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Lying Through Addiction: How To Tell When Someone Is On Drugs

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 17, 2019

Determining whether or not someone is abusing drugs can be a difficult task. Many individuals seek to hide their behavior by lying or attempting to covering it up. It is important to learn as much as possible about their behavior and drug of choice before confronting an individual.

Something to remember when considering whether or not someone you care about has a drug problem is that people whose minds are being affected by drugs often lie. Dishonesty is something you can usually count on experiencing when you’re attempting to help someone get into a treatment program or even when first asking them if they have a problem. Depending on the drug, many people will cover up what they’re doing or act as if nothing is wrong with what they are doing. Be aware of which drug could be in use, as many are easily concealed or lied about when a prescription has been written.

Drug addiction is never simple. Know what you’re going to do when you have some concrete evidence to support your claim. If you’re unsure, know which drugs could be the cause of the behavioral issues and be ready to reach out in a way that could save your loved one’s life. While you cannot force someone to seek treatment for their drug problems, you can show them that you care and give them the opportunity to get the help they need.

Being a loved one or family member of someone who abuses or is addicted to drugs is not easy. You’re going to have to assess whether or not you’ve reached your own limits when it comes to an emotionally-damaging issue like drugs. Your loved one may be beyond the help you can provide, which is when professionals need to intercede. If your loved one is sick or appears to be mentally unstable, know who you can call to get medical help immediately. When drugs are involved, never waste time. If you have a hunch, make sure you’ve considered everything carefully before approaching the subject with others. And remember, drug use is always a matter of life or death. Be prepared to help your loved one seek life.

Signs Of Drug Abuse

Though you may not be certain which drug is being abused, there are several giveaways that may come into play as you consider the possibility of this drug use. Putting together the signs and forming an idea of what road may lie ahead of you and your loved one should be your first step.

First, remember what your initial indication was. What drew you toward the idea that drugs could be in use? Next, be a silent observer. Take into mind what you see, hear, and experience when you are with the one you are worried about. You may want to make a mental or physical note of every possible negative indicator and see which drug category it points toward. Though knowing the exact drug that is being used is not as important as determining what you can do, knowing how dangerous the drug abuse is and being ready with a plan that fits the level of danger can make or break your moment of intervention.

When observing the varied signs that have led you to your suspicions, know that much of what is seen as pure and simple drug abuse is quite often heavier and more involved than we know. Mental health issues play an enormous role in the world of drug use. Many patients at rehabilitation facilities are treated for dual diagnosis situations, where they are commonly using drugs as a method of medicating their mental and emotional problems. Facilities that provide care for this treat both the addiction/abuse and the secondary issue. Though it may not be clear to you, your loved one may be suffering from something debilitating for which they have not discovered a healthier method of coping.

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Common signs of drug and alcohol abuse are as follows:

  • Lying, breaking plans/schedules, consistent unreliability
  • Losing jobs, dropping out of school, legal/professional problems
  • Lack of responsibility, lack of motivation, irregular emotions (lack thereof or extreme)
  • Financial issues
  • Relationship problems
  • Outlandish behaviors
  • Health and hygiene problems
  • Physical irregularities and symptoms (below)

Symptoms Of Drug Abuse

Different drugs fall under a number of overarching categories. The most common symptoms and the drugs that may be in use are below. With each drug, there are certain indicators to looks for. If you find that most symptoms are present and the signs of use are there, it is time to move toward possible interventions.


Those that cause an increase of energy in the body’s functions include Adderall and Cocaine.

Common Symptoms:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Loss of sleep and insomnia
  • Weight loss/loss of appetite
  • Twitches and quick breathing
  • Health problems involving the heart and nervous system (palpitations, seizures, stroke)


Included drugs that produce a slowing effect in the body are alcohol and medicines prescribed for depression, such as Zoloft.

Common symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Slowed motor functions and reactions
  • Speech disruptions
  • Dulled emotions
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Sickness including vomiting


This category of a drug alters the brain’s way of perceiving pain. The most well-known anesthetic drug is PCP.

Common symptoms:

  • Hallucinations
  • Sweaty appearance
  • Itching and twitching
  • Skin damage
  • Aggression
  • Psychosis


Providing a numbing effect to the body, analgesics are drugs such as morphine, which is often given under extreme circumstances in hospital-like settings, and heroin, a similar, yet illicit drug.

Common symptoms:

  • Sweaty appearance
  • Sunken, shadowed eyes
  • Drowsiness
  • Disrupted reactions and functions
  • Skin marks for injection sites (common style of use)
  • Health problems like constipation and kidney failure
  • Twitching and seizing
  • Depression

Approaches To Getting Them Help

Formulating a plan for intervention that will help your loved one seek help is of extreme importance. While not every drug user, especially under the influence of drugs, will want to seek treatment, giving someone the opportunity to accept their problem and providing them with love and support can make an enormous difference in their ability to move forward.

Consider several options that will help your loved one desire recovery. A traditional intervention, where family and friends join together in sharing their worries and giving support may be the best option for those who are in denial. This option is also good when the user is in a situation that poses danger and threat to their well-being. Health conditions that may have been produced by drug use could be caused to hold an intervention and gently push your loved one toward a better, healthier life.

Another common way to approach the topic of rehabilitation is through family therapy. This style of therapy is offered in many settings and is perhaps more private than an intervention. Through therapy, a counselor can mediate a situation and guide each party toward resolution.

One-on-one talks are fine when breaching the tender subject of drug abuse. Your loved one may be in a position where intervention and therapy would be dismissed and feel like an ambush. A voicing concern in the comfort of home where emotions are often more freely expressed may move your addressee toward the truth.

The truth is what you seek, which is something to keep in mind when lies have come between you and the one you care for. Being wise in your approach, gentle, calm, and lending emotion to the subject which may appeal to the user’s heart can help you. Be patient and remember that drugs alter the brain in its functions. Your loved one will likely be agitated or upset when your conversation begins. Remaining strong and supportive, not letting anger and judgment cloud your goal, and moving toward treatment options should be among your methods.

Getting Your Loved One Into Treatment

Lies and deceit are common trademarks of drug abuse. Though you may have caught your loved one lying, your thoughts on their possible drug abuse may not be correct. Knowing what to look for and how to approach your loved one in terms of seeking treatment is of utmost importance. Help move your loved one forward by contacting today for advice, guidance, and support.

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