Eyes on Drugs: Signs and Symptoms Drug Abuse

Generations of parents have spent many a night lying awake, waiting for their teenagers to come home. With a simple hug goodnight, parents were able to conduct the “smell” test for alcohol or marijuana.

Unfortunately, today’s parents can no longer rely solely on their noses to provide clues about a teen’s nighttime activities. Over the years, drugs have changed. Many of them are now odorless, colorless, and tasteless. In our current drug climate, it’s more beneficial to combine the smell test with a simple eye exam. Go on; take a good look into your kids’ eyes.

Drug Effects on Eyes

They say the eyes are the gateway to the soul. For parents, however, the eyes offer clues as to whether or not a teenager has used drugs or alcohol. In many cases, the eyes can even reveal the type of drugs used. From a prevention and intervention perspective, this information could be a first step toward empowering parents to recognize their teenagers’ drug use and ensure they get the treatment they need.

Eyes on Drugs

Here’s what parents need to know about drugs and how they affect the eyes.

  • Alcohol: Outside of the distinct smell alcohol emits, teens that have been drinking will have a glazed-over look and experience difficulty focusing.
  • Depressants: Drugs like Valium or Xanax produce the same characteristics as alcohol – without the smell.
  • Hallucinogens: When teenagers experiment with hallucinogens like peyote or  LSD, their pupils become extremely dilated. There is also an accompanying sense of distorted vision.
  • Cocaine and Crack: Stimulant drugs cause users to have severely dilated pupils.
  • MDMA or Ecstasy: Teens using these designer drugs experience rapid eye movements and blurred vision.
  • Marijuana: Along with marijuana’s distinct odor, THC causes the whites of the eyes to appear blood-shot. Additionally, the pupils become dilated.
  • Opiates: Drugs like codeine, Oxycontin, and heroin cause the pupils to become constricted instead of dilated. The pupils will also have very little response to light.

Long-Term Effects of Drugs on Eyes

In addition to the eye’s immediate response to drugs and alcohol, there are a number of long-term effects that can manifest with continued use/abuse.

For example, drugs injected intravenously are often “cut” with talc or chalk. These substances also get absorbed into the body but do not easily dissolve. The eye, specifically the retina, is susceptible to a “pooling” of chemicals which blocks good circulation in the eyes.

Cocaine is an eye anesthetic so users often don’t feel damage being done to the eye, putting them at risk for permanent loss of vision.

Today’s parents face the challenging task of raising teenagers during the most drug-saturated time in recent history. Despite the hurdles, it's important to remember that informed parents are empowered parents.

Educate your family by learning more about alcohol and drug abuse effects.

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