Signs of Substance Use

Topic Overview

The following are some obvious signs that a person may be smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or using other substances. This is not a complete list of signs to look for. If you suspect a particular drug or drugs, get more information on signs of use for those substances. For more information, see Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Cigarettes

  • A distinctive smell on the breath and clothing
  • Cigarettes and lighter in his or her possession
  • Cigarette butts outside a bedroom window or in other odd places around the home

Alcohol

  • Alcoholic beverages missing from the home storage cabinet
  • Alcohol or mouthwash (used to cover up alcohol) breath or hangover symptoms (nausea, vomiting, or headache), if recently used

Marijuana

  • Sweet smell on clothing or bloodshot eyes, if recently used, and frequent use of eyedrops to reduce the redness
  • Drug paraphernalia (pipes) in his or her possession
  • Carelessness in grooming, increased fatigue, and changes in eating and sleeping patterns, if using regularly

Inhalants

  • Chemical breath, red eyes, or stains on clothing or face, if recently used
  • Soaked rags or empty aerosol containers in the trash

Club drugs

  • Skin rash similar to acne
  • Small bottles with liquid or powder in his or her possession

Stimulants

  • Persistent runny nose and nosebleeds, injection marks on arms or other parts of the body, or long periods of time without sleep
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia, such as syringes, spoons with smoke stains, small pieces of glass, and razor blades

LSD or other hallucinogens

  • Trance-like appearance with dilated pupils, if recently used
  • Small squares of blotter paper (sometimes stamped with cartoon characters) or other forms of the drug in his or her possession

Heroin

  • Very small pupils and a drowsy or relaxed look, if recently used
  • Possession of injecting supplies, called an outfit or rig, that may consist of a spoon or bottle cap, syringe, tourniquet, cotton, and matches

Anabolic steroids

  • An unpleasant breath odor
  • Mood changes, including increased aggression
  • Changes in physical appearance that can't be attributed to expected patterns of growth and development
  • Possession of medicines or syringes

Other general signs

  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in appetite or weight loss
  • Changes in dress
  • Loss of interest and motivation
  • Hoarseness, wheezing, or persistent cough

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Last Revised July 20, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

First Nurse

First Nurse

Call First Nurse 24 Hours a Day for free health care advice, resources and referrals!

Ames: 515-239-6877
In Iowa: 800-524-6877 

Search health information online in our Mulimedia Health Library.

High Quality Care

Guardian of Excellence

Mary Greeley consistently delivers high quality patient care.

  • 2013 Guardian of Excellence Award for Clinical Quality
  • Grade 'A' Patient Safety from the Leapfrog Group
  • 2013 Top Performer on Key Quality Measures ranking from The Joint Commission
  • Highest percentage bonus of any Iowa hospital in Medicare's quality incentive program

Mary Greeley on Facebook

Like us on Facebook

Patient Privacy | Net Learning for Employees | MGMC PACS for Physicians
Emergency Preparedness

1111 Duff Avenue Ames, IA 50010 - 515-239-2011 - yourhealth.mgmc@mgmc.com

©2014 Mary Greeley Medical Center - All rights reserved.