Drug Use Indicators


"Known-indicators" are the more common - and easily observable by you - signs and symptoms of drug-use by an individual. If you already know a family member, a friend, a co-worker or schoolmate is using drugs, they need help. If you care about them, talk to them. If you are not sure they are "using", then your personal and direct observation of a number (it's usually more than just "one") of these symptoms may help give you the confidence to approach them and talk with them about the help they need.

Major categories of drug use/abuse indicators are:

PERFORMANCE indicators

BEHAVIORAL indicators



Review each of these four categories drug-abuse indicators frequently until you know them well. This will enable you to be “on the lookout” for these signs and symptoms and to recognize them in your home, your workplace, or school. By "getting involved" and helping those you love or care for, you may prevent drug problems before they reach crisis level!

First, an important caveat: while the following in combination represent "known-indicators" of drug-abuse, they certainly do not "prove" abuse of drugs. For example, a few of these indicators can be attributed to a newly-acquired emotional stress (death in the family, job loss, a divorce, etc.). Frankly, a few of them are also identical to symptoms a person exhibits when they simply have the "flu-bug"! You may even recognize that some of these symptoms are a "standard description" of how you might define the "personality" of someone - or a number of "someones" - whom you know very well. In other words, "...it's just the way they have always been".

On the other hand, in combination, these symptoms could well be drug-abuse related....that's especially if you observe a "sudden" appearance of a combination (e.g., 3-4-5 or more) of these indicators in an individual you personally know very well. If you recognize that these "indicators" represent "new" behavior for them, the possibility is strong that those sudden changes are a result of newly-begun drug-use. Please keep the above caution in mind as you familiarize yourself with the following:

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1“Performance” indicators that are often (but not always) specific to drug-abuse
  • excessive absenteeism or tardiness
  • lower productivity, lower grades in school
  • missed deadlines
  • excessive equipment breakdown because of poor maintenance
  • deteriorating work quality
  • poor morale
  • increased minor accidents, mistakes
  • multiple reports of theft, missing personal items by co-workers, classmates
2“Behavioral” indicators that are often (but not always) specific to drug-abuse
  • sudden change in attitude, work, or behavior- a new, “I don’t care attitude”
  • sudden deterioration of long friendships, relationships
  • "explosive" arguments and disagreements over small matters
  • frequent hangover symptoms
  • using drug culture jargon
  • secretive behavior
  • avoiding “straight” (non drug-users) co-workers or classmates
  • erratic behavior-forgetfulness-indecision
  • deterioration in personal appearance and hygiene
  • hyper-activity, constant toe or heel-tapping and/or "drumming" of fingers
  • easy excitability
  • restlessness, increased physical activity
  • wearing of long-sleeved garments in very warm weather
  • new financial problems or frequent borrowing of money
3“Physical” indicators that are often (but not always) specific to drug-abuse
  • small blood spots or bruises on skin
  • bloodshot or watery eyes
  • runny or irritated nose, irritating cough, sore throat
  • speech pattern changes, slurred speech, faster speech, slower speech
  • tremors or jitters
  • constant scratching of skin, "picking" at skin and hair on arms, etc.
  • poor coordination, tripping, spilling, bumping into things and other people
  • large or small (dilated) pupils
  • a faint skin odor- either sweet or acrid
  • easily fatigued or constantly fatigued
  • hyper-excitability
4“Paraphernalia” indicators that are often (and almost always) specific to drug-abuse
  • possession of hypodermic needles, balloons, aluminum foil wrappers, mirrors or flat metal, short straws, glass pipes, smoking pipes, capsules, vials, or folded paper envelopes, a cigarette lighter (or small butane torch) when carried by a known "non-smoker"
  • Possession of illicit drugs is a definite "tip-off" of drug-abuse! (Wouldn't you think?)
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