Dilated Pupils Drugs (General)

Dilated Pupils Drugs

The pupil is a black hole in the middle of your eye, and its role is to expand or contract in response to incoming light. The more light your eye receives, the smaller your pupil gets. This is in normal circumstances, of course.

If you see someone out in a bright environment and their pupils are dilated, then it’s entirely possible that they’re taking drugs, either prescription or illegal ones.

Think your loved one may be taking substances? Then read on to find out more about dilated pupils drugs so you know what to look out for and what to do.

Causes of Dilated Pupils

Don’t panic just yet if you’ve noticed mydriasis (dilated pupils) in your loved one. We’ll discuss the things that can cause the pupil to expand.

Prescription Medications

If your loved one has health issues, then it’s likely that they’re taking medicines that help control or treat symptoms.

Anticholinergic medications use atropine and scopolamine, which are found in belladonna. These can help with psychiatric disorders, as well as gastrointestinal disorders, motion sickness, and allergies. Examples here include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and antihistamines.

In addition, people take sympathomimetic agents to alleviate congestion and asthma symptoms, and to suppress their appetites. Examples here are albuterol and epinephrine.

Illicit Drugs

The abuse of some prescription medications or illicit drugs contributes to mydriasis causes too.

People use stimulants to feel more energetic, and these include cocaine, amphetamines, and MDMA (ecstasy). There are some legal stimulants used to treat conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy, such as Adderall and Ritalin. In these cases, there’s no cause for concern unless your loved one is taking more than prescribed.

Another stimulant that can cause dilated pupils is bath salts (synthetic cathinones). These can cause erratic behaviors in users, so it’ll be obvious if your loved one is taking bath salts.

There are also hallucinogens that can cause mydriasis. Common ones you may know about are magic mushrooms (psilocybin), LSD, DMT, PCP, mescaline, and ketamine. What’s interesting is these hallucinogens show potential for treating certain psychiatric issues, but only under strict medical supervision.

Why Do These Drugs Cause Dilated Pupils?

There are a few reasons why the above substances cause dilated pupils. Let’s take a closer look at each type.

Anticholinergic Medications

Your body produces the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to help out the central and peripheral nervous systems. It acts mainly on your GI tract and muscles.

However, there are situations where you want to inhibit this neurotransmitter. For instance, if you’re suffering from allergies or stomach problems, then you’ll want to stop acetylcholine from being active in your body.

Anticholinergic medications will stop the neurotransmitter from fully taking action. As a result, you’ll experience dilated pupils, as well as blurred vision, dry mouth, and constipation.

Sympathomimetic Agents

These are adrenergic agonists that imitate norepinephrine and epinephrine, which are also neurotransmitters. When taken, sympathomimetic agents stimulate your adrenergic receptors.

Side effects of these agents include bronchodilation, in addition to higher heart rate and blood pressure.


Stimulants act in a similar fashion to sympathomimetic agents. They affect your central nervous system and increase your dopamine and norepinephrine levels. As expected, the side effects are comparable too, including elevated heart rate and blood pressure.


Hallucinogens are well-known for altering users’ perception of reality. They may experience both visual and auditory hallucinations. These things happen because the substances affect your brain’s serotonin receptors. 

What Do Sober Pupils Look Like?

The key to identifying sober pupils is seeing how they react to light and darkness. If they’re unresponsive when moving from one to another, then it’s likely that the person isn’t sober.

However, don’t be quick to judge. As we’ve said, there are legitimate medications people take to improve their quality of life.

Dilated Pupil Treatment

The most effective dilated pupil treatment is to simply stop taking the drugs causing this issue. However, in many cases, this is easier said than done.

Here’s what you can do, depending on if you’re taking prescription or illicit/recreational drugs.

Prescription Drugs

If your loved one is on prescription medications and they’re taking each dosage as prescribed, then you may not have much to worry about. This is especially true if they’re okay with any other side effects they’re experiencing.

However, if the negatives far outweigh the positives, your loved one should speak to their doctor. They might be able to try alternative medicines that have fewer and/or milder side effects.

If your loved one seems to be abusing their prescription drugs, then read the following section.

Illicit or Recreational Drugs

The use of illicit or recreational drugs can have numerous negative effects besides dilated pupils. Even if your loved one only currently uses these drugs occasionally, there’s a slippery slope to dependence and then addiction.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the easiest and simplest way to “treat” dilated pupils is to stop using drugs. But this can be near impossible to do, especially if your loved one is self-medicating with these substances.

In this case, the best course of action is to go to rehab. They can discover lasting sobriety, as the knowledgeable and experienced staff can teach them effective tools for dealing with cravings and any mental health issues they were self-medicating for. Your loved one will get all sorts of therapies, including individual, group, and alternative ones.

After they’ve finished with rehab, they can then attend support groups for however long they’d like. These can help keep them on the right path and provide them with strength in their times of need. 

Get Your Loved One Treatment for Dilated Pupils Drugs

Now that you’ve learned about dilated pupils drugs, you know what to keep an eye out for.

Realizing that your loved one may be abusing substances can be difficult. This means it’s extra important for you to be supportive and assist in getting them help, all without judgment.

You’ll see a world of difference once you get your loved one the treatment they need. As a result, you’ll build the foundation to a happier and healthy future.

Is your loved one ready to get into treatment? Then contact Purpose Healing Center today. We accept most major health plans.