talking and inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; a sweet burnt scent; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss
  • Alcohol: Clumsiness; difficulty walking; slurred speech; sleepiness; poor judgment; dilated pupils
  • Depressants (including barbiturates and tranquilizers): Seemingly drunk as if from alcohol but without the associated odour of alcohol; difficulty concentrating; clumsiness; poor judgement; slurred speech; sleepiness; contracted pupils
  • Stimulants (amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine and methylphenidate or Ritalin): Hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; long periods of time without eating or sleeping; dilated pupils; weight loss; dry mouth and nose
  • Inhalants (glues, aerosols and vapours): Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; an unusual number of spray cans in the trash
  • Hallucinogens (LSD and PCP): Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behaviour including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with themselves or other objects; slurred speech; confusion
  • Heroin: Needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing and sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite; contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light
  • Tobacco/nicotine: Smell of tobacco; stained fingers or teeth.

If some of the above listed symptoms are present in your child, you should be rightfully worried and alert. It is important to get as much information as possible on drugs, drug addiction and drug abuse in order to help and guide your child in his or her struggle with a possible monster that is going to destroy not only their own, but potentially also the lives of the whole family.


Drug addiction. Symptoms. Retrieved from
Symptoms and signs of drug abuse. Retrieved from

(Revised by M van Deventer)