Signs of alcoholism and drug dependence typically vary between people, with some common themes that can help pinpoint a potential problem. Addiction can manifest physically, psychologically, or behaviorally. There are also different types of addiction and signs that may indicate a co-occurring addiction disorder accompanied by a mental illness.
Knowing the markers of addiction can help you understand when your life or the life of someone you love has spun out of control, necessitating professional intervention. The long-term health consequences of addiction can be life-altering, so acting quickly and working with a professional, experienced substance use disorder facility can create opportunities for a better recovery outcome.
Behavioral Signs of Addiction
The behavioral signs of addiction can impact your daily life, interfering with your ability to take care of yourself, make rational decisions, and maintain relationships with family, friends, and others. Behavioral signs of substance abuse include:
- Declining work/school performance: If you find you’re performing poorly in school or at work due to substance use, you might be in the throes of an addiction. This might also be the case if you notice dwindling attendance.
- Withdrawal from activities once enjoyed: Addiction often takes up increasingly large amounts of personal time, leaving with you little left over to pursue activities you once enjoyed.
- Sudden onset of financial issues: You may find you’re spending more money on substances instead of on your financial responsibilities, which is a common factor in the onset of addiction.
- Obsessive thoughts about substances: If thoughts of using your substance of choice are intruding on your daily life, interrupting other trains of thought, and distracting you from other tasks, you may become prone to obsessing.
- Changes in interpersonal relationships: Perhaps you’re spending less time with family or friends, or you notice they’re avoiding you. Changes in these relationships may indicate a growing problem with drug addiction.
Physical Signs of Addiction
Physical symptoms of drug abuse can be as frightening as the behavioral, depending on the substance in question. However, it should be noted that some types of substances have less obvious physical signs than others. Some of the most common include:
- Sudden changes in weight: Sudden weight loss or gain in association with substance use can be a sign that something is wrong amid a growing addiction.
- Poor physical hygiene: Drug abuse often demands all the attention in your life, so poor physical hygiene can be a sign that you’re spending more time on substance use than on taking care of yourself.
- Changes in sleeping habits: Drug addiction can wreak havoc on your sleeping habits, resulting in insomnia or even sleeping for extended periods of time between using.
- Slurring when speaking: Slurred speech, particularly when dealing with drug addiction, is a physical symptom that indicates increasing drug abuse.
- Changes in body odor: Because drugs and alcohol can cause your body to change and react in myriad ways, you may notice that you smell differently when using substances.
Physical signs of drug addiction are sometimes less pronounced for those who may have just begun using drugs and alcohol frequently versus those who’ve used heavily for a longer period.
Psychological Signs of Addiction
Much of the challenge of overcoming addiction stems from the psychological impacts, which can have a long-term impact on your life. Psychological signs and symptoms of addiction include:
- Mood swings: Sudden or extreme mood swings may indicate a growing issue with addiction, especially if you weren’t experiencing such mental health issues prior to substance use.
- Paranoia: Increasing rates of substance use can contribute to feelings of paranoia, hallucinations, and general detachment from reality.
- Inattentiveness: If you’re using drugs or alcohol, you may find it more challenging to pay attention to details or focus on things that were once important to you.
- Irritability or sudden bouts of anger: Because you’re losing the ability to regulate yourself emotionally as you sink deeper into drug addiction, you might find yourself subject to sudden bouts of irritability or irrational anger.
You may also begin emotionally withdrawing from those around you, either as a measure of protection from the chaos of addiction or simply because you’re focused on drug use and unable to effectively maintain those relationships.
Types of Addiction
There are different types of addiction depending on the substance in question. Rehab for alcohol abuse, for instance, takes a much different approach than that of rehab for stimulant abuse or other types of drug use. Knowing more about your addiction type, as well as co-occurring mental health problems, is essential to getting the right kind of help to steer you toward recovery.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse
The signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse might be tricky to spot since this particular substance is commonly used in social settings. However, there are some behaviors that indicate an unhealthy attachment to this type of substance abuse.
- Getting drunk regularly: Over-imbibing on occasion may not be cause for concern, but doing so regularly is. This is especially so when accompanied by poor decision-making or getting drunk to the point of blacking out.
- Secretly drinking: If you’re hiding alcohol in your home or drinking at inappropriate times out of sight of others, this may indicate a growing issue with alcohol use disorder.
- Feeling sick after drinking: If you’re constantly dealing with hangovers or other health problems due to regular bouts of alcohol consumption, you may be dealing with alcohol use disorder.
- Changes in appearance: If you’re drinking excessively, you may begin to show physical signs of addiction through bloating, red splotches on your skin, or general feelings of unwellness.
- Choosing to drink instead of eating: Your relationship with alcohol may have crossed into unhealthy territory if you’re choosing to drink instead of consuming proper nutrition to sustain your health.
- Mood swings: You may be an entirely different person when you’re drinking versus when you’re sober, with mood swings to mark the changes in question.
Signs of Drug Abuse
Drug abuse may include using illicit substances or prescription drug abuse. Drugs in this category include marijuana, opioids, and benzodiazepines (this includes frequently abused prescription drugs). Common signs and symptoms of drug use include:
- Excessive fatigue: Drugs that slow you down are also likely to make you feel more tired, so you may find you spend more time in bed when actively using. You may also feel tired even when you’ve just woken up. Those engaged in heroin abuse may be subject to the well-known side effect of nodding off just after using.
- Confusion/mental fog: Prescription drugs, in particular, can make you feel confused and mentally foggy, making it harder for you to make clear and effective decisions about your life.
- Dirty appearance: Your personal hygiene is likely to suffer because of drug addiction. You may be less likely to properly take care of yourself during active drug use, especially if you’re also struggling with other mental health disorders.
- Unexplained weight loss: If you’re not taking care of yourself in terms of hygiene, chances are you’re not properly nourishing yourself either. This can lead to unexplained weight loss.
- Lack of motivation: You find you have a severe lack of motivation when dealing with substance use disorder, especially if your addiction takes up the bulk of your personal time.
Signs of Stimulant Abuse
Commonly abused stimulants include cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine. Individuals using these substances typically have an abundance of energy and feel they can focus more effectively. However, stimulant abuse can happen when you ingest too much of a legal substance or use an illicit one. In addition to blood pressure problems and other health issues, addiction signs, and symptoms include:
- Sudden anger or irritability: As you deal with the highs and lows of stimulant use, you may find yourself angrier and more irritable than usual, sometimes with little to no warning. You may also be angered by the intense cravings, especially if you can’t readily access your drug of choice. You may also find withdrawal symptoms so intense that your anger is triggered as well.
- Unexplained weight loss: Stimulants drug use will mitigate any appetite you may have had, causing unexplained weight loss.
- Paranoia: Using stimulants regularly may cause you to develop feelings of paranoia, which can sometimes lead to unexplained disappearances and increasingly rash behavior.
- Anxiety: Because stimulants will spike your heart rate, you may also find you feel more anxious than usual when abusing these substances.
The Importance of Recognizing Signs of Substance Use Disorder
Recognizing the signs of drug abuse can save your life or the life of someone you love. You may not feel compelled to act if you don’t realize the impact addiction is having on your life and the lives of those around you. No matter the extent of your drug addiction, recovery is possible. The situation may seem hopeless when in the throes of addiction, but one phone call is all it takes to change everything.