Provided by The National Youth Anti-Drug
Media Campaign:


  • Odor on the breath
  • Intoxication/drunkenness.
  • Difficulty focusing: glazed appearance of the eyes.
  • Uncharacteristically passive behavior or combative and argumentative behavior.
  • Gradual decline in personal appearance and hygiene.
  • Gradual development of difficulties, especially in schoolwork or job performance.
  • Absenteeism (particularly on Monday).
  • Unexplained bruises and accidents.
  • Irritability.
  • Flushed skin.
  • Loss of memory (blackouts).
  • Availability and consumption of alcohol becomes the focus of social activities.
  • Changes in peer-group associations and friendships.
  • Impaired interpersonal relationships (unexplainable termination of relationships, and separation from close family members).
Key Links

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Commonly Abused Drugs

National Clearinghouse of Drug and Alcohol Information

Narcotics Anonymous

All Herbs & Supplements


Prescription Opioids

Prescription Stimulants


  • Extremely dilated pupils. 
  • Dry mouth and nose, bad breath, frequent lip licking.
  • Excessive activity, difficulty sitting still, lack of interest in food or sleep.
  • Irritable, argumentative, nervous.
  • Talkative, but conversation often lacks continuity; changes subject rapidly.
  • Runny nose, cold or chronic sinus/nasal problems, nose bleeds.
  • Use or possession of paraphernalia including small spoons, razor blades, mirror, little bottles of white powder and plastic, glass or metal straws.


  • Symptoms of alcohol intoxication with no alcohol odor on breath. (Remember that depressants are frequently used with alcohol.) 
  • Lack of facial expression or animation. 
  • Flat affect. 
  • Limp appearance. 
  • Slurred speech. 
  • Note: There are few readily apparent symptoms. Abuse may be indicated by activities such as frequent visits to different physicians for prescriptions to treat “nervousness”, “anxiety”, “stress”, etc.


Confusion, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, chills or sweating, high body temperature, sweating profusely, dehydrated, confusion, faintness, paranoia or severe anxiety, panic attacks, trance-like state, transfixed on sights and sounds, unconscious clenching of the jaw, grinding teeth, muscle tension, very affectionate. Depression, headaches, dizziness (from hangover/after effects), possession of pacifiers (used to stop jaw clenching), lollipops, candy necklaces, mentholated vapor rub, vomiting or nausea (from hangover/after effects).


Extremely dilated pupils, warm skin, excessive perspiration, and body odor are symptoms. Distorted sense of sight, hearing, touch; distorted image of self and time perception, mood and behavior changes, the extent depending on emotional state of the user and environmental conditions. Unpredictable flashback episodes even long after withdrawal (although these are rare). Hallucinogenic drugs, which occur both naturally and in synthetic form, distort or disturb sensory input, sometimes to a great degree. Hallucinogens occur naturally in primarily two forms, (peyote) cactus and psilocybin mushrooms.

Several chemical varieties have been synthesized, most notably LSD, MDA, STP, and PCP. Hallucinogen usage reached a peak in the United States in the late 1960s, but declined shortly thereafter due to a broader awareness of the detrimental effects of usage. However, a disturbing trend indicating resurgence in hallucinogen usage by high school and college students nationwide has been acknowledged by law enforcement. With the exception of PCP, all hallucinogens seem to share common effects of use. Any portion of sensory perceptions may be altered to varying degrees. Synesthesia, or the “seeing” of sounds,and the “hearing” of colors, is a common side effect of hallucinogen use. Depersonalization, acute anxiety, and acute depression resulting in suicide have also been noted as a result of hallucinogen use.


Substance odor on breath and clothes, runny nose, watering eyes, drowsiness or unconsciousness, poor muscle control. Prefers group activity to being alone. Presence of bags or rags containing dry plastic cement or other solvent at home, in locker at school or at work. Discarded whipped cream, spray paint or similar chargers (users of nitrousoxide). Small bottles labeled “incense” (users of butyl nitrite).


Rapid, loud talking and bursts of laughter in early stages of intoxication. Sleepy or dazed in the later stages. Forgetfulness in conversation, inflammation in whites of eyes; pupils unlikely to be dilated, odor similar to burnt rope on clothing or breath. Brown residue on fingers, tendency to drive slowly – below speed limit, distorted sense of time passage – tendency to overestimate time intervals. Use or possession of paraphernalia including roach clip, packs of rolling papers, pipes or bongs. Marijuana users are difficult to recognize unless they are under the influence of the drug at the time of observation. Casual users may show none of the general symptoms. Marijuana does have a distinct odor and may be the same color or a bit greener than tobacco.

Narcotics/Prescription Drugs/Heroin/Opium/Codeine/Oxycontin:

Lethargy, drowsiness, constricted pupils fail to respond to light. Redness and raw nostrils from inhaling heroin in powder form. Scars (tracks) on inner arms or other parts of body, from needle injections. Use or possession of paraphernalia including syringes, bent spoons, bottle caps, eye droppers, rubber tubing, cotton and needles. Slurred speech. While there may be no readily apparent symptoms of analgesic abuse, it may be indicated by frequent visits to different physicians or dentists for prescriptions to treat pain of non-specific origin. In cases where patient has chronic pain and abuse of medication is suspected, it may be indicated by amounts and frequency taken.


Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. These drugs are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused (taken in a different way or in a larger quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription). Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can lead to dependence and, when misused, opioid pain relievers can lead to overdose incidents and deaths.


Unpredictable behavior; mood may swing from passivity to violence for no apparent reason. Symptoms of intoxication, disorientation, agitation and violence if exposed to excessive sensory stimulation. Fear, terror, rigid muscles, strange gait, deadened sensory perception (may experience severe injuries while appearing not to notice). Pupils may appear dilated. Mask-like facial appearance, floating pupils, appear to follow a moving object. Comatose (unresponsive) if large amount consumed, eyes may be open or closed.

Solvents, Aerosols, Glue, Gasoline:

  • Nitrous Oxide – laughing gas, whippits, nitrous
  • Amyl Nitrate – snappers, poppers, pearlers, rushamies
  • Butyl Nitrate – locker room, bolt, bullet, rush, climax, red gold

Slurred speech, impaired coordination, nausea, vomiting, slowed breathing. Brain damage, pains in the chest, muscles, joints, heart trouble, severe depression, fatigue, and loss of appetite, bronchial spasm, sores on nose or mouth, nosebleeds, diarrhea, bizarre or reckless behavior, sudden death, suffocation.