Updated on February 8, 2024
6 min read

How to Tell If Someone is High

Key Takeaways

If you do not know what to look out for, it can be challenging to determine if someone is high on drugs. However, when you learn the signs of drug use, it can be easier to identify when they are under the influence.

Different drugs lead to various symptoms of use in individuals. Here are some of the most common drugs and how to tell if someone is high after using them:

Signs of Marijuana Use

Consuming marijuana slows down communications between the cells in the body and the brain. This is why marijuana is often associated with experiencing a relaxing and calming effect.

Common signs of marijuana use include bloodshot, red eyes, delayed reaction times, increased appetite, and poor muscle coordination. Users may also suddenly shift in mood from tense to calm. The effects of marijuana may also include abrupt symptoms of anxiety, panic, and hallucinations.

Marijuana also has a unique smell, often described as skunk-like. If you can smell the scent of marijuana on someone’s clothing or hair, this could be a sign that the individual has used the drug recently.

The drug can be addictive and has the potential to become a priority in a person’s life.


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Signs of Cocaine Use

Cocaine speeds up the whole body. It increases an individual’s heart rate and causes them to talk, move, and think fast. Users may shake and twitch and feel happy and excited.

However, cocaine can affect a user's mood easily. After feeling happy and enthusiastic, cocaine users may become angry, nervous, or think that someone is out to get them. After the ‘high’ of cocaine wears off, users may ‘crash’ and feel tired and unhappy for days.

There are several telltale signs of cocaine use. People who snort cocaine may get nosebleeds. They may even lose their sense of smell. Their nose may also be consistently runny as if they have a cold.

Those who inject cocaine will display marks where the needle entered their skin, usually on their arms.

Cocaine is one of the strongest stimulants available, and it is highly addictive. Cocaine affects the brain cells instantly. Therefore, even taking it once may trigger addiction.

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Signs of Methamphetamine Use

Meth increases breathing and raises blood pressure. The drug can make people hyperactive, as if they have too much energy. It may cause them to talk and move around a lot. Users may not stop to eat or sleep.

People who use meth often scratch or tear their skin, resulting in sores. Users may also have burns on their lips or fingers from holding a hot meth pipe. Meth can also make an individual’s mood shift quickly. For example, they may feel excited before becoming angry and violent.

Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive illegal drugs on the market. The drug is more commonly known as crystal meth. It is typically sold in the form of small crystalline chunks.

Signs of Alcohol Use

People who are drunk on alcohol typically:

  • Laugh and talk loudly
  • Sway when they walk
  • Have difficulties staying on their feet
  • Slur their words when they speak
  • Appear sleepy and relaxed 

When someone is highly intoxicated, other side effects may include passing out, throwing up, or becoming violent.

Getting drunk on alcohol can cause people to do or say things that they regret later on. It can also make people more likely to hurt themselves and others.

After drinking a lot, many people get headaches and feel sick. This is called a hangover.

People with substance use issues like alcohol addiction eventually need to drink more and more to reach their desired high. They may also start to use alcohol to calm themselves down or stop a hangover.

Those with alcohol addiction often drink alone and keep it a secret. They may also forget things that occurred while they were drunk. This is called a blackout.

Alcohol is an addictive substance. When you drink alcoholic beverages, they trigger the release of other chemicals in the body that make you feel happier and less sensitive to pain. This often makes users want to continue drinking.

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Signs of Heroin Use

Opioids like heroin can give users a feeling of comfort and happiness. Heroin can also make you feel like the world has slowed down.

People high on heroin may think and move slowly. It may also make users feel sleepy as if they are in a dream. Physically, heroin makes the pupils within a person’s eyes very small.

Those who inject heroin are likely to have marks on their skin where the needle entered. When the effects of heroin wear off, users may experience pain in the muscles and bones. They may also throw up, feel nervous, or have difficulties sleeping.

Heroin is highly addictive. People who regularly use the drug often develop a tolerance. This means that they require higher or more frequent doses of the drug to reach the desired effects.

What Not to do When Someone is High

Being high can be overwhelming and scary. There are various ways you should not behave around someone high. Here are some things you should not do to someone high:

  • Keep or take them anywhere noisy
  • Confuse them
  • Become angry with them or tell them off
  • Make fun of them

Instead, try to be reassuring and encourage your loved one to drink water or have something to eat. If the individual appears dangerously high, you may need to call 911 for professional medical help.

How to Help Your Loved One Seek Treatment

If your loved one is suffering from a substance use disorder (SUD), there are steps you can take to help them seek treatment:

Stage an Intervention

An intervention is a structured conversation between an addict and their loved ones. Typically, it is supervised by an intervention specialist.

Successful interventions can help an addict’s friends and family members express their feelings and concerns. If talking to the person with an addiction does not help, a group intervention is usually the next step.

Interventions show addicts how their actions affect the people they care about. The goal is to help the person experiencing addiction receive treatment in recovery, detox, and rehabilitation.

An intervention must set expectations and recovery goals for the addict to meet afterward. If the addict does not keep up with treatment, they must be held accountable for possible consequences.

Possible consequences include removing children from their custody or asking them to leave the family home. The intervention party must remain firm in enforcing these conditions if necessary.

Research Addiction Treatment Options

Trying to locate the right healthcare treatment for a loved one can be challenging. This is especially if you are looking for a treatment center program tailored to an individual’s specific needs. However, there are some resources to help you research treatment options for substance abuse.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)’s handbook ‘Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask’ guides seeking the right treatment program.

Additionally, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) offers a website that displays the location of outpatient, residential, and hospital inpatient treatment programs for alcoholism and drug addiction throughout the United States.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) also provides information on the treatment of alcohol-related problems.

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Updated on February 8, 2024
7 sources cited
Updated on February 8, 2024
  1. Signs of Marijuana Use, Easy to Read Drug Facts, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), https://teens.drugabuse.gov/ 

  2. Signs of Heroin Use, Easy to Read Drug Facts, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/heroin 

  3. NIDA., Heroin DrugFacts., National Institute on Drug Abuse, 21 Nov. 2019, https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin 

  4. Signs of Cocaine Use, Easy to Read Drug Facts, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/cocaine 

  5. Signs of Alcohol Misuse, Easy to Read Drug Facts, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), https://teens.drugabuse.gov/ 

  6. NIDA. "Where can family members go for information on treatment options?." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 26 Jan. 2021, https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/where-can-family-members-go-information-treatment 

  7. Seeking drug abuse treatment: Know what to ask, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), June 2013, https://nida.nih.gov/sites/default/files/treatmentbrochure_web.pdf

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