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Dilated Pupils and Drug Abuse

Drug abuse causes several side effects that can include dilated pupils. Medical communities and law enforcement officials use pupil dilation level as a key marker for intoxication and substance abuse. Pupil dilation can even show which particular drug may have been used. The National Library of Medicine says:

Because the current epidemic of drug abuse has touched all levels of society, the primary care physician is increasingly called on to identify, monitor, and treat persons with drug abuse problems. All of the major drugs of abuse, including cocaine, marijuana, amphetamine, phencyclidine, heroin, and alcohol, may produce typical eye signs that can be easily detected by a rapid eye test. These signs include ptosis, abnormal pupil size, nonreactivity of the pupil to a light challenge, nystagmus, and non-convergence. When eye signs are detected, drug use should be confirmed by analysis of body fluids. The rapid eye test is suitable for routine use when screening adolescents, athletes, and employees with jobs where safety is essential. (NLM)

Drug addiction and abuse have become so common in our society today that school officials and employers have even been trained to look for signs which include changes in pupil size and dilation. Dilated Pupils and Drug Abuse

What Causes Pupil Dilation?

When certain drugs are taken, neurotransmitters in the brain that work to control pupil dilation are affected, and the pupils will dilate. Drugs that affect the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems trigger pupil dilation. The parasympathetic nervous system controls a person’s autonomic bodily process at rest and triggers the sphincter response. The sympathetic nervous system controls the body’s fight-or-flight response and triggers the eye’s dilator. Pupil dilation is caused by these two muscle groups being activated.

Are Dilated Pupils a Sign of Drug Abuse?

Pupil dilation can also be a classic sign of withdrawal from some drugs including heroin and opioids. Medical professionals are trained to assess some of the common signs of opioid withdrawal before starting a person on medication-assisted treatment, and pupil dilation is one of these signs. Sometimes individuals may fake some of the symptoms of withdrawal to obtain a medication, but pupil dilation is involuntary and is one of those signs that cannot be controlled.

Drugs That Cause Pupil Dilation

Pupil dilation is an involuntary response caused by the nervous system; it cannot be controlled. Several commonly abused drugs can cause the pupils to dilate. These can include:

  • Amphetamines
  • Bath salts
  • Crystal methamphetamine
  • Ketamine
  • MDMA (Ecstasy)
  • LSD
  • Cocaine
  • Crack cocaine
  • Mescaline
  • Psilocybin (Mushrooms)
  • Benzodiazepines

Certain medications can cause pupil dilation. With that being said, pupil dilation alone cannot be used as a definitive sign that someone is abusing drugs. Some of the common medications that can also cause pupil dilation are:

  • Anticholinergics
  • Anticonvulsants and antiepileptics
  • Antidepressants (Tricyclic)
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Mydriatics
  • Dopamine precursors
  • Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

This is very important to know. Someone that is abusing drugs will show other signs besides pupil dilation. There are many different physical and behavioral signs that can exhibit drug abuse. The key here is significant changes in one’s appearance, behavior, personality, and attitude. As stated above in the article published by the National Library of Medicine, the only way to positively determine whether a person is abusing substances is by analyzing body fluids. This means doing a urine screen or maybe even drawing blood.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, our addiction specialists are available around the clock to assist you. Evoke Wellness at Miramar offers cutting edge addiction treatment. We offer a safe environment and treat our clients with respect. We specialize in making sure our patients have the most comfortable detox process possible. You no longer have to continue to suffer out of fear. Give us a call today for a confidential assessment, day or night, around the clock.