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Recognizing the Symptoms Of Being High on Drugs

Do you suspect a loved one might be using drugs, but you’re unsure of the signs? Recognizing the high on drugs symptoms is critical for identifying addiction and intervening before it’s too late. Drug use has wide-ranging effects, from physical and behavioral changes to substance-specific symptoms.

Early detection is key for successful rehabilitation as risk factors include genetic predisposition and environmental influences.

Treatment options such as detoxification, rehabilitation therapy & support groups should be taken seriously to prevent negative consequences.

What Does It Mean To Be High On Drugs?

What Is A Drug Induced High?

Being high on drugs describes the altered mental and physical states induced by substance use, ranging from euphoria and relaxation to hallucinations. According to the SAMSHA 2021 National Survey On Drug Use, 17.8% of individuals aged 12 and older have used illicit drugs in the past year, while 13.5% have used marijuana or hashish. Club drugs like MDMA, ecstasy, and ketamine, as well as synthetic drugs like K2 and Spice, are prevalent in social settings and are illegal in most states.

Recognizing the signs of drug use can help identify those struggling with addiction, thereby facilitating timely intervention and support. Withdrawal symptoms, including cravings and physical discomfort, often arise when attempting to quit, making it crucial to spot these signs for effective recovery support.

What Are The Effects on the Brain?

Substances impact the brain by:

  • Disrupting neuron communication
  • Modifying brain regions including the basal ganglia, extended amygdala, and prefrontal cortex
  • Triggering neurotransmitter surges, such as dopamine

These changes can worsen existing mental health conditions like PTSD. Long-term drug use leads to brain impairments, affecting daily functions, emotions, and behaviors. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) categorizes drugs based on their abuse and addiction potential, underscoring the long-term risks involved.

Effects Of Drug Abuse On The Brain

How Drugs Affect Brain Chemistry

Drugs can interfere with the proper functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in alterations in mood, behavior, and perception. Some drugs, such as date rape drugs, can cause severe impairment in cognitive function and memory, making it difficult for victims to recall events or protect themselves. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that are naturally present in the brain. When individuals misuse drugs, they can disrupt the balance of these neurotransmitters, leading to a range of negative effects on mental and physical health.

Numerous drugs can drastically alter brain chemistry in different ways. For instance, they may disrupt the transmission of signals between neurons by adjusting the levels of neurotransmitters, leading to alterations in mood, emotions, behavior, and perception. Addictive drugs, for example, impact brain pathways associated with reward, like the dopamine system. Psychoactive drugs can elevate dopamine levels in the brain, which triggers various effects including:

  • rapid or rambling speech

  • increased energy and alertness

  • euphoria or intense pleasure

  • heightened sensory perception

  • distorted perception of time and space

Each drug’s impact on brain chemistry is unique, including the effects of other drugs.

The Role of Dopamine

Dopamine plays a central role in reinforcing pleasurable activities and is implicated in the association between drug consumption, pleasure, and environmental cues. Health care providers can use this information to better understand the mechanisms of addiction and develop effective treatment strategies. Different types of drugs can have a range of effects on dopamine levels in the brain. Opioids, cocaine, and nicotine are known to cause a surge of dopamine in the reward pathway, resulting in feelings of pleasure and reinforcement of drug use. Additionally, amphetamines can increase the release of dopamine in the brain. Ultimately, drugs of abuse can disturb the natural balance of dopamine in the brain, which can lead to addiction and dependence.

The brain releases dopamine when drugs are consumed due to the stimulation of the brain’s reward pathway, particularly the mesolimbic dopamine system. This dopamine release reinforces the connection between drug use and feelings of pleasure and reward. Furthermore, the dopamine surge produced by drugs is far more intense than what is typically released in response to natural rewards such as food or sex.

The relationship between drug use, pleasure, and external cues is that dopamine plays a central role in reinforcing pleasurable activities and is involved in the connection between drug consumption, pleasure, and external cues.

How To Recognize The Signs &Amp; Symptoms Of Drug Induced High

What Are The Common Symptoms of Being High on Drugs?

Typical symptoms of being high on drugs encompass physical signs like dilated pupils, behavioral modifications such as heightened energy or lethargy, and psychological symptoms like paranoia or euphoria. The manifestations of abuse can differ, contingent on the type of substance in question.

Club drugs, such as MDMA, ecstasy, or molly, GHB, ketamine, and flunitrazepam, are commonly used at clubs, concerts, and parties and can cause sedation, muscle relaxation, confusion, memory loss, and the potential for sexual misconduct or sexual assault. Synthetic drugs, like K2, Spice, and bath salts, are illegal in most states and can cause similar symptoms.

Physical Signs

Drug abuse, including alcohol abuse, can manifest in a variety of physical signs, some of which are instantly noticeable, while others may be subtly concealed or appear as gradual changes. Adolescents using drugs may show signs such as:

  • red and droopy eyes

  • constricted pupils from marijuana use

  • dilated pupils if they have consumed alcohol

  • a flushed, reddened facial complexion

Physical signs of cocaine use may include:

  • Dilated pupils

  • Increased heart rate

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Runny or bloody nose

  • Nosebleeds

  • Weight loss

  • Insomnia

  • Restlessness

  • Hyperactivity

  • Tremors or muscle twitches

Opioid use may be evidenced through physical signs such as:

  • pinpoint pupils

  • drowsiness or nodding off

  • slowed breathing

  • flushed or pale skin

  • track marks or needle puncture wounds

  • poor hygiene or neglect of physical appearance

Behavioral Changes

Changes in behavior may include upheavals in energy levels, social interactions, and daily routines. Observable behavioral signs of stimulant drug use can include:

  • An increase in energy and alertness

  • Restlessness or agitation

  • Rapid and excessive speech

  • A rise in confidence and social behavior

  • A decrease in appetite and weight

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Dilated pupils

  • Impulsive or risky behavior

  • Hyperactivity

  • Fidgeting

  • Paranoia or suspiciousness

However, it’s crucial to recognize that many signs of drug use are also indicative of mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. Some behavioral changes that may indicate drug use in teens include:

  • Being overly loud and disruptive

  • Exhibiting inappropriate laughter

  • Exhibiting clumsiness

  • Appearing sullen and withdrawn

  • Appearing unusually tired

  • Having droopy eyelids

  • Appearing queasy

  • Having difficulty walking straight to the bathroom

It’s important to approach these common signs with care and seek professional help if needed.

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological effects of substance use can include:

  • Mood fluctuations

  • Uneasiness

  • Visual and auditory disturbances

  • Hallucinations

  • Delusions

  • Olfactory hallucinations

  • Anti-social behavior

  • Panic attacks

  • Confusion

Indications of recent use of substituted cathinones can include serious intoxication, which can lead to hazardous health outcomes or even death.

It is important to recognize that the psychological symptoms of drug use can be quite diverse, depending on the type of drug consumed and the individual’s unique reaction to the substance. Signs of hallucinogen use can vary depending on the specific hallucinogen used and may include:

  • Hallucinations

  • Nausea

  • Muscle twitching

  • Difficulty distinguishing between hallucinations and reality.

How to Recognizing Substance-Specific Symptoms

Identification of substance-specific symptoms involves recognizing the distinct signs related to stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens. This knowledge can help spot signs of abuse in friends, family members, or coworkers and facilitate support for their recovery. Each drug has a unique impact on physical, behavioral, and psychological symptoms, underscoring the importance of understanding the specific signs associated with different substances.


Stimulant use may cause increased energy, rapid speech, and dilated pupils. Signs of stimulant use may include alterations in behavior, aggression, accelerated or incoherent speech, enlarged pupils, heightened energy, and a quickened breathing rate. Prolonged stimulant use can result in cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, and can also cause damage to the brain, leading to cognitive impairments and mental health disorders. Furthermore, stimulant drug use can lead to addiction and dependence, resulting in a range of social and personal problems.

It is important to be aware of the specific behavioral signs of stimulant drug use, which may include:

  • Heightened energy and alertness

  • Restlessness or agitation

  • Rapid speech and excessive talking

  • Increased confidence and sociability

  • Reduced appetite and weight loss

  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping

  • Dilated pupils

  • Impulsive or risky behavior

  • Hyperactivity or fidgeting

  • Paranoia or suspiciousness


Depressant use can lead to drowsiness, slurred speech, and slowed breathing. Depressants can reduce arousal and stimulation in the central nervous system, leading to increased sleep, relief of anxiety and muscle spasms, and prevention of seizures. They are known to slow down brain activity, which makes them useful for treating anxiety, panic, and sleep disorders. Short-term effects of depressant use on the body and brain include slowed brain function, slowed pulse and breathing, lowered blood pressure, poor concentration, confusion, fatigue, and dizziness.

Long-term use can lead to psychological dependence, tolerance, addiction, and severe withdrawal symptoms. It’s crucial to recognize the unique signs of depressant use, such as drowsiness, impaired memory performance, and changes in thinking or mental activity. Being aware of these symptoms can help identify individuals struggling with depressant use and provide support for recovery.


Hallucinogen or psychedelic use often results in perceptual distortions, emotional swings, and disorientation. The most commonly encountered hallucinogens are lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), phencyclidine (PCP), and psilocybin, or “magic mushrooms”. People on hallucinogens may display a range of behaviors, such as appearing drowsy, panicked, or at peace, depending on the type of “trip” they are having.

Hallucinogens, such as LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin, have a significant effect on human perception and are renowned for temporarily altering perception, particularly in terms of visual effects. These drugs can induce hallucinations, distortions in sensory perception, and alterations in the perception of time, distance, and objective reality. The effects of hallucinogens on perception are distinct from those of other categories of drugs.

How To Detect Drug Use in Adolescents

To detect drug use in adolescents, one might need to notice changes in their mood, behavior, peer groups, and academic performance. The presence of alcohol or smoke can be identified through their breath, clothing, and hair. Distinguishing signs of drug use from common adolescent behavior can be challenging. Often, drug use signals underlying mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. Keeping an eye on these signs can help in early identification and intervention.

If a parent suspects their child is using drugs, they should take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of their child. They should initiate a conversation with their child and ask pertinent questions such as “Have you been drinking, vaping, or using drugs?”.

Early intervention is imperative to guarantee the highest potential for successful rehabilitation.

What Are The Risk Factors for Addiction?

Addiction risk factors encompass genetic predisposition, environmental influences, and personal personality traits. Studies have found that genetics account for at least half of a person’s susceptibility to substance addiction. Environmental factors can substantially heighten the risk of substance abuse and addiction, with drug accessibility often facilitated by risky environments and peer pressure playing a significant role in promoting substance use. Poverty, trauma, and stress can also contribute to addiction. Early exposure to drugs and their availability in a person’s surroundings can likewise amplify the risk of substance abuse and addiction.

Impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and risk-taking are individual personality traits that can increase the risk of addiction. Initiating drug use during childhood or adolescence is associated with heightened risk of dependence on the substance.

When to Seek Professional Intervention and Treatment

Seek professional intervention and treatment when drug use becomes problematic, causing negative consequences in a person’s life or when early warning signs of addiction are present. A professional interventionist can facilitate the planning process and ensure the successful execution of the event. During an intervention, family and friends come together to have an open and honest discussion with the individual regarding the effects of addiction and request that the person accept treatment.

Early intervention is imperative to guarantee the highest potential for successful rehabilitation. Treatment should include both medical detoxification and therapy to tackle the fundamental problems associated with substance abuse.

What Are The Treatment Options for Substance Use Disorders?

Therapeutic options for substance use disorders, including alcohol addiction, encompass detoxification, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, therapy, and support groups. The likelihood of developing a substance use disorder, also known as ‘addiction liability’, depends on factors such as the method of consumption, brain effects, the speed at which effects manifest, and the potential to induce tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. Substance use disorder can significantly impair an individual’s physical and mental health, interpersonal relationships, overall well-being, and in severe cases, can be life-threatening.

When discussing substance use with a loved one, it is important to approach the conversation with care and understanding. Being aware of the available treatment options and the importance of early intervention can significantly improve the chances of successful recovery.

What are the causes of addiction?

Addiction is a complex condition caused by a combination of factors, including changes to brain chemistry from exposure to drugs or activities, aggressive behavior in childhood, neglect from guardians, experimenting with substances, access to drugs at school, poverty in the community, and peer pressure.

How can I tell if a family member is using drugs?

Look out for physical, behavioral and psychological changes which may suggest drug use. Pay close attention to the type of substance being abused and their associated signs and symptoms.

What are the common symptoms of being high on drugs?

Common symptoms of being high on drugs include dilated pupils, behavioral changes, and psychological symptoms like paranoia or euphoria.

How can I recognize the signs of stimulant use?

Signs of stimulant use include increased energy, rapid speech, dilated pupils, heightened alertness, and agitation, so be aware of any changes in behavior or appearance that could indicate drug use.

What are the risk factors for addiction?

Risk factors for addiction include genetic predisposition, environmental influences, and individual personality traits such as impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and risk-taking, making it a complex and multi-faceted disorder.

How Is A Runner High Different From A Drug High?

Runners High Vs Drug Induced High

The term “runner’s high” is often used to describe a feeling of euphoria or a heightened state of well-being that some people experience after prolonged, vigorous exercise. This phenomenon is thought to be linked to the release of endorphins and other neurochemicals like endocannabinoids in the brain. These substances can act as natural painkillers and mood lifters, leading to feelings of happiness, reduced anxiety, and a decreased perception of pain.

While a “runner’s high” and the high experienced from drug use may share some similarities, such as increased dopamine levels and feelings of euphoria, there are also significant differences:

  1. Source: A runner’s high is induced by natural endorphins produced by the body during exercise, while drug-induced highs typically result from external substances that may mimic or alter natural neurotransmitter activity.
  2. Duration and Intensity: The duration and intensity of the high can differ significantly. Drug-induced highs may be more intense and longer-lasting depending on the substance used, the dosage, and individual factors.
  3. Risks and Side Effects: Drug use often comes with various risks and side effects, including the potential for abuse, addiction, and negative impacts on both mental and physical health. On the other hand, a runner’s high is generally considered to be a safe and healthy response to exercise.
  4. Psychological and Physical Effects: Some drugs can lead to altered perceptions, impaired judgment, and other cognitive changes, which are generally not associated with a runner’s high.
  5. Social and Legal Implications: Using illegal or prescription drugs for recreational purposes can have legal repercussions and can be socially stigmatized, whereas exercise and the associated runner’s high are socially accepted and encouraged.
  6. Overall Health Impact: Regular exercise like running has numerous well-documented health benefits, including cardiovascular health, weight management, and mental well-being, whereas frequent drug use often has the opposite effect on long-term health.

So while the feeling of a “runner’s high” and a drug-induced high might seem similar in terms of immediate emotional benefits, the causes, risks, and long-term effects can be quite different.

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