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The Physical Signs of Drug Use 

The Physical Signs of Addiction

Addiction can take over an individual’s life, affecting their relationships, work, and job, as well as their mental and physical well-being. It’s common for individuals who struggle with addiction to display mental and physical signs of drug use. If you suspect that a loved one is currently struggling with a drug or alcohol use disorder, it’s important to learn to recognize these signs early so that you can help them get treatment before it’s too late. Our experienced Heartland drug rehab shares common physical signs of addiction categorized by substance.

Physical Signs of Drug Abuse by Substance

Substance abuse can cause a variety of physical symptoms that can manifest differently depending on the drug in question. These physical symptoms of drug addiction can serve as clues to help identify whether an individual is battling an addiction and, if so, its source.

For instance, stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine can cause dilated pupils, increased heart rate, and elevated blood pressure, while opioids like heroin can cause pinpoint pupils, slow breathing, and slipping in and out of consciousness, also known as being “on the nod.” Additionally, long-term substance abuse can result in more severe physical symptoms, such as liver or kidney damage, with different illnesses associated with particular drugs.

If you believe that someone you care about may be battling an addiction, below are some common physical signs of drug use to look out for, categorized by drug type.


Alcoholism, also referred to as alcohol use disorder or AUD, is a chronic condition marked by an inability to control one’s consumption of alcohol despite the repercussions. Heavy or chronic drinking can have a severe impact on an individual’s health, with symptoms manifesting themselves in both mental and physical ways.

Some major physical signs of alcoholism include:

  • Confusion
  • Constantly smelling of alcohol
  • Facial redness and bloating
  • Increased risk for cancer
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Poor coordination and balance
  • Puffy eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors and shaking hands
  • Yellowing in the whites of the eyes

An individual’s behavior may also be greatly affected by their drinking. For instance, it’s common for alcoholics to want to drink alone and may therefore isolate themselves from loved ones as their addiction worsens. If you notice any of these signs in a loved one, seek professional alcohol addiction treatment to ensure they receive the care required for long-term recovery.


Cocaine addiction or use disorder is also a chronic condition in which a person continues to use the drug despite the harm it’s causing to their finances, relationships, and mental and physical well-being. As with alcohol, cocaine can also lead to some major changes in a person’s health.

Common physical signs of cocaine use include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Chronic sinus infections (from snorting cocaine)
  • Difficulties swallowing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Engaging in risky sex
  • Excited, jubilant speech
  • Hoarseness
  • Increase in risky behaviors
  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Increased libido
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Restlessness
  • Runny or stuffy nose

Not only does cocaine produce the majority of these side effects because of its impact on the central nervous system (CNS), but it also often contains additional substances, otherwise known as cutting agents. These additives can increase the user’s risk of experiencing health complications like heart attacks, strokes, and others. Our Heartland detox center offers cocaine treatment that can help addicts recover their physical and mental health.


Methamphetamine is another illicit stimulant that increases activity in the CNS. Due to its impact on dopamine levels in the brain, meth is known to be highly addictive as well as harmful.

Major physical signs of meth use include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dental decay and damage (meth mouth)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive or rapid weight loss
  • Heart disease
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Open sores and skin infections (meth mites)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Respiratory problems (mainly in people who smoke meth)
  • Skin picking
  • Teeth grinding and clenching
  • Tremors or shaking hands

Our meth rehab center offers the medication-assisted care and mental health services needed to support addicts in their physical and mental recovery from drug abuse. Meth can severely deteriorate an individual’s physical well-being, so don’t wait to get help.


Heroin is a highly addictive illicit opioid known for its euphoric side effects. Like other drugs of its class, it targets opioid receptors in the central nervous system, increasing dopamine levels and producing strong sensations of euphoria and reward. Long-term abuse of heroin can contribute to various mental and physical changes.

Some common physical signs of heroin use include:

  • Collapsed veins from injecting heroin 
  • Cotton fever (from intravenous use) 
  • Drowsiness or nodding off 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Impaired coordination 
  • Itching or flushed skin 
  • Pinpoint pupils 
  • Respiratory depression (slow or shallow breathing) 
  • Respiratory diseases 
  • Slurred speech 

Heroin can also contribute to mental illness or worsen any preexisting mental health conditions. Opioids are also notorious for overdose, and because of the drug epidemic, a growing problem in the U.S., getting opioid addiction treatment as soon as addiction is realized can treat and prevent the various problems listed above or even prevent a potentially fatal overdose 


Opioids include both prescription painkillers and illicit drugs like heroin and desomorphine (Krokodil). Both categories of opioids have a high potential for abuse and can lead to severe addiction. Considering the drug epidemic that continues to affect millions across the nation, knowing the signs of abuse can mean the difference between life and death. 

 Physical signs of opioid addiction to look out for include:  

  • Constricted or pinpoint pupils 
  • Drowsiness or nodding off, known as “going on the nod” 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Impaired coordination 
  • Increased risk for respiratory infection 
  • Itching or flushed skin 
  • Muscle aches or pains 
  • Nausea and/or vomiting 
  • Respiratory depression (slow or shallow breathing) 
  • Slurred speech 

Opioid abuse also comes with a risk of overdose, which is fatal for many heavy users. Opiate misuse is a severe problem in the U.S., with millions of individuals affected every year. If you or someone you care about is one of these people, reach out to our Gilman, IL, Banyan rehab to begin opioid treatment. 

Get Help Today 

 Not only do the physical signs of drug use vary by substance, but the way the individual is treated should also be determined according to the substance of choice. Therefore, our treatment center offers substance-specific rehab programs, including medically supervised detox, to ensure clients receive care that meets their needs.   

For more information about our Illinois addiction treatment and how we can help, call us today at 888-280-4763 or verify your insurance, and we will reach out to you. 

Related Reading: 

Signs Your Liver Is Healing From Alcohol 

Taking Care of Your Skin After Meth Addiction 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
The Physical Signs of Drug Use 
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