How to identify drug users and drug addicts

Identifying drug addicts can be obvious. But sometimes it isn’t that easy to distinguish use from abuse. What should you look for? Details here.

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Identifying drug users and drug addicts

Many believe that drug use is harder to hide than alcohol dependence and addiction. Unfortunately, identifying drug users and drug addicts isn’t always easy. Some individuals who use or abuse drugs are excellent at hiding their behavior, and their problem may go undetected for years. It’s rare that drug users and drug addicts will come out and tell someone that they have a problem. Instead, many of them deny that they have a problem, and many believe that they can quit using drugs whenever they want.

However, identifying an addiction problem early is best, since early detection can lead to more successful drug treatment. Here, we review signs of drug abuse and addiction. Then, we invite your questions about identifying drug addicts at the end.

How to tell if someone is a drug user or drug addict

Fortunately, there are a number of signs you can watch for when identifying drug users and drug abusers. Some of these signs are physical, while others may be behavioral. The list below contains some of the signs to watch for when trying to tell if someone is a drug user or drug addict.

  • bloodshot eyes
  • dilated or constricted pupils
  • drastic weight loss over a short period of time
  • evidence of drug use on the body, such as needle marks
  • frequent absenteeism or tardiness to school or work
  • frequent confusion
  • hostility when confronted about drug use
  • lackadaisical attitude toward personal hygiene and grooming
  • mood swings
  • preoccupation with using or finding drugs
  • shakiness or tremors
  • spends the majority of their time using or recovering from the effects of drugs
  • unable or unwilling to quit using drugs despite financial, family, health and legal problems

A doctor or addiction specialist will be able to tell if someone is a drug user or drug addict better than a layperson. A drug addiction diagnosis is usually made after a thorough physical and psychological examination. Seek help from a medical doctor, psychiatrist, or clinical psychologist for help.

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Identify drug users and drug addicts…now what?

Once a person has been diagnosed with a drug problem, the sooner they can get into a rehab or treatment program, the better. Unfortunately, few drug users and drug addicts will willingly enter drug rehab. They will sometimes need to either hit rock bottom in order to realize that they need treatment.

Loved ones can stage an intervention before this happens. During an intervention, a small group of loved ones and an addiction specialist confront a drug addict in an effort to help him or her understand the effects of their drug use. This is done in a non-threatening manner, as the goal of an intervention is to get a person to willingly enter drug addiction treatment.

When a drug addict is ready to enter treatment, they will typically meet with an addiction specialist for an assessment. During the assessment, the addiction specialist will determine the severity of the drug problem as well as the best way to treat it. The drug addict will then enter either an inpatient or outpatient drug treatment program, depending on their individual situation.

Help for drug users and drug addicts

Identifying drug users and drug addicts and getting them into treatment is no easy task. It’s also not a task that you should take on alone.

Don’t let your loved one suffer.
Addiction responds to treatment. Call us to get started.

It’s natural to have questions and concerns at this point as well. If you have any questions or just want to vent, feel free to comment below. We’ll do our best to answer you quickly and help you through this difficult time in your life.

Reference Sources: Just For Youth: Identifying Drug Addiction and warning Signs
NIH Senior Health: Recognizing Substance Abuse
Board of Occupational Therapy: Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Drug and Alcohol
NCBI: How Frequently are “Classic” Drug-Seeking Behaviors Used by Drug-Seeking Patients in the Emergency Department?
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. Are you using drug user and drug addict synonymously? or are you making a distinction that not all drug users are addicts? Do you think that drug users also need help?

    1. Hi Tim. A drug user and a drug addict are not the same. A drug addict is a drug user, but a drug user might not be a drug addict. It’s about how often you use the substance, how long and how it affects you every day life. And yes, drug users need help too, because drug use can lead to drug addiction.

    1. Hi Swarnalatha. You can try talking with the person. However, people with addiction issues are very vulnerable and tend to deny their addiction problem. There are many physical as well as behavioral signs that can tell is a person is abusing drugs. Some of them include bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual, deterioration of physical appearance, falling asleep or passing out, secretive or suspicious behavior, unexplained need for money or financial problems, etc. You may need to search for an evidence. Also, here’s an interesting article on the topic:

  2. Sir, I am in a long distance relationship
    My boyfriend’s family got to know that he is taking drugs but its difficult for me to understand it
    Suggest me some points so that I can easily identify the symptoms of him
    And some treatment to get rid of drugs
    Please help me
    Thank you

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