Is your child or spouse using? Signs of drug use


Thank you Stas Novitsky, a person in long-term recovery, for much of the information on this page. I wish I had this back in 2010. 

Keep in mind that it’s a combination of many of these signs that illustrate a drug habit. This is not a complete list as substances to abuse are all over the place and around your house.

We could use the help of those in recovery to add to this. Use the comment box. You can use another name and only admin can see your email–no one else. Your privacy is respected.

Free ebook: Signs of Drug Use

Learn what I wish I’d known before I lost my son to drug-related suicide. By Anne Moss Rogers

Signs of drug use

1. Missing money and jewelry

2. Asking for “gas/grocery” money at unreasonable rates (going through a lot of money quickly to satisfy the drug craving and ignoring basic needs)

3. Eating a lot of food at odd hours of the night

4. Being overly protective and not letting you see their “personal” belongings (purse, backpack, gym bag, phone or computer)

5. Trouble getting up in the mornings and waking up in the afternoon for a continued period of time

6. Burn holes in clothes (Cigarette holes in clothes are often the result of “the nod”)

7. Withdrawing from family /friends into their room/themselves

8. Saying they’ll be home at a certain time and then staying out much later or not coming home at all

9. Ignoring calls/texts from family – (Check phone records and if you see 2-3 texts to same number then a break in communication with a follow up text or call that lasts less than a minute that’s usually a setup for a drug deal)

10. Weight loss/weight gain

11. Dilated pupils/use of eye drops

12. Multiple car accidents at odd times

13. Loss of interest in hobbies

14. Lack of motivation

15. Truancy (stop going to school)

16. Missing silverware and coins

17. Say they’re going to “store/restaurant” and then come back in 5-10 minutes or stay out over a reasonable amount of time

18. Lack of self care (no showering, no brushing teeth, stop taking care of themselves)

19. Being overly defensive of what they’re doing -“Hey what are you doing this weekend?” … “I don’t know GOD! Leave me alone”

20. Being overly detailed of what they’re doing, making up stories of where they’re going

21. Emotionless or overly emotional (things that used to make them happy don’t make them happy anymore, responding acutely to things that shouldn’t be of much concern)

22. Getting cash back on debit cards

23. Overly large purchases on credit cards/debit cards at unusual places like $300 at wawa/walmart/target/other stores (typically buying gift cards to pawn at other locations)

24. Transferring money from one account to another account

25. Not shaving for a while/lack of hygiene

26. Scabs and scars

27. Air freshener, incense, odor spray in their room – Usually to cover up smoking smells

28. Detachment into room as soon as they walk into house, don’t interact with anyone unless they need food, money, etc …

29. Leaving house at odd hours, leaving for short bursts of time to walk down the street and back (picking up drug deliveries)

30. Blood on their clothes

31. Screen off bedroom window for sneaking out

32. Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors

33. Bags under eyes

34. Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

35. Mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts

36. Always going somewhere at the last minute or showing up late for things despite reminders

37. Dropping one group of friends from another

38. Demanding more privacy – locking doors, avoiding eye contact

39. Black on their teeth from smoking pills

40. Runny nose in the summer time, sniffling

41. Alcohol is missing from house

42. Using lots of mouthwash to get rid of alcohol smell on breath

43. Missing mouthwash or vanilla- products with alcohol

44. Air duster cans missing – Huffing

45. Whipped cream is flat – Addicts suck the gas from the Rediwhip can making it flat or order/buy whip-its

46. Unexplained accidents/bruises/cuts/etc …

47 . Unexplainable sweating

48. It may be hot outside and they’re shivering or wrapped up in a sweater

49. Excessive smoking of cigarettes

50. Stash of plastic ziplock bags or a scale (objects use to sell marijuana to support a drug habit)

51. Always wanting or dealong only in cash

52. Seizures due to synthetic party drugs, inhalants or an overdose


  • Missing socket wrench pieces
  • Loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness, los of motivation
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Glassy red eyes
  • Overly upbeat followed by overly anxious
  • Lots of water bottles that look funky and smoky or smell funny (water bottles also used to disguise vodka)


(including Xanax, Valium , GHB)

  • Contracted pupils
  • Drunk-like movements
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Clumsiness
  • Poor judgment
  • Slurred speech
  • Sleepiness- Also called the nods (falling asleep in front of you)


(including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth)

  • Dilated pupils
  • Hyperactivity and euphoria
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times
  • May go long periods of time without eating or sleeping
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth and nose
  • If prescribed ADD meds, running out too quickly


(glues, aerosols, vapors)

  • Watery eyes
  • Impaired vision, memory and thoughts
  • Secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth
  • Headaches and nausea
  • Appearance of intoxication
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor muscle control
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Lots of cans/aerosols in the trash



  • Dilated pupils
  • Bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings
  • Detachment from people
  • Absorption with self or other objects
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion


Additional information on heroin abuse since that was Charles’ drug of choice.

  • Missing spoons and pieces of tin foil
  • Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light
  • Needle marks (Injected and/or snorted)
  • Sleeping at unusual times
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing and sniffling
  • Twitching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Really runny nose (for those who snort)
  • When they wake up they’re sick, when they come home they’re suddenly not “sick” anymore
  • They’re throwing up inexplicably to the point you think there is a stomach disease
  • Nodding off in front of you. Called “the nod”
  • Cigarette holes in their clothing as a result of nodding off
  • Long sleeves in warm weather – To cover up track marks from needles
  • Unexplained weight loss

There are a myriad of other drugs that can be abused such as Robitussin characterized by strange robotic movements, and even addiction to sniffing sharpie pens. Many times those with addictive disorder will also abuse many other substances including their drug of choice.

If you suspect your child or spouse is using, you can insist on a drug test and you can buy them online for less than your local drug store. But keep in mind, those who are using have all kinds of methods for hiding it, including using a friend’s pee, masking agents or abusing substances that cannot be detected by a drug test.

A drug test has never kept anyone from using but it does let you know what they are using if it’s detectable which can be handy in case of an emergency and setting your own boundaries.

What do you do? Find support for you, first. That could be a therapist for a couple to get on the same page or a group such as Families Anonymous. Resources here and it includes people whose kids are not yet addicted.

Related Articles:

Published by

AnneMoss Rogers

AnneMoss Rogers is a mental health and suicide education expert, mental health speaker, suicide prevention trainer and consultant. She is author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW. She raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost her younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. She is a motivational speaker who empowers by educating and provides life saving strategies and emotionally healthy coping skills. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now that's the legacy she carries forward in her son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website.

5 thoughts on “Is your child or spouse using? Signs of drug use”

  1. It is important that you keep an eye on your children’s activities to know if they are involved in any kind of drug addiction. If you are not sure there are home drug testing kits available online at a good price.

  2. My son abused many drugs including alcohol. This is an excellent list of signs/symptoms of various drug use/abuse. I wanted to add that constipation is a big issue for opioid addicts. My son frequently asked for stool softeners, laxatives & even enemas at times. He was also bothered by frequent, heavy nosebleeds; I thought those were probably drug related also.

  3. This is an amazing (and terrifying resource). Thank you for getting this out there. It will open many people’s eyes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap