How To Quickly Recognize Which Drugs a Person Has Used

By: SUPE Editorial Team

Learning to identify what drugs a person has used or is under the influence of is a skill that can help someone stop using drugs. In addition, it can prevent overdose and save someone’s life. Many of the signs and symptoms are similar, yet some are unique to the substance being consumed. Overall, the best indicator to look for is always the behavioral signs. But it is good to know what drugs cause what symptoms. 

The following information details individual substances, including prescription narcotics.

Prescription Drugs
Cocaine and Crack Cocaine
Heroin
Methamphetamine
Cannabis
Dissociative Drugs

There are far too many varieties of prescription pills, but the commonly misused medications include pain medication, stimulant medication, sedatives, or tranquilizers— Valium, Xanax, Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percocet, Ativan, Adderall, Ritalin, fentanyl, methadone, and others.

Behavioral signs include:

  • Strong cravings for the prescription pill.
  • Continually using the medication in situations where it is physically dangerous to do so.
  • Using the medication after it is no longer required.
  • Making attempts to stop taking the medication but failing to do so.
  • The development of tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

How to Identify What Kind of Prescription Drug is Used

  • Opioids include the following: Hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, etc., and produce depressant effects. The individual may exhibit symptoms such as drowsiness, constipation, nausea, and slowed breathing.
  • Stimulants include the following: Adderall, Ritalin, and other amphetamines. These drugs cause a person to become anxious and jittery and experience headaches, weight loss, and heart palpitations.
  • Benzodiazepines or sedatives include the following: Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin. When these drugs are misused, it produces drowsiness, changes in mood, confusion, and weakness.

The difference between powder cocaine and crack cocaine, besides the physical appearance, is the speed at which the effects take hold. The effects of crack cocaine, because it is smoked, are much more intense and occur more quickly.

How to Identify Cocaine or Crack Cocaine Use

Stimulant drugs create many of the same symptoms, and the severity ranges from mild to severe. Some of the most common signs include the following:

  • Chaotic and aggressive, and paranoid behavior
  • Glossy eyes with enlarged or dilated pupils
  • Runny nose or nose bleeds
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Involuntary muscle twitching
  • Decreased appetite
  • Social isolation
  • Higher confidence and talkativeness
  • Headaches and hallucinations

A common and concerning medical symptom is chest pain. Cocaine constricts blood vessels, stressing the heart and cardiovascular system.

Heroin comes in many forms but is the most intense when it is injected directly into the bloodstream. The drug can also be smoked or snorted.

How to Identify Heroin Use

Some of the immediate short-term effects that a person would notice include the following:

  • Flushed and warm skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Clouded thinking or spaced-out
  • Nodding off
  • Itching and sores on the arms, legs, and between the toes or fingers.

Opiates cause intense euphoric effects that cause the person to become lucid and carefree.

Methamphetamine is commonly smoked but can also be injected into the bloodstream or snorted. The signs and symptoms of meth use can be moderate or quite severe.

How to Identify Methamphetamine Use

Some of the following symptoms include:

  • Aggressive, erratic, or violent behavior
  • Loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety, paranoia, and mood disturbances
  • Dental problems
  • High blood pressure and irregular heartbeat

As cannabis is becoming legalized in many states, it is becoming an ever more popular substance among all demographics and is widely accepted, like alcohol. Cannabis products are commonly smoked, ingested, or used in a vaporizer.

How to Identify Marijuana Use

The signs and symptoms of marijuana use vary depending on concentration, frequency, and the amount consumed. Some of the following symptoms include:

  • Changes in mood
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Intense food cravings
  • Strong and unusual odors
  • Problems thinking and impaired memory
  • Difficult problem-solving
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Low energy levels

Hallucinogenic and dissociative drugs cause hallucinations and profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality. It is believed they temporarily disrupt communication between neurotransmitter systems throughout the brain and spinal cord.

Common hallucinogenic and dissociative drugs include the following: LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, PCP, Ketamine, DXM, and Salvia divinorum.

How to Identify Hallucinogenic and Dissociative Drug Use

Hallucinogenic and dissociative drugs cause visual and auditory hallucinations and distortions. It causes some users to feel a sense of floating and dissociation from reality. Some of the general signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Hallucinations include seeing, hearing, touching, or smelling things distortedly or perceiving things that do not exist.
  • Intensified sensory experiences and feelings.
  • Mixed senses such as feeling sounds and hearing colors.
  • Drastic changes in the sense of perception of time.
  • Increased energy and heart rate.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Disorientation, confusion, loss of coordination.
  • A feeling of detachment from self and environment.
  • Psychological distress.

Test Your Knowledge

How To Recognize Which Drugs a Person Has Used

What happens when hallucinogenic or dissociative drugs are used?

Bloodshot eyes are an indication that someone has been using marijuana.

How can a person identify cocaine or crack cocaine use?

What is NOT a commonly misused prescription medication?

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