As much as we might hate to admit it, drugs are a part of everyday life for many people. Once the preserve of rock stars and millionaires, illegal drugs are becoming an increasingly acceptable part of everyday life and are now more accessible than ever before.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in America, 9.2% of the US population over 12 years old has used illicit drugs in the last month. That’s equivalent to 23.9 million users. Visits to emergency rooms thanks to drug use almost doubled between 2004 and 2009. No wonder then that so many people are trying out drugs when their use and availability is becoming so widespread.
But what if you’re concerned that a friend, work colleague or family member may be using illegal drugs secretly which could be affecting their health, finances and future sobriety? What are the risks involved with drug use, how should you approach the situation and what can be done about it?
There are a wide range of signs that might suggest that someone is secretly using drugs. Any or all of the following pointers might suggest that someone is using drugs, though it is important to state that unless you actually see someone taking drugs none of these tests will ever prove 100% reliable; they will merely give you a better idea of whether or not someone is secretly using illegal drugs.
If the illegal drugs being taken are injected – such as heroin – then over time damage will start to be done to the site of injection. Most commonly this will be the arms though some addicts struggle to reach a vein in the arm and may use other body parts – such as the hands or the legs – for injecting drugs.
In such cases the evidence is often quite obvious, with puncture marks and/or bruising showing from the repeated damage done from injecting drugs. If you find that someone with whom you are familiar either has this type of damage – or seems overly concerned about concealing these parts of their body – then it may serve as an indication of secret drug abuse.
Many commonly taken drugs can have a nasty effect on the immune system. Over time the immune system will become depressed which can lead to not only more frequent illnesses but also more severe attacks. Consequently if a friend or relative starts to look “run down” and seems to be constantly ill this too may be a sign of secret drug use.
Rapid, Severe Weight Change
Rapid changes in weight – either up or down – can be an indication of drug use. Many drugs have a severe impact on the digestive system and appetite, either speeding it up and giving the drug user “the munchies” where they may crave certain comfort foods, or totally robbing them of their appetite causing them to consume far fewer calories and to rapidly shed weight. If the weight gain is extreme and sudden then this should serve as a red flag.
Drug users will normally try to hide their habit. This can lead to all manner of secretive behaviour. For example someone you know may suddenly start to have money problems because they are spending so much on drugs. Perhaps they go out late at night without explanation in order to go and buy drugs or perhaps they seem to just be “hiding” something from you.
Whatever the case if this is someone that you were once close to who is now acting in a rather cold, stand-offish and unpredictable way from time to time this may be a sign that they are trying to conceal a drug habit.
Sudden Changes in Behaviour
Drugs can affect the behaviour in a number of ways. For example some drugs are capable of producing sudden mood swings in and of themselves. On the other hand, some drugs may produce extreme changes in behaviour as their effects wear off. Lastly of course the addict will always start to feel a “twinge” as the withdrawal symptoms start to kick in and they get agitated, wondering when they will be able to get their next hit.
Loss of Interest in Everyday Life
Sad as it may seem, drug users report that the experiences they have thanks to illegal narcotics make normal everyday life pale in comparison. The more someone gets into taking drugs, the more boring real life looks like in comparison. Slowly the “drug world” can take over, becoming the major focus of their free time.
This, combined with the expenses of maintaining a drug habit, can mean that secret drug users may start to lose interest in everyday life, including the activities and people that they used to enjoy. Housework may be ignored, favourite TV shows may be ignored and so on.
Another element to this loss of interest in everyday life may also mean that the drug user takes on a generally neglected appearance. Hair may remain unbrushed, clothes un-ironed or even unwashed. Men may fail to shave. Eyes may be bloodshot or glazed over from drug use. Over time it is often possible to see someone’s attention in their personal appearance dropping.
You may be surprised to hear that a key risk factor in getting involved with drugs is genetic. In short, if other relatives are involved with drugs it significantly increases the odds of being affected yourself.
As stated at the beginning of this article, none of these factors by themselves will confirm that someone is secretly taking drugs. However the more these indications there are, the more likely this becomes.
All the same, these are really only “hints” of an underlying problem and only by communicating with the individual and discussing your concerns will you ever be totally certain of whether or not a friend or family member is taking drugs behind your back.