The Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment of Drug Abuse

Drug abuse is when you overuse drugs so much that you risk developing dependence upon them, which is also known as drug addiction or substance use disorder. Drug abuse causes substance use disorder to happen. It’s one of its complications and it’s also what perpetuates further abuse down the line. Once you’re addicted to a drug you will keep using it in spite of yourself.

Drug Abuse Effects and Methods of Delivery

Once you become an addict, you might continue using and abusing a given drug despite the side effects, physical harm, and negative behavioral impact it causes to your person and the people around you.

With that said, here are the 6 most common drugs and their respective effects, signs, and symptoms when abused.

DrugPrimary EffectsSide Effects and Symptoms of AbuseMethods of Delivery
AlcoholSubstance that inhibits neurotransmission and CNS, causing a state of “drunkenness”.Distorted vision and hearing, breathing difficulties, diarrhea, vomiting, drowsiness, and slurred speech.Drinking alcoholic beverages
NicotineNicotinic acetylcholine agonist that induces hypertension and tachycardia.Constipation, headache, watery or dry mouth, watery eyes, throat or mouth soreness, and dizziness.Pill, chewable tobacco, or smoking cigars and cigarettes
MarijuanaCB1 and CB2 receptor stimulation, psychotropic effects, hypertension, and tachycardia.Problems with coordination, stroke risk, heart attack risk, increased heart rate, lowered reaction time, and short-term memory problems.Pill, marijuana edibles, tinctures, or smoking joints
CocaineIncreased dopamine and norepinephrine production, sympathetic stimulation, and euphoria.Sexual issues, mood problems, stroke, heart attack, heart disease, convulsions, seizures, and headaches.Injection, smoking crystals, or snorting powder
MethIncreased catecholamine production, sympathetic stimulation, increased concentration, and euphoria.Nausea, convulsions, seizures, panic and psychosis, increased body temperature, and disturbed sleep patterns.Injection or smoking crystals
HeroinOpioid receptor stimulation, a rush or surge of pleasurable sensation, respiratory depression, CNS depression, and analgesia.Nausea, severe itching, vomiting, drowsiness, clouded mental function, slowed heart rate, and slowed breathing.Injection or smoking crystals

Recognizing the Signs of Substance Abuse

Drug abuse affects people from all socioeconomic statuses and all walks of life. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor as well as what race you are. When you take drugs, there’s a risk big or small that you’ll become addicted to them by abusing them or even by normal prolonged usage that becomes abuse over time as substance use disorder developed.

  • The Relationship of Drug Abuse and Addiction: Whether you’re taking drugs prescribed or recreationally, the risk of drug abuse and drug dependence that escalates the abuse is ever-present. Addiction can even cause someone using a prescribed or recreational drug to abuse it just as drug abuse can cause dependence. They’re linked to each other.
  • Full-Blown Drug Addiction: Once you’re addicted to a drug, it can be extremely hard to stop using them without getting rehabilitation assistance and professional addiction treatment. Furthermore, drug abuse can wreak havoc on your mind and body, with it becoming outright life-threatening down the line. You risk permanent brain damage, organ failure, and various complications by continuing to use a drug in spite of yourself.
  • Facing Addiction: When you realize that your loved ones or you yourself have an addiction problem, you should get help through rehab ASAP. Although the topic of drug addiction is a taboo one, you shouldn’t be ashamed in admitting that you’re in need of rehab treatment. Undergoing therapy for your issues can be life-saving even though it’s a bumpy road ahead for you and your relapse risk hovers above you like a Sword of Damocles.
  • Signs and Symptoms of Abuse: Using most drugs will produce various side effects on top of primary effects. As you use them more until you reach the slippery slope of abuse and dependence, you’ll also notice more symptoms and signs developing on top of worsening negative side effects. They may include behavioral or physical changes, many times both at the same time.
  • The Slippery Slope: The danger in using drugs is that the more you use it the more its effects are lowered from the first time you use it, so you use it more to catch that previous high. You’ll then develop patterns of increased use that can lead to physical dependence and, ultimately, outright drug addiction before you even realize you’re already an addict.
  • Chasing a High: Your first high from a drug is usually your “best” high. Otherwise, it might be one of the first times you’ve taken your highest dose of the drug. It goes downhill from there, whether you’re using illicit street drugs or prescription drugs. As you chase that first high by using more and more drugs, this usually leads to drug abuse if you don’t quit early on.

Signs of Drug Abuse

A phenomenon known as “desensitization” will happen, in which your body gets more and more used to a drug the more times you use it. So, in order to get roughly the same high as the first time or the first few times, you start using it more. This leads to drug abuse and eventually dependence or addiction.

Here are the signs of drug abuse across the board.

  • Stealing or Borrowing Money: You steal or borrow money to pay for drugs.
  • Mixing Drug Cocktails: You take prescribed medication with alcoholic drinks or other drugs.
  • Persistent Usage: Even if your health problem is gone you still keep taking medication for it.
  • Lost Interest in Hobbies: You’ve lost interest in your hobbies that you used to love in favor of taking drugs.
  • Driving Under The Influence: You drive or operate heavy machinery when you’re on the drug or substance.
  • Drug Abuse to Ensure Its Effects: Even before the effects of the drug can kick in, you keep taking more and more of it.
  • Problems with Daily Routines: You’ve started having issues or difficulties doing things like working at your job or cooking food.
  • Constant Usage by Instinct: Even if you wish to, you can’t help but keep using the drug by instinct, like you’re hungry for it or something.
  • Desensitization: You need to take more and more of a drug to get the same effects because of your tolerance to the drug due to desensitization.
  • Strained Relationships: You might also keep using the drug even when doing so lead to bad things in your life, like trouble with the law, work, family, and friends.
  • Hiding Drugs and Symptoms of Abuse: You hide your drugs or the effect it has on you—like using eye drops on reddened eyes or chew breath mints—from people around you in shame.
  • Not Feeling Normal When Not Using: When the drug’s effects wear off, you start feeling strange. You might sweat, have headaches, become sick to your stomach, suffer from depression, or get a shaky body.
  • Unlimited and Persistent Drug Usage: You can’t set limits on how you take the drug. You might claim you’ll only drink alcohol or smoke meth at a limited amount but you end up using twice that amount or more.
  • Other Withdrawal Symptoms: You can also lack an appetite for food or feel tired until you begin using again. In severe cases of addiction, you could end up running a fever, having seizures, or becoming confused altogether.
  • Can’t Stop Thinking About Drugs: You can’t stop thinking about the drug like you’re in love with it. You’re trying to figure out how to get more of it, when you’ll consume it, how good it makes you feel, or how bad you’ll feel after using it and its effects wear off.

Risk factors

How quickly you can become addicted and how big your addiction risk is varies from drug to drug and person to person. Some drugs, such as opioids, have a higher addiction risk than others. Some people are more resistant to becoming addicted to something than others.

Your likelihood to become an addict includes the following risk factors.

  • Peer Pressure: Young people tend by their friends, classmates, or cliques to start using drugs in order to fit in with them.
  • Lack of Family Involvement: Difficult family situations such as divorce, parental abandonment, or lack of a bond with family can lead to drug abuse.
  • Early Usage: If by peer pressure, you end up using drugs before or when you hit puberty, this can lead to an increased risk of drug abuse and addiction.
  • Mental Health Disorder: Mental issues like ADHD, PTSD, and depression can lead to drug usage. You might use drugs in order to better cope with such conditions.
  • Family History of Addiction: If your family has a history of addiction you might be genetically predisposed or even influenced by parents and siblings into using and abusing drugs.
  • Taking Highly Addictive Drugs: Some drugs are simply highly addictive by nature, such as opioid painkillers or methamphetamine. Even without factors like peer pressure or family history, you can develop drug dependence to highly addictive drugs.

Alcohol Abuse Symptoms and Treatment


When you abuse alcohol, you might end up with the following side effects.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Liver damage
  • Upset stomach
  • Slurred speech
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Distorted vision and hearing

Here are the symptoms of alcohol abuse.

  • Constant drinking to “feel normal”
  • Appearing intoxicated more regularly, even in public
  • Anxiety, depression, and similar mental health problems
  • Heavy drinking (15 or more drinks a week for men and 8 or more drinks a week for women)
  • Binge drinking (5 or more drinks in one sitting for men and 4 or more drinks in one sitting for women)

In regards to treatment of alcoholism, there are a number of options to choose from, the most famous of which is the outpatient program known as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA is composed of a 12-step weekly group counseling that gathers alcoholics who are attempting to quit being guided by professional therapists and former alcoholics now serving as counselors themselves.

Nicotine Abuse Symptoms and Treatment


When you smoke a lot, you tend to get addicted by the most addictive chemical in tobacco, which is nicotine.

Its side effects and indicators of abuse include the following.

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Watery eyes
  • Constipation
  • Hiccups or belching
  • Watery or dry mouth
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Throat or mouth soreness

When it comes to treating nicotine abuse or cigarette addiction, you should first find ways to stop smoking. Quitting cold turkey might not be the best option in light of high relapse rates. The earlier you quit the faster your body will recover.

You can go to rehab for this or get a doctor to prescribe to you a nicotine patch to assist you in quitting smoking. Although there are advertisements out there claiming that vaping is a good smoking substitute, studies show that it’s actually bad for your health too.

Marijuana Abuse Symptoms and Treatment

Close up Dried Cannabis or Marijuana Leaves Used for Psychoactive Drug or Medicine on Top of the Table

Marijuana abuse causes the following side effects.

  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe anxiety
  • Lowered reaction time
  • Problems with coordination
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Loss of sense of personal identity
  • Increased stroke risk, heart attack risk, and heart rate

Although marijuana is used for medicinal purposes and marijuana addiction occurs to a smaller percentage of users compared to more addictive substances like coke, meth, and heroin, there are a couple of caveats for this.

First is the fact that marijuana is usually a gateway drug for many people who wish to try out harder and more illegal drugs. Second of all is that it does lower IQ points when used at an early age, so avoid doing that too.

When it comes to treating marijuana abuse, you can go to rehab centers like Clarity Rehab in order to help you quit using marijuana or at least become more cognitively self-aware and responsible with your usage.

Cocaine Abuse Symptoms and Treatment


Cocaine causes the following side effects dependent on method of delivery.

  • Smoking cocaine causes lung damage.
  • Snorting cocaine causes the following:
    • Nosebleeds
    • Runny nose
    • Loss of smell
    • Trouble swallowing
  • Swallowed cocaine causes bowel decay.
  • Injection increases HIV or hepatitis risk.

Cocaine abuse also causes the following side effects in general.

  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Heart attack
  • Convulsions
  • Sexual issues
  • Heart disease
  • Mood problems

In order to get over cocaine abuse, you will have to undergo either outpatient treatment if the drug abuse is at its early stages or inpatient treatment with medical detoxification if the drug abuse has already led to drug addiction and various health complications.

This will probably involve loads of psychological therapy ranging from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to group or family therapy as well as counseling from ex-addicts who’ve been through the same issues as you.

Meth Abuse Symptoms and Treatment

Depressed Teenage Girl Sitting In Bedroom With Pills

The signs and symptoms of meth abuse include the following.

  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hyperexcitability
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Panic and psychosis
  • Increased heart rate
  • Death from overdose
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Behavior that’s ranges from erratic to sometimes violent
  • “Meth bugs” or feeling like there are phantom bugs crawling in your skin

Meth is clearly one of the most problematic and damaging drugs out there in light of its litany of side effects and complications when you abuse it. Merely using it “responsibly” is also difficult because of its highly addictive nature.

Regardless, you’ll probably have to undergo intense inpatient rehab for this one. You’ll be given supportive care and behavioral therapy for your mental issues, benzodiazepines to help wean you from meth usage, sedative antipsychotics for your insomnia, and antispsychotics for your psychosis symptoms.

Heroin Abuse Symptoms and Treatment

The following side effects, symptoms, and signs of abuse indicate heroin addiction.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Coma risk
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Flushed skin
  • Severe itching
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Clouded mental function
  • Permanent brain damage risk
  • A heavy feeling in your extremities

The treatments available for heroin use disorder include many of the same ones available for cocaine and meth. You’ll be given detoxification medications to help remove any trace of heroin inside your body like methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine.

You’ll then undergo a host of behavioral therapies to help you better cope against relapse. Contingency management and (of course) CBT remain the top therapeutic services available in rehab centers locally and internationally.

In Summary

You’re considered an addict if your brain and behavior has been altered significantly by your drug abuse so much that you’re unable to control the usage of an illegal or legal substance, to the point that it’s ruining your life. Substances like nicotine in tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol are considered drugs or substances. Drug addiction can start from therapeutic or recreational use.

As you become desensitized or used to the drug, you’ll need higher doses to get the same effects as before. Soon, you might need the drug simply to feel good or to feel normal. As your drug use becomes drug abuse, it becomes increasingly difficult to go without taking the drug or substance. Attempts to quit will cause you to feel physically ill or have intense cravings, among many other withdrawal symptoms.

Seek Clarity and Sobriety with Clarity Rehab Chiang Mai

Clarity Rehab in Chiang Mai, Thailand is always available to take your calls and questions. Learn more about their programs when it comes to treating drug abuse and addiction to substances like alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, meth, and heroin. It also has counselors who are themselves former addicts on top of internationally trained professionals.

Who better to help you out when it comes to seeking drug abuse treatment than those who’ve been there and done that? You’ll also be under the care of doctors and psychiatrists who’ll help you every step of the way towards sobriety.

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