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7 Symptoms of Drug Use in Young Adults

Symptoms of Drug Use in Young Adults

Drug abuse problems often present a chicken-and-egg scenario. It can be difficult to determine which symptoms are contributing to a young person’s desire to use a substance as well as which symptoms are caused by substance use itself.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at several common symptoms of drug use in young adults.

Symptoms of Drug Use in Young Adults

Many of the associated symptoms of both mental health disorders and substance abuse build upon one another or have a cascading effect. The more of these types of symptoms that are present, the more likely there is some sort of problem going on with your young adult.

Conclusive determination of the presence of drugs as a factor will depend upon honest conversation, or upon finding the empirical evidence for it. If you, or someone you care about, displays any of these symptoms, consider contacting a treatment center for young adults to learn more addiction treatment and mental health therapy.

Here are 7 symptoms of drug use in young adults.

1. Loss of Interest in Activities

Young people will often cite boredom as a reason for indulging in substance use.

The process of engaging in a chemical high involves a downside, however, wherein a person does not return to baseline behaviors after the high has worn off. As the effect of the substance wears off, it will have a negative impact on mood and brain stimulation.

This cycle can result in a persistent feeling of boredom when considering engagement in activities that once brought pleasure. If your loved one is observed as disengaging from hobbies and interests, it is worth checking in with them about their substance use habits.

As this type of anhedonia is also a symptom that is associated with clinical depression, be careful not to jump to conclusions when approaching the issue.

2. Social Withdrawal

Isolation from others can be both a precursor and a symptom of substance abuse in young adults. Inability to form intimate, stable, social connections can result in high levels of anxiety and deep levels of loneliness.

A young person may choose to escape these discomforts through engaging in substance abuse, while inadvertently feeding into the severity of isolation by doing so.

Just as with the increase of anhedonia, drug abuse increases a person’s tendency to withdraw from those who are not supportive of the habit. Shame, guilt, or a desire to avoid nagging confrontation about substance use can all contribute to the increasing isolation, and the increasing isolation feeds the temptation to use.

If your loved one is not engaging in socialization as much as he or she once did, check in with them about the cause.

3. Personality Changes

Many of those who indicate distress over the drug abuse of a loved one mourns the fact that he or she is not the same person.

While stress, depression, bipolar disorders, and disorders of psychosis can all drastically impact the stability of a person’s behavior, the presence of a drug abuse problem tends to

produce this change with relative quickness. Drug influence can cause a normally patient person to become snappy, a normally optimistic person to become sullen, and a normally vibrant person to become sluggish.

Your historically honest loved one may begin to lie, or may even begin to steal from you, as the grip of the substance abuse becomes stronger.

4. Relationship Deterioration

As easy to imagine, disengaging from activities, withdrawing from social networks, and behaving erratically can take a toll on a person’s quality of relationships.

Drug abuse can contribute to relationship difficulties such as barriers in communication, higher instances of abusive interaction, finger-pointing, and a lack of ability or willingness to problem solve.

A person in addiction may continually be on the offensive toward loved ones, or may simply refuse to participate in any attempts toward resolving conflict. Romantic relationships, friendships, and family ties can all suffer from the changes observed in the behaviors of a person with a substance addiction.

5. Job or School Performance Decline

Employees who have a substance abuse problem miss 34% more days of work than the average.

They are also more likely to be injured on the job, laid off, or fired. The taking of excessive sick days may be your first sign that something is amiss with your young adult. He or she may be skipping work to sleep off the effects of the substance or may have traded the initiative to get ahead for the drive to continue feeding the addiction.

Similarly, the lowering of college performance has been associated with substance abuse.

There is not enough time to devote to doing both quality works, and partying. If your characteristically hardworking loved one is showing alarming signs of slacking off at school, a substance abuse problem may be behind it.

Studies have shown that up to 25% of college students cite substance abuse as the source of poor grades and dropout rates.

6. Financial Problems

Many young people struggle with juggling the multitude of bills which tend to arise once reaching adulthood.

If your loved one is uncharacteristically without funds, and is unwilling or unable to account for the reasons, it may be due to their funding of an addiction. If the lack of funds is tied to being inexplicably fired from a job or losing qualification for a scholarship, there is mounting evidence for an inquiry into their relationship with drugs or alcohol.

7. Physical Changes

Some of the most obvious signs of drug abuse involve the toll that it takes on a body.

Those with a drug abuse problem often appear exhausted, with bloodshot eyes or dark circles. There may be drastic changes in weight, primarily with the loss of body fat. Basic hygiene routines may begin to be neglected, resulting in disheveled hair or pungent body odor. Depending on the type of drug involved, there may even be visible body sores or tooth decay.

As the drugs take over, the importance of prosocial physical presentation wanes.

As with the other symptoms, however, depression, excessive stress, and other mental health disorders can also contribute to drastic changes in appearance and hygiene. Encourage your loved one to visit a professional when seeking to determine the root cause of these types of symptoms.


There are several common symptoms of drug use in young adults. Keeping an eye out for these symptoms will allow you to provide help and support to a young adult when he or she needs it most. For the best results, confront the problem early before the substance use behavior has a chance to turn into an addiction.

For more information, contact the Paradigm Young Adult Program to learn more about treatment, therapy, and rehab for young adults.

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