Signs and Symptoms of different drug use

Types of Drugs, Methods of Ingestion and Associated Symptoms

Marijuana, hashish and other cannabis-containing substances

People use cannabis by smoking, eating, or inhaling a vaporized form of the drug. Cannabis often precedes or is used along with other substances, such as alcohol or other illegal drugs.

Signs and symptoms of recent use can include:

  • A sense of euphoria or feeling "high"
  • A heightened sense of visual, auditory and taste perception
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased coordination
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Increased appetite
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Paranoid thinking

Long-term (chronic) use is often associated with:

  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Poor performance at school or at work
  • Reduced number of friends and interests

Synthetic cannabinoids and substituted cathinones

Two groups of synthetic drugs — synthetic cannabinoids and substituted cathinones — are illegal in most states. The effects of these drugs can be dangerous and unpredictable, as there is no quality control and many ingredients may be unknown.

Synthetic cannabinoids, also called "K2" or "Spice," are  most commonly sprayed on dried herbs and then smoked, but can be prepared as an herbal tea. Despite manufacturer claims, these are chemical compounds rather than "natural" or harmless products. These drugs can produce a sensation of euphoria similar to marijuana and have become a popular but dangerous alternative.

Signs and symptoms of recent use can include:

  • A sense of euphoria or feeling "high"
  • Elevated mood
  • Relaxation
  • An altered sense of visual, auditory and taste perception
  • Extreme anxiety or agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion

Substituted cathinones, also called "bath salts," are psychoactive substances similar to amphetamines such as Ecstasy (MDMA) and cocaine. Despite the name, these are not bath products such as Epsom salts. Substituted cathinones can be eaten, inhaled or injected and are highly addictive. These drugs can cause severe intoxication that results in dangerous health effects or even death.

Signs and symptoms of recent use can include:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased sociability
  • Increased energy and agitation
  • Increased sex drive
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Psychotic and violent behavior

Barbiturates and benzodiazepines

Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are prescription central nervous system depressants. They're often used and abused by individuals in search for a sense of relaxation or a desire to escape stressful and anxiety-related thoughts or feelings.

Phenobarbital, amobarbital (Amytal) and secobarbital (Seconal Sodium) are examples of barbiturates. Examples of benzodiazepines include sedatives, such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax, Niravam), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin) and chlordiazepoxide (Librium).

Signs and symptoms of recent use can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Euphoria or an exaggerated feeling of well-being
  • Problems concentrating or thinking
  • Memory problems
  • Involuntary eye movements (nystagmus)
  • Lack of inhibition
  • Slowed breathing and reduced blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Depression

Methamphetamine, cocaine and other stimulants

Stimulants include amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine and methylphenidate (Ritalin). They are often used and abused in search of a "high," or to boost energy, to improve performance at work or school, or to lose weight or control appetite.

Signs and symptoms of recent use can include:

  • Feeling of exhilaration and excess confidence
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased energy and restlessness
  • Behavior changes or aggression
  • Rapid or rambling speech
  • Dilated pupils
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Irritability or changes in mood
  • Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Nausea or vomiting with weight loss
  • Impaired judgment
  • Nasal congestion and damage to the mucous membrane of the nose (if snorting drugs)
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Depression as the drug wears off

Inhalants

Signs and symptoms of inhalant use vary, depending on the substance. Some commonly inhaled substances include glue, paint thinners, correction fluid, felt tip marker fluid, gasoline, cleaning fluids and household aerosol products. Due to the toxic nature of these substances, users may develop brain damage.

Signs and symptoms of use can include:

  • Possessing an inhalant substance without a reasonable explanation
  • Brief euphoria or intoxication
  • Decreased inhibition
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Appearing intoxicated with slurred speech, slow movements and poor coordination
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Tremors
  • Lingering odor of inhalant material
  • Rash around the nose and mouth

Narcotic painkillers

Opioids are narcotic, painkilling drugs derived from opium or made synthetically. This class of drugs includes heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone and oxycodone. Some individuals who have been using opioids over a long period of time may need physician-prescribed temporary or long-term drug substitution during treatment.

Signs and symptoms of narcotic use and dependence can include:

  • Euphoria or feeling "high"
  • Reduced sense of pain
  • Drowsiness or sedation
  • Slurred speech
  • Problems with attention and memory
  • Constricted pupils
  • Lack of awareness or inattention to surrounding people and things
  • Problems with coordination
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Sweaty, clammy skin
  • Constipation
  • Runny nose or nose sores (if snorting drugs)
  • Needle marks (if injecting drugs)

When to see a doctor

The sooner you seek help for drug abuse or dependence, the greater your chances for a long-term recovery. Speak with your primary doctor or see a mental health provider, such as a doctor who specializes in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor.

Make an appointment to see a doctor if:

  • You can't stop using a drug
  • Your drug use has led to unsafe behavior, such as sharing needles or unprotected sex
  • You think you may be having withdrawal symptoms after stopping drug use

If you're not ready to approach a doctor, help lines or hotlines may be a good place to learn about treatment. You can find these lines listed in the phone book or on the Internet.

Seek emergency help if you or someone you know has taken a drug and:

  • May have overdosed
  • Shows changes in consciousness
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has seizures or convulsions
  • Has signs of a possible heart attack, such as chest pain or pressure
  • Has any other troublesome physical or psychological reaction to use of the drug