General Article How to recognise drug abuse

Topic Selected: Drugs
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Physical signs

These can differ depending on the type of drug taken, e.g. stimulant or hallucinogenic. Below are some of the physical signs related to those illicit drugs known to be used in Northern Ireland. There is also information on heroin.

Stimulant drugs (amphetamines, butyl nitrite, cocaine) can cause:

  • increased pulse rate;
  • increased blood pressure;
  • agitation;
  • lack of coherent speech or talkativeness;
  • dilated pupils;
  • loss of appetite;
  • damage to nasal passages (tendency to sniff);
  • increased tendency to go to the toilet;
  • mouth ulcers;
  • fatigue after use.

Objects that may indicate drug use include:

  • small bottles, pill boxes;
  • twists of paper;
  • cigarette lighters;
  • spent matches;
  • aerosols, butane gas refills;
  • cigarette papers;
  • roaches (ends of rolled-up cigarettes);
  • needles;
  • the drugs themselves.


Ecstasy is sometimes referred to as a hallucinogenic stimulant. Its effects will therefore include those listed for stimulants. In addition it can ca...

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