Who Answers?

Drug Addiction

855 339 1112

Signs of Drug Addiction

They say addiction recovery is a lifetime journey and you have to constantly work on keeping your sobriety even years after leaving rehab.

Navigation: Substance Abuse, Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Early Signs of Drug Addiction: What to Look Out for, Physical Symptoms of Drug Abuse, Changes in their Appearance, Tolerance and Withdrawal, Changes in Sleep Patterns, Behavioral Changes, Neglecting Responsibilities, Financial Difficulties, Owning Drug Paraphernalia, Changes in Social Circle, Rehab is Your Best Chance


Substance use disorder, also known as addiction, is a chronic and relapsing medical condition. They say addiction recovery is a lifetime journey and you have to constantly work on keeping your sobriety even years after leaving rehab.

Although addiction treatment has come a long way, and there are now many different treatment programs and interventions that can help an individual regain their sobriety, addiction prevention remains important. Why deal with this chronic condition when you can prevent drug misuse and stop it from developing into a full-blown addiction?

For that you will have to learn how to recognize the early warning signs of drug abuse and addiction. That is what we are going to explore today.

Take note that this is easier said than done because everyone experiences addiction differently. Not every addiction looks the same. And so even the early warning signs may vary from one person to another. You have to unlearn the things you’ve picked up from various media representations of drug use, alcohol addiction, and mental health disorders.

Let’s take a closer look.


Substance Abuse, Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Before we explore the different warning signs of addiction, let’s take a look at some common terms that you may encounter when talking about addiction and rehab.

First is substance abuse. Substance abuse refers to the harmful or excessive use of legal or illegal substances, such as alcohol, prescription drugs, or illicit drugs. This is often done in a way that impacts a person’s physical health, mental health, and overall functioning.

Some of the most commonly abused substances include: alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants. Some people abuse multiple substances at the same time, combining drugs or alternating between substances to get a more intense high. This also increases the risk of a fatal overdose significantly.

There are many different reasons for substance abuse, but they all lead to more serious problems like alcoholism and drug dependence.

Alcoholism is also referred to as alcohol use disorder or AUD. It is a chronic disease characterized by the inability to control or stop the consumption of alcohol, even when you are already experiencing its negative effects. It is considered a severe form of alcohol abuse and can have detrimental effects on every aspect of a person’s life, including their health, relationships, career, etc.

The development of alcoholism has genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. It’s different for everyone, but usually involves a combination of these factors. Genetic predisposition, family history of alcoholism, early exposure to alcohol, social and cultural influences, and underlying mental health conditions are some of the factors that may contribute to the development of alcoholism.

Finally, drug dependence refers to the condition in which a person’s body has adapted to the constant presence of a drug to the point where it can no longer function normally without it. Alcohol dependence is when a person becomes dependent on alcohol. If they reduce their intake or quit the substance, they experience intense withdrawal and cravings.


Early Signs of Drug Addiction: What to Look Out for

Recognizing the early signs of drug addiction can be crucial in helping someone receive timely intervention and support. Early identification of addiction can lead to early intervention and treatment, which improves the chances of successful recovery. The longer an addiction goes untreated, the more difficult it becomes to break the cycle of dependence.

Addiction is a progressive condition, meaning it tends to worsen over time. By recognizing the early signs, individuals and their loved ones can take action to prevent the addiction from escalating into a more severe and chronic problem. This also minimizes health consequences.

Since addiction affects more than just the individual, early intervention can help preserve relationships, friendships, and connections. Addiction tends to damage personal and professional relationships, but early intervention prevents that.

Recognizing early signs of addiction can enhance self-awareness and empower individuals to take control of their behavior. It enables them to develop a greater understanding of their own vulnerabilities and triggers, leading to more informed decisions regarding substance use.

Early recognition of addiction’s warning signs even helps open up conversations and fight the stigma surrounding it. It encourages individuals to seek help without fear of judgment, fostering a supportive environment for recovery.

This is why we need to take a look at the various signs and symptoms of drug use in our loved ones. It’s important to note that these signs may vary depending on the person and the specific substance they are using.

Physical Symptoms of Drug Abuse

Drugs can have various effects on the body. The severity will depend on the person’s drug habits, the type of substance they used, and other factors. Of course, loved ones are usually the first to notice these physical signs in their family member.

Common physical symptoms associated with substance abuse include bloodshot eyes, glazed eyes, dilated or constricted pupils, tremors, shaky hands, poor coordination, itchiness, and slurred speech.

Some people notice distinct smells that can linger on a person’s breath, clothing, or personal belongings. For example, alcohol has a distinct odor, while marijuana may have a distinctive sweet or skunky smell.

While these are not definitive signs, they may be accompanied by more telltale signs. These physical symptoms can offer helpful clues as to whether something is wrong.

If you suspect someone is struggling with substance abuse, it’s crucial to encourage them to seek professional help from healthcare providers or addiction specialists.

Changes in their Appearance

Aside from physical symptoms, the person will also go through some noticeable changes in their physical appearance.

For example, changes in appetite will lead to sudden weight loss or weight gain. Many drugs can either increase or decrease a person’s appetite, which explains why they may suddenly change in terms of body weight.

Substance abuse can also lead to skin problems, such as acne, sores, or rashes. Injecting drugs using needles can also cause track marks, scars, or infections at the injection sites.

Some people with a drug or alcohol addiction simply lose interest in personal grooming and hygiene. Over time, prolonged substance abuse can lead to physical deterioration. This can manifest as general physical weakness, fatigue, or just a general decline in overall health.

Tolerance and Withdrawal

A lot of people with substance use disorder struggle with limiting their drug or alcohol intake. This may push them to take their prescription drugs at higher dosages. Alternatively, they may continue taking their medication even after the health problem has been treated.

Continued drug use makes a person susceptible to drug tolerance. Drug tolerance refers to the diminished response to a drug that occurs with repeated use. This is when a person begins to require higher doses just to achieve the same effect. Drug tolerance causes them to take more and more of the drug even when they are already suffering from the adverse health effects.

Tolerance is a physiological adaptation in which the body becomes less responsive to the effects of a drug over time. This can lead to an escalation in drug dosage, which can be dangerous.

Tolerance can occur with various types of drugs, including prescription medications, illicit substances, and even certain legal substances like alcohol and nicotine.

Drug withdrawal, on the other hand, refers to the set of symptoms that occur when a person abruptly stops or significantly reduces the dosage of a drug to which they have developed tolerance.

Withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the drug and can range from mild discomfort to severe physical and psychological effects. Some drugs can cause life-threatening withdrawal.

Common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, irritability, nausea, sweating, insomnia, tremors, muscle aches, and in some cases, seizures or hallucinations.

Changes in Sleep Patterns

Drug abuse tends to wreak havoc on a person’s sleep habits. Stimulants and depressants alike can alter the activity of hormones responsible for tiredness and wakefulness, which can drive a person off their typical sleep schedule.

In fact, disrupted sleep patterns are often associated with drug addiction. The person may experience difficulty falling asleep, insomnia, or excessive sleepiness at unusual times.

Many drugs, especially stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines, and certain prescription medications, can interfere with sleep and cause insomnia. These drugs stimulate the central nervous system, making it difficult for users to fall asleep or stay asleep.

In other cases, drug abuse can lead to fragmented sleep, where individuals experience frequent awakenings throughout the night. This disruption can be caused by substances like alcohol, sedatives, opioids, or benzodiazepines. These substances can alter sleep architecture and prevent the normal progression through sleep stages.

Other drugs, particularly those that induce euphoria or increase wakefulness, may lead to prolonged periods of wakefulness and result in sleep deprivation. Methamphetamine, for example, can cause individuals to stay awake for extended periods, leading to chronic sleep deficits.

Drugs that interfere with sleep can also cause excessive daytime sleepiness. For instance, if someone abuses sedatives or opioids at night, they may experience residual drowsiness and impaired daytime functioning.

Behavioral Changes

The effects of substance abuse are not purely physical. Loved ones may also begin to notice significant behavioral signs that may be linked to either a mental health disorder, a substance use disorder, or both.

These behavioral changes may include sudden mood swings, increased secrecy, withdrawal from social activities, decreased performance at school or work, and a decline in personal hygiene.

The person may become more withdrawn or defensive, especially when uncomfortable topics arise. They may react with more aggression, or go through mood swings. They will generally display more erratic behavior. They may feel euphoric, paranoid, or invulnerable—leading to reckless and dangerous actions.

Drug abuse can also lead to psychological changes like increased irritability, mood swings, anxiety, depression, paranoia, and a general decline in mental health.

Mental health is affected significantly by substance abuse. It is even possible for drug or alcohol use to pave the way for a co-occurring mental illness like depression or anxiety. When this happens, it is called a dual diagnosis.

Neglecting Responsibilities

One of the most noticeable behavioral signs of drug abuse is neglecting responsibilities and obligations. The person engaging in substance abuse may miss work, school, family engagements, and other important appointments frequently.

Drug abuse can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to fulfill their responsibilities. When someone becomes engrossed in drug abuse, their priorities often shift, and their focus becomes centered around obtaining and using drugs. This altered mindset can lead to neglecting important responsibilities in various areas of life.

Another interesting aspect of this is that the person also loses interest in things they used to enjoy. They’ll lose interest in their hobbies, work, passions, and other enjoyable activities. Instead, all of their energy will go towards abusing their drug of choice.

Financial Difficulties

Addicted individuals often encounter financial problems because drugs can be expensive. If the person develops a dependency and needs larger quantities or stronger substances, then the cost for them will be even higher.

Substance abuse can have adverse health effects, leading to medical bills, hospital stays, therapy, and medication costs that can accumulate, especially if the individual does not have adequate health insurance.

Since drugs and alcohol can also impair cognitive function, motivation, and work performance, productivity is reduced. This can lead to a loss of employment, decreased income, and missed opportunities for career advancement.

Additionally, drug abuse often leads to involvement in illegal activities to obtain drugs or sustain the habit. This can result in legal consequences, such as fines, court fees, and attorney costs, which can further strain their finances.

Over time, the cost of sustaining a drug habit can deplete a person’s financial resources. They may frequently ask for money, borrow money without repaying it, or engage in suspicious or illegal activities to fund their drug use.

Individuals struggling with drug abuse may resort to selling their possessions, including valuable items, to fund their addiction.

Owning Drug Paraphernalia

One of the most obvious signs of drug addiction is owning drug paraphernalia. If you find equipment in someone’s room like pipes, syringes, cigarette wrapping papers, lighters, bongs, burnt spoons or bottle caps, or cut-up straws, it is an obvious indicator of substance use.

Keep in mind that not all drugs require anything to use them. However, you may still see other items that point to drug misuse, such as medicine bottles, eyewash (to hide the effect of bloodshot eyes), etc. Seeing medicine bottles from more than one doctor can be a sign of prescription drug abuse.

Changes in Social Circle

Finally, a person struggling with substance use disorders may also change their social circles.

A shift in social groups or the emergence of new friendships that revolve around drug use can indicate a developing addiction. Individuals may distance themselves from old friends and family members who do not use drugs and spend more time with those who share their substance abuse habits.

Alternatively, they may begin to exhibit increasingly reclusive and private behavior. They may spend extended periods in their room, lock their doors, or become extremely secretive.

It’s important to remember that these signs alone may not definitively indicate drug addiction, but if you notice a combination of these behaviors and symptoms in someone, it may be a cause for concern.

If you suspect someone is struggling with drug addiction, it is best to approach them with empathy, express your concerns, and encourage them to seek professional help or support groups that specialize in addiction treatment.

Look for a rehab center near you today and help your loved one fight substance abuse before it becomes something more difficult to manage.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



author avatar
Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

Addiction Treatment Centers For
Drugs, Alcohol and Prescription Drug Abuse

Call Now