Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Talking about addiction

Addiction is a problem that affects tens of millions of Americans, the devastating and deadly effects on individuals, families and communities make it an urgent issue to identify and address. In 2020, more than 40 million people suffered from the effects of substance use, meaning that they were consuming drugs or alcohol at a harmful level. Most of these individuals will need rehabilitation and support to return to a sober life.

To help an addicted person, you must first know what signs to look for. That person might be able to conceal the signs and symptoms of addiction for a while, but not forever. If someone you care about shows the signs listed below, take action to find help for them.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use and Addiction

Addict - 3 types of eyes

Every drug creates its own symptoms. You may only see a few of the following signs, but observing them should alert you to take a closer look at this person’s health, behavior and activities.

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Pupils larger or smaller than normal
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Deteriorating physical appearance or grooming
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Impaired coordination or tremors
  • Changes in behavior
  • Lack of energy or unusual bursts of energy

Physical Harm Resulting from Addiction

Serious diseases and physical deterioration can result from the long-term use of addictive substances.

  • Heart and lung damage
  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis and HIV
  • Liver damage
  • Stroke
  • Tooth damage and loss
  • Impaired immune system
  • Kidney damage or failure
  • Brain damage

Changes in Quality of Life

Man with issues

  • Declining performance at work or school
  • Deteriorating care of children, spouse or home
  • Legal situations
  • Traffic accidents or multiple tickets or loss of one’s license
  • Arrests for drugs, disorderly conduct or assaults
  • Loss of job, business or home

Behavioral or Mental Problems

An addicted person may begin showing emotional or mental changes, or their behavior may begin to drastically change. Watch for signs such as these:

  • Erratic mood and behavior
  • Risk-taking, such as reckless driving or promiscuity
  • Being anxious, depressed, paranoid or fearful
  • Suffering delusions or hallucinations
  • Appearing foggy or spaced out
  • Borrowing money repeatedly
  • Poor memory
  • Unexplained changes in friends or hobbies

Reasons Addiction May Not Be Obvious

Parents and friends may wonder why they didn’t notice a loved one’s addiction earlier. An addicted person generally takes pains to conceal their problem from others. They may not ask for help because they feel their problem is hopeless and the only thing they can do is to secretly continue to consume the substances they are addicted to.

Young woman upset

Early in their addictions, many people are able to conceal their destructive habits. They may not have yet begun to suffer the loss of function at work and at home. It’s possible that only someone who is with this person daily would know the truth.

Many addicted people will avoid family and friends as much as possible. Sons and daughters skip family events, offering thin excuses. Eventually, they may disappear completely, not even bothering to make up excuses.

A family member that discovers that a loved one is addicted should only focus on finding an effective rehabilitation program for their loved one. No one wants to be addicted, no matter what claims the person may make. The most important thing once addiction has been identified is helping that person begin an effective rehab program that can return them to a lasting sober and productive life. In this way, they can avoid the most deadly effects of addiction.

Signs & Symptoms of Commonly Used Drugs


Alcohol
Alcohol

Alcohol

Alcohol is readily available and widely advertised across America but it causes as many deaths as drug overdoses. This may not be obvious because many of the deaths occur over a period of years. It’s vital to be able to identify when a person is chronically abusing alcohol.
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Ecstasy
Ecstasy
Courtesy of DEA.gov

Club Drugs

People consuming club drugs say they are just looking for a good time, but that good time can turn into mental or physical damage, addiction or even death.
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Cocaine
Cocaine
Courtesy of DEA.gov

Cocaine

Because a cocaine user will often try to conceal their drug use, it's important for friends and family to be able to identify the signs of use. When cocaine use develops into long-term use and addiction, the signs usually become unmistakable. At that point, finding an effective rehab program is essential.
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Barbiturates
Barbiturates
Courtesy of DEA.gov

DXM

Cough medicine sounds like a pretty innocent and harmless thing to have around the house. But many formulas contain dextromethorphan, an abusable and addictive drug that can put a person in the hospital if too much is consumed.
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Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens
Courtesy of DEA.gov

Hallucinogens

Despite having completely unpredictable and lasting effects that can include psychosis requiring hospitalization, hallucinogen use continues to be popular among some groups.
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Heroin
Heroin
Courtesy of DEA.gov

Heroin

A heroin user normally tries to conceal their drug use from loved ones. Therefore, family and friends often have to observe the many mental, physical and behavioral signs and symptoms of heroin use to realize the cause of their loved one’s problems.
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Inhalants
Inhalants
Courtesy of DEA.gov

Inhalants

Abusable inhalants are literally everywhere. It's no wonder that these substances are more commonly abused by younger Americans who might not have easy access to illicit drugs. But just like some illicit drugs, they can kill the first time they are used.
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Marijuana
Marijuana
Courtesy of DEA.gov

Marijuana

Marijuana addiction results in profound changes to a person’s mental, physical and emotional health, meaning that a chronic user of this drug needs help as soon as their dependence is detected.
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Crystal Meth
Crystal Meth
Courtesy of DEA.gov

Meth

Methamphetamine can have such immediate and profound effects on a person’s physical and mental health that it’s essential to get them help as soon as the signs of meth use show up.
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Lethal dose of Fentanyl
Lethal dose of Fentanyl
Courtesy of DEA.gov

Opioids

The signs and symptoms of opioid addiction are vital to identify because opioid addiction can turn deadly at any moment.
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Prescription drugs
Prescription drugs
Courtesy of DEA.gov

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs can help people overcome medical conditions, manage pain, and are essential for people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes. When they are abused by a person wishing to get high, they no longer help the user. In fact, they may cause unconsciousness, amnesia and death.
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Synthetic Drugs (Spice)
Synthetic Drugs (Spice)
Courtesy of DEA.gov

Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drugs are among the most dangerous drugs in the world, but some of their worst effects are on the minds of the users. This makes them no less deadly, however.
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