General Question

RedPowerLady's avatar

Do you think that those who use drugs (legal or illegal) would be suprised to know that we can tell just by looking at them?

Asked by RedPowerLady (12576points) June 11th, 2009

I believe that many drug users feel that their use is private. But from the outside it is often quite obvious that someone is a user. For stereotypical (pardon me) example: The crack addict with sunk in cheeks, the pot-head with dark red eyes and slow movements, and sometimes even those on prescription medications can be spotted by their movements and such.

If you have used drugs/alcohol of any type would you be surprised to know that someone could tell just by looking at you? And may even label you based on “that look”. Would it shock you into thinking about your drug habit?

Now I know that some drug users just do not have the capacity to care. But I believe some do, in fact many people I know or have known would have cared to know that others could tell they use drugs just by looking at them. And I know these people seriously did not believe their habit was so obvious. That they look like a “drug user”.

Of course saying someone looks like a “drug user” is a bit stereotypical, I do not mean as such so please pardon the generalization. And I do not mean to imply that this is always a negative thing. Also please excuse my stereotypical examples. And I do understand that sometimes these characteristics could be for a good reason or mean that someone is very sick etc… This question is just intended to discuss those who actually are using drugs (mostly over-use) and have had physical affects because of it (good or bad).

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54 Answers

RedPowerLady's avatar

I’ve often had the secret desire to tell someone “you look like heck, lay off the drugs man”. Of course that is my human nature and not the counseling side of me. :) These would be people I know who use drugs and wouldn’t be assuming they do. Of course I never have said as much and do not intend to. But I always wonder if I did say that, what the reaction would be. I’m left wondering if it would shock them or not.

casheroo's avatar

Of course you can recognize an addict, but I can’t pick out a pot smoker from a crowd…unless they had just been smoking, but who wouldn’t be able to do that?
Are you saying you can point out who does drugs by just their looks, or the way they act on drugs?

essieness's avatar

I know what you mean, and yes, I think they would be shocked to know. They think they hide it so well, but that’s part of the addiction. They are out of touch with reality. I have a cousin who used meth for 10 years and would try to lie about it to me all the time. It’s pretty obvious when a person is wearing long sleeves in the summer, her eyes are twitching, and she’s talking erratically… Now that she’s clean, I think she understands that she never hid it well.

I work with a guy who does… well, I’m not sure really what all he does. But, he appears to be either on coke, crack, or meth. Definitely some sort of upper. His eyes are red and shaky, and he’s just out of it a lot. He has long fingernails, smells bad, has a missing tooth in the front where he sticks his cigarette when he’s smoking, ew, and there’s always some sort of drama going on with him. He abandoned his apartment because his landlord didn’t like that he always has people in and out all times of the night. I mean, he’s a nice enough guy, but one look and you know he’s a drug addict.

I agree with @casheroo about pot smokers though. I think it’s pretty hard to pick a responsible pot smoker out of a crowd just by looking by responsible I mean people who smoke in the privacy of their own home and are still productive members of society. Of course there are the idiots who walk into any public place smelling like a Snoop Dogg concert, and I guess they would fall into your categorization.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@casheroo No i’m not saying that in general. But in some circumstances you may know a person and their habits with a physical appearance that reflects that. Also when you work in social services you come to see many people with similar characteristics whom you also learn abuse drugs. I wouldn’t make an open assumption they use drugs because that is dangerous for reasons I stated in my question, they could be horribly ill for example.

essieness's avatar

Ok, another instance… I saw a guy today walking through the parking lot of Dairy Queen. Dirty clothes, dirty face, walking very fast and weird, then sitting on a bench on his cell phone. Obviously not homeless, but the first thing that popped into my mind was drug user. I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s a look. Then again, I do live in the Piney Woods of east Texas where meth is rampant, so I’m pretty used to picking them out.

oratio's avatar

Well, it’s quite easy to see on people that has been using heavier drugs for a while. Not only by the way they look, but how they move too. Many get neurological problems, where how they act and move is a quite obvious tell.

Alcoholics have their physical tells too, even before they get hepatitis. Smokers have their dry skin and yellow teeth. And it’s not a good idea to have a mustache if you are a heavy smoker.

It doesn’t show on everyone, but on quite some people it’s obvious what they are up to.

essieness's avatar

@oratio Great point. The way their bodies move is different and very indicative. Sort of jerky is how I might describe it.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@essieness Do you mean pot smokers when they are not high? Because while high I think they are pretty obvious.

I agree that when you live around a lot of drug users they become easier to spot. Not that we should make such assumptions but I suppose that is human nature.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Making assumptions about people based soley on how they look is a bad idea.

essieness's avatar

@RedPowerLady Well yeah. Sorry, should have clarified. But then again, with some Visine and depending on how much they’ve smoked, sometimes I can’t tell.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Lightlyseared I agree (and stated so in my question) but thanks.

The question was would a drug user be shocked to know that their habit is showing physically? Not can we tell if someone is a drug user by looking at them.

casheroo's avatar

@essieness Did you know putting Visine in when you wear contacts makes your pupils dilate tremendously? Yeah, I didn’t know that either until I had work after I smoked once. It was worse than having red eye lol

oratio's avatar

@casheroo My ex often gets fully dilated pupils naturally. Sometimes she won’t be let into clubs because of that. Weird.

casheroo's avatar

@oratio That happens to me as well. But this was from the Visine.

YARNLADY's avatar

I often see people that I suspect. As was stated above, you can’t always be sure, but the one thing they can’t do is get rid of the smell. Even with other signs concealed, the smell just seeps out of their pores.

essieness's avatar

@casheroo I didn’t know that, LOL.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I don’t think people who are abusing substances really care what we all think beyond us not bringing up the subject directly to them. Sometimes they know we know they are high/drunk but their focus is to keep getting by with their jobs, school, whatever.

Judi's avatar

I wish someone would have told me how much I stunk when I smoked!

essieness's avatar

These are the kinds of people I’m talking about.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@essieness: I love those posters! They should be in all schools, grade school on up, every breakroom in every workplace and on billboards across all highways.

Blondesjon's avatar

For every “druggie” that you spot, there are ten “normal people” that would shock you because you didn’t notice they were on drugs.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Blondesjon Maybe, but they still stink, there’s no hiding it.

Steven0512's avatar

What happened to not judging a book by its cover

Blondesjon's avatar

@YARNLADY . . .Are you talking about specific drugs or does my grandmother stink from the tray-o-pills she has to take every day?

YARNLADY's avatar

@Blondesjon Mostly smoking type drugs. From my experience volunteering in nursing homes, the ‘old folks’ smell is not from their medications, but because their caretaker isn’t bathing them often enough. There are some medications that cause body ordors, but they can easily be controlled by bathing.

Per djblack70
The smell often associated with old people is caused by palmitoleic acid. It is the acid itself that causes the smell. Everyone’s skin produces it, but it increases greatly with age. A person in their 70s produces 10 times more than a person in their 40s. Some people have it worse than others.

Look up Palmitoleic Acid on wikipedia and also have a look at this article about the people who discovered this information and developed a cosmetic solution for getting rid of it here

dynamicduo's avatar

I don’t give one hoot if you know I do drugs or not. I don’t give a bigger shit about silly “labels”. What I choose to do with my body is none of you business whatsoever. I know full well that if I smoke a joint and go into a closed area, some of the smell will linger on me, so I don’t do this. But if my eyes are red/glossy at the movie theater, big deal, what harm does it do to you? Thus why would I care about you knowing?

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

yeah… the crack head under the bridge does look like a crack head who lives under a bridge, you’re right.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’ve never considered this
I’ve been round plenty of drug addicts
none of them cared if people knew or not
heroin was their god

YARNLADY's avatar

@dynamicduo I suspect your opinion is in the minority, most people go out of their way to try to hide or lie about it.

mass_pike4's avatar

I observe people. I guess you can say I like to “people watch.” I myself have used drugs before and because of it, it’s easier for me to pick out an addict or a person who uses occasionally or what have you. You can almost tell by a person’s body language if they are a user. A person’s personality is a tell as well. For example, you can tell by a person’s laugh if they are/used to be a stoner.

I don’t think a person would be surprised to know that we know they use just by looking at them. When you use drugs, you mess up your brain chemistry. It often makes you do things you may not even be aware of doing. Then again drug users could really care less. And those would do care, are usually the paranoid “I don’t want anyone to know type.”

RedPowerLady's avatar

so far lurve all around, i just enjoy hearing other’s thoughts on this as it was something inside my brain today, lol

El_Cadejo's avatar

Mannn i walk around in tye dye shirts, torn jeans, and bare feet. You think i dont realize people know i smoke weed?

Blondesjon's avatar

@uberbatman . . .you smoke weed?

El_Cadejo's avatar

fuck…the jig is up i guess…..

RedPowerLady's avatar

@uberbatman tye dye shirts, torn jeans, and bare feet… you’d fit in perfect here, one of the “hippie” capitals of the US

Jeruba's avatar

Unless you verify your guess, how do you know you have the right profile? For instance, how do you know you’re not looking at users whose practices don’t show on their faces?

RedPowerLady's avatar

Well I suppose you couldn’t. But this is more about those people who you know use and it shows. Instead of being about assumptions but of course due to human nature those will always exist.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

So what’s my drug of choice?

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

damn… you people are good at this…

deni's avatar

i have smoked lots of reefer with many different people and most of them look exactly the same when they’re stoned as they do before they smoke. it depends a lot on the person. my friends eyes are barely open after he smokes. i guess its pretty obvious when he’s baked but most other people, including myself, eh, look pretty much the same. i really dont think you can tell.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

big ben sucks

back to the thread!

deni's avatar

hey! watch it. but really, ben isnt my favorite either.

derekpaperscissors's avatar

Not when you already act weird when you’re normal. Sometimes, judging a book by it’s cover can be used for your advantage.

Fernspider's avatar

@Steven0512 Observing and judging are not the same things. Being aware of something is possible without judging or making an emotional or opinionated judgement on it.

turtlegrrrl's avatar

Truthfully there are only three people that I know of that DON’T use drugs, parents included (and only one is in this category!!).

YARNLADY's avatar

@turtlegrrrl I’ve noticed that drug users tend to flock together.

turtlegrrrl's avatar

Yes that is a very true statement yarnlady: it is the very nature of an addict to structure his entire world around drugs. However, even in the soccer and football parent circle I have been shocked to see drugs everywhere i turn. It is terrifying!!

turtlegrrrl's avatar

Also, as a criminal justice major and police academy student, you’d think I’d be the last to be privy who does what, wouldn’t you?

NewZen's avatar

You mean me, right @RedPowerLady?

proXXi's avatar

My wife has mentioned the line out front of the methedone clinic she passes on the way to the train more than once.


And these are the people that are getting help!!

mm.. ohh baby…....

j3fr0's avatar

I wouldn’t be surprised…

jazmina88's avatar

you know…..maybe quit judging people. Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone.

ItsAHabit's avatar

I would be most surprised if anyone could tell by looking at people if they use drugs. Remember that caffeine is a drug as is sugar, salt and any vitamin. We could’t live without drugs.

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