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Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction can begin with the recreational use of drugs in social situations. But for some people it begins with the misuse of their prescription drugs.

Navigation: Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction, How to Tell if a Family Member is Struggling with Drug Abuse, What to Do When a Loved One is Dealing with Addiction, Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Drug Addiction Prevention, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


Substance use disorders are widespread in the US. According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)’s National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 65.7 percent of people 12 years and older used alcohol in 2015, while 17.8 percent took illegal drugs.

The longer someone abuses a substance, the higher the risk of developing drug addiction. Eventually, it becomes more difficult to stop taking your drug of choice. Prescription drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and illicit drug abuse are all examples of substance use disorders (SUD), which is also known as addiction.

Drug addiction is a chronic and relapsing medical condition that affects a person’s brain and behavior. Developing addiction means losing the ability to control your intake of a particular substance. This condition is characterized by the compulsive intake of a drug even when you are already experiencing its adverse effects.

Addiction tends to affect most aspects of a person’s life: their physical health, their mental health, their relationships, their job, their finances, and everything else. Generally speaking, you will want to detect the warning signs of substance abuse before it develops into something more severe. But in any case, we will discuss the different signs and symptoms of drug addiction so that you know what to watch out for.


Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction can begin with the recreational use of drugs in social situations. But for some people it begins with the misuse of their prescription drugs. The latter is particularly common among those who were given opioids for their pain.

Whether you take a particular drug for its euphoric effects or you accidentally took more of your prescription than you were supposed to, the risk of becoming addicted is there so you need to be careful. Recognizing the different drug addiction signs can help you address the problem as soon as possible.

Drug addiction has plenty of physical signs such as: tolerance, dependence, withdrawal, and various health effects. The adverse health effects of substance abuse may vary depending on the specific drug you took, as well as the dosage, method of administration, and frequency of intake.

Over time, you may have to take more and more of the drug just to feel the same effects. You may even become drug dependent, which means your body now has to keep taking the drug just to feel normal. Whenever you reduce your intake or attempt to quit, you experience withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings.

Addiction is characterized by cravings, loss of control, and withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, sweating, shaking, irritability, insomnia, and depression.

It should be noted that addiction commonly co-occurs with certain mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is called a dual diagnosis and requires the assistance of a mental health professional to deal with the mental health disorder along with the substance use disorder.


How to Tell if a Family Member is Struggling with Drug Abuse

Identifying whether a family member is struggling with substance use disorder can be challenging, as some people may try to hide their addiction or exhibit subtle signs. However, there are several behavioral, physical, and psychological signs that may indicate a problem.

Keep in mind that these signs don’t necessarily guarantee a substance use disorder, but they may warrant further investigation and support. If you suspect a family member is facing substance use issues, make sure you approach the situation with empathy and care. Here are some common signs to look for:

The most obvious warning signs of substance abuse are usually the physical signs. This is because substance use can cause noticeable physical changes, including bloodshot eyes, unexplained weight loss or gain, changes in grooming habits, and skin issues. Look for physical symptoms such as slurred speech, tremors, impaired coordination, or unexplained injuries.

A person struggling with substance use may neglect their personal hygiene, leading to a disheveled appearance and an unclean living space.

Other than physical signs, loved ones may also notice significant changes in the person’s behavior.

The addicted individual may suddenly become withdrawn, secretive, or hostile. They may also experience sudden mood swings and display erratic or unpredictable actions. Friends and family members are often the first ones to notice these changes.

An addicted person will keep taking a drug even when it causes them several problems like financial troubles, legal problems, and severe health problems. Despite the consequences, they will keep spending a significant amount of time thinking about the drug, planning how to obtain it, and recovering from its effects.

They won’t just spend time on the drug, they will also spend a lot of money on it, leading to financial problems. Watch for signs of financial strain, frequent borrowing of money, or unexplained expenses, as substance use can be costly and may lead to financial instability.

Some may even start stealing money or engaging in other risky behaviors such as driving under the influence, risky sexual behavior, or illegal activities.

It is also common for addicted individuals to start hiding their drug use from their family and friends, becoming more secretive and spending more time on their own. They may even change their social circles, leaving friends behind who do not support their drug use or alcohol abuse. A sudden change in friends or withdrawal from social activities may be indicative of substance use issues.

The drug will become their main priority. They will start neglecting their responsibilities at work, school, or home. They may have a decline in job performance or drop out of school. They will suddenly lose interest in activities they used to enjoy including their old hobbies. These may indicate that the person is prioritizing substance abuse over their responsibilities, hobbies, and interests.

Some people repeatedly express a desire to quit or cut down on substance use but find themselves unable to do so.

Whenever someone brings up their drug or alcohol intake, they may have the tendency to get defensive or angry. They may be in denial about their condition, which suggests a deeper issue that needs to be addressed during addiction treatment.

It’s important to note that not all individuals with drug addiction will exhibit all of these signs, and the severity of the symptoms can vary widely. Additionally, some of these signs can also be present in individuals who are misusing drugs but have not yet developed a full-blown addiction.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug use, seeking professional help and support is essential.

What to Do When a Loved One is Dealing with Addiction, Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

It’s hard to find out that your loved one is dealing with a substance use disorder. But despite what you are currently feeling towards their situation, it is crucial to approach it with care and avoid judgment. If you suspect a family member is struggling with substance use disorder, consider the following steps:

Educate Yourself: Learn about substance use disorder and its effects to better understand what your family member might be going through. This should be your first step as it helps break the stigma that surrounds addiction and treatment. If you have any pre-existing biases towards addiction, educating yourself on the effects and risk factors may help you understand that it is a medical condition that requires proper treatment. This will help you approach your loved one with empathy and understanding.

Open Communication: Create a safe and non-judgmental space for your family member to talk about their feelings and experiences. They need to feel safe so that they can tell you exactly what they are going through and you can help them develop an appropriate plan of action.

Express Concern: Share your observations and concerns about their behavior and ask if they need help. Avoid putting blame on them and turning it into a confrontation as this will only drive them away.

Encourage Professional Help: Suggest seeking support from healthcare professionals, counselors, or support groups. Do your own research regarding their condition and possible treatment options. This may even bring you closer together, allowing for better communication.

Set Boundaries: While being supportive, set clear boundaries to protect yourself and others from enabling harmful behaviors. Avoid enabling your loved one as this will ultimately not be good for them. Refrain from providing money or assistance that may be used to support their substance use.

Offer Emotional Support: Let your family member know that you care about them and will support them throughout their recovery journey.

Remember that dealing with substance use disorder is challenging, and professional help is often necessary for effective treatment. Encourage your family member to seek assistance from healthcare providers or addiction specialists who can provide appropriate guidance and support.

Drug Addiction Prevention

Of course the most effective way to prevent addiction is to not take the drug at all. But sometimes this is easier said than done. Some people are exposed to different risk factors that increase their likelihood of developing an addiction. After all, addiction has genetic and environmental factors that contribute to its development. Familiarizing yourself with these risk factors can help you recognize who are most likely to fall victim to addiction at some point.

Keep in mind that having several risk factors does not guarantee that you will be addicted someday. It only means you have an increased risk of addiction.

If you have children and teenagers in your household, you may be worried about their wellbeing. To minimize their risk of abusing drugs and alcohol in the future, you have to talk to them. Open the lines of communication by listening to them and staying non-judgmental. Be a good listener and also set a good example for them. Children of parents who abuse drugs are at greater risk of drug addiction.

Talk to your teens about the dangers of substance abuse and addiction.

Aside from that, there are plenty of other important strategies that can be implemented to minimize the risk of drug addiction within the home and the community.

Drug addiction prevention is a critical approach aimed at reducing the likelihood of individuals developing substance use disorders. Prevention strategies focus on educating and empowering individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole to make informed decisions and adopt healthy behaviors that discourage drug use.

Here are some key aspects of drug addiction prevention:

Education and Awareness: Raising awareness about the risks and consequences of drug use is vital. This involves providing accurate information about various substances, their effects on physical and mental health, and the potential for addiction. Schools, community organizations, and healthcare professionals play a significant role in educating individuals about the dangers of drug abuse.

Life Skills Training: Teaching individuals essential life skills can help them resist peer pressure and make better decisions. Skills such as problem-solving, communication, stress management, and coping mechanisms enhance resilience and reduce the likelihood of turning to drugs as a way to cope with life’s challenges.

Building Protective Factors: Fostering protective factors can strengthen individuals against drug abuse. These factors may include positive family relationships, strong social support networks, involvement in extracurricular activities, and access to quality education and healthcare.

Addressing Risk Factors: Identifying and addressing risk factors that increase the likelihood of drug use is crucial. These risk factors might include a history of trauma, mental health issues, family history of substance abuse, socioeconomic factors, and living in environments with high drug availability.

Early Intervention: Early identification and intervention for individuals at risk of developing drug addiction can prevent the problem from escalating. This may involve screening programs and providing appropriate support and resources to at-risk individuals and their families.

Regulation and Legislation: Governments can play a role in drug addiction prevention through regulations and legislation. Implementing strict laws against drug trafficking, limiting access to certain substances, and promoting evidence-based treatment options can reduce drug availability and discourage drug use.

Media and Advertising Control: Controlling the way drugs are portrayed in media and advertising can influence public perceptions and attitudes toward drug use. Responsible media messaging can help prevent glamorization and normalization of drug abuse.

Community Involvement: Engaging communities in prevention efforts creates a supportive environment that discourages drug use. Community-based programs, events, and support groups can promote healthy activities and social connections.

Access to Treatment and Support: Ensuring that individuals who are struggling with substance abuse have access to effective treatment and support services is essential. Early intervention and evidence-based treatments can significantly improve recovery outcomes.

Continued Research and Evaluation: Ongoing research and evaluation of prevention programs are necessary to determine their effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.

Overall, a comprehensive approach that involves individuals, families, schools, healthcare providers, communities, and policymakers is essential in tackling drug addiction and promoting a healthier society. Prevention is often more effective and cost-efficient than treating addiction after it has already developed.

That said, prevention is not always possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse and addiction, look for a rehab center near you and learn about the various treatment options. It is possible to live a long, healthy, and sober life even after developing an addiction. Get started on the road to recovery today.

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.



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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.

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