Drug Treatment: Learning the Symptoms of Drugs to Avoid Relapse

Drug Treatment | LakehouseRecoveryCenter.comPart of drug treatment should include psycho-education, meaning education on how addiction develops, what contributes to its cycling, and how to safely bring an addiction to an end. In fact, the psycho-education that happens in drug treatment can be on a wide variety of addiction-related topics in an effort to empower recovering addicts with the information they need to stay sober.

Part of learning about addiction is also learning about various drugs and the effects that they can have on the body and the brain. Although typically an individual will have a drug of choice, it’s common to replace one addiction with another if the drug of choice is no longer available. This is frequently the case with those who are addicted to painkillers. When painkillers are no longer available (because they can be expensive and because they require a prescription), addicts sometimes switch to another opiate – heroin.

Effects of Drugs

This is also the case with cocaine and methamphetamine addicts. For many years, they have been prescribed benzodiazepine tranquilizers to help minimize the discomforts of drug detox. But tranquilizers are also addictive and in many cases, addicts are simply ending one addiction to begin another.

For these reasons, it’s important to know the effects of drugs. Perhaps learning about the ways various drugs can harm the body can curb the use of them – in relapse, for example. In fact, learning about this in recovery is probably the best time to understand these dangers.

Individuals are still vulnerable in early recovery and yet they have also made the decision to stay clean. If that decision is firm, then knowing the harmful effects of other drugs can possibly prevent using them.

Symptoms That Are Associated With Taking Certain Drugs

Narcotics (MethadoneHeroin, Morphine)

Early Symptoms: red or raw nostrils, needle marks or scars on arms, wearing long sleeves at inappropriate times, and medicinal breath. Physical evidence might include cough syrup, bottles, syringes, cotton swabs, and spoons for heating heroin

Long Term Symptoms: loss of appetite, constipation, brain damage, damage to the central nervous system


Sedatives (Alcohol, Tranquilizers, Barbituates, GHB – the “date rape” pill)

Early Symptoms: poor coordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, loss of interest in occupational or academic responsibilities, loss of interest in hobbies and other activities that bring enjoyment.

Long Term Symptoms: Possible convulsions, symptoms of withdrawal when discontinued such as physical, emotional, and psychological impairment.


Stimulants(Cocaine, Crack, Amphetamines)

Early Symptoms: excessive activity, aggression, argumentative attitude, nervousness, pupil dilation, chapped and dry lips, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance with long period of no sleeping, and periods of euphoria.

Long Term Symptoms: possible hallucinations and psychosis, loss of appetite.


Hallucinogens(Marijuana, LSD, PCP, Mescaline)

Early Symptoms: bizarre behavior, panic, disorientation, hallucinations, odor on breath and clothing, delusions

Long Term Symptoms:flashbacks, possible psychosis


Inhalants(Glue, Paint Thinner, Aerosol Sprays, Solvents)

Early Symptoms: odor of glue or solvent, redness and watering of the eyes, appearance of intoxication. Physical evidence might include plastic bags, rags, and aerosol glue or solvent containers.

Long Term Symptoms: disorientation, brain damage

How to Avoid Relapsing

Perhaps relapse might be curtailed by learning the symptoms listed above. Often relapse occurs out of habit, meaning an addict might have learned that in order to cope with feelings, it’s easy to reach for a drug.

Yet, another form of the psycho-education that can happen in drug addiction treatment is replacing the old coping mechanisms with new ones. When confusion, sadness, or anxiety arises, an individual in recovery might remember the harmful effects listed above and instead go for a walk, breathe, exercise, or talk to someone they trust.

Those who chronically relapse might not have the coping skills to manage the emotions that were leading to drug use. Learning new coping mechanisms, healing unresolved issues that lead to those challenging emotions, and creating strong support networks can help keep relapse at bay.

And if relapse continues to occur, then likely there are still underlying issues that have yet to be resolved. Healing all the circumstances that led to drinking or using drugs in the first place should reduce the likelihood of relapse during recovery. That’s not to say that relapse will disappear altogether; but there should be a decrease in the number of relapses in the recovery process.


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