Signs of substance abuse

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

How can you tell if someone you care about is abusing heroin or another drug?

Carol Falkowski, who conducts educational workshops through her business, Drug Abuse Dialogues, said there are signs to watch for, but noted that adolescent addiction is particularly hard to identify because many of the signs are part of regular adolescence. But when they occur together, Falkowski said it should raise a red flag and it’s important for parents to seek professional help.

Here are some possible symptoms of a substance abuse problem, according to Drug Abuse Dialogues and the Elk River Police Department:

•Suddenly more defensive, secretive or angry than usual.

•A change in friends and associates.

•A drop in grades.

•A change in personal appearance.

•A change in eating or sleeping behaviors.

•A change in hobbies.

•A change in compliance with the rules of the house.

•Selling things that the person used to prize.

•Valuables, like electronics and jewelry, are missing from the home.

According to the Elk River Police Department, specific signs and symptoms to look for if you suspect someone of heroin use include:

•Shortness of breath or shallow breathing.

•Dry mouth.

•Constricted or pin-point pupils.

•Clammy skin.

•Sudden changes in behavior or actions.


•Cycles of hyper alertness followed by suddenly nodding off.