How to tell if someone is on drugs
8-10% of adults have substance abuse issues
Friends and families of drug addicts: you are not alone. If you are an employer, an employee, a teacher, a student, a parent or a friend who has an interest in maintaining a safe environment (and who doesn’t want that?) then you should know the tell-tale signs and symptoms of someone who is under the influence of drugs. Eight percent of full-time employed adults and 10% of part-time employed adults had substance abuse issues, according to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Don’t let these small percentages fool you; they represent thousands and thousands of people, some of whom you might work with or see everyday!
Of course, everyone has days when their head just isn’t present. It could be due to stress from inside or outside the situation or personal issues and this is excusable from time to time, as we all have those days. However, if these days seem to happen more often than not for someone, that could be a sign of substance abuse. Keep in mind also that the line between addiction v dependence is very delicate. And that even medical use of prescription drugs can be a problem.
Red flags for substance abuse
So, how do you tell the difference between someone having an off day and someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol in the workplace or right before going to work?
The most obvious red flag is if a person is having more ‘off days’ than non ‘off days’ for no apparent reason. Someone who has suffered a loss in the family, for example, is going to have a period of time where they just aren’t fully engaged but that time will pass. For someone with a substance abuse issue, though, a tell-tale pattern of behavior is a constant. It may not be every single day, but it will likely be more than enough to spot a problem. Despite the fact that each drug affects the body differently, a drug abuse problem has some pretty consistent signs and symptoms.
Drug abuse physical warning signs
- bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than
- deterioration of physical appearance
- falling asleep or passing out at work
- noticeable change in personal grooming habits for the worse
- sudden weight loss or weight gain
- tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
- unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
Drug abuse behavioral signs
- drop in performance or attendance at work
- getting into trouble at work or outside of work frequently (e.g.: fights, accidents, illegal activities like driving under the influence)
- secretive or suspicious behavior
- unexplained need for money or financial problems, often accompanied by asking co-workers to borrow money or stealing from the company
Drug abuse psychological warning signs
- appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid for no apparent reason
- lack of motivation, person often appears lethargic or ‘spaced out’
- sudden angry outbursts, mood swings or irritability
- unexplained change in personality or attitude, particularly a negative change
- unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness for short periods of time
Commonly Abused Drug Warning Signs
Depressants: (including Xanax, Valium, GHB): Contracted pupils; drunk-like state; difficulty concentrating; clumsiness; poor judgment; slurred speech; sleepiness.
Hallucinogens: (LSD, PCP): Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.
Heroin: Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light; needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite.
Inhalants: (glues, aerosols, vapors): 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.
Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss; excessive snacking or eating at inappropriate times.
Stimulants: (including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth): Dilated pupils; hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go long periods of time without eating; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.
Drug abuse in the workplace is an unfortunate reality, but knowing what to watch for, along with a comprehensive drug testing program, can go a long way toward eradicating it from your workplace.
Is s/he on drugs?
If your child, spouse or someone else you care about is displaying any of this type of behavior or physical signs, they might have a substance abuse issue. But as long as motivation to quit using drugs is present, recovery is possible. Please leave your questions about drug use here. We will do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.