COMMON SYMPTOMS OF DRUG ABUSE
In the beginning stages, not all the changes a user experiences appear to be
bad. For example, someone who is usually bored and sleepy may become more alert
while using amphetamines. As a result, his job or school performance may improve. A
person who is nervous and high- strung may become more cooperative and easier to
manage when he takes barbiturates. It is, therefore, necessary to look for more than
just negative changes in a person's character. Behavior that is out of the ordinary for an
individual and that continues over a period of time may indicate drug abuse.
a. General Indications. Signs which may suggest drug abuse include sudden
and dramatic changes in discipline and job performance. Drug abusers may also
display unusual degrees of activity or inactivity. They may for no reason become very
emotional; for example, very angry. Significant changes for the worse in personal
appearance may be cause for concern. Often a drug abuser will not care about his
personal appearance and health habits.
b. Specific Indications. There are other more specific signs which should
arouse suspicion, especially if one or more are exhibited by a single person. Among
these signs are furtive behavior regarding actions and possessions (fear of discovery),
sunglasses worn at inappropriate times and places (to hide dilated or constricted
pupils), and long-sleeve garments worn constantly, even on hot days (to hide needle
c. Indications of Severe Drug Abuse. Because of the expense of supporting a
drug habit, the abuser may try to borrow money from a number of individuals. If this
fails, he will not be reluctant to steal items which can be converted to cash easily such
as cameras, radios, and jewelry. If his habit is so severe that he must use drugs while
on duty, he may be found in places such as closets or storage rooms at odd times.
Drug abuse is a widespread problem in our society, a problem which occurs in
equally high frequency in the military. While the military's official policy does not tolerate
drug abuse, some people continue to violate that policy or begin to abuse drugs while
on active duty. Some of these active duty members use drugs to treat underlying
mental illness, others to escape, or because they have yielded to peer pressure. In
your role as a medical NCO, you will encounter people who abuse drugs. You can help
by learning about the effects of drugs. Additionally, become knowledgeable at each
duty station about referral sources available to a person who needs treatment.