Addiction can affect anyone, and people can become addicted to everything from cigarettes to illegal street drugs. Many people become addicted to prescription drugs, and drug addiction can occur concurrently with mental health disorders.

Substance abuse disorders, including alcohol and drug addictions, can all have different symptoms, but some things hold true regardless of the specific drug. Substance abuse affects the brain and can alter behavior, making it harder to stop using drugs and alcohol even though you know they cause harm. This is why it is imperative to know the different drug addiction symptoms and when to seek out treatment.

Commonly Abused Substances

Addiction can develop whether someone is using an illegal drug or a prescribed one. Some commonly abused drugs that can cause addiction include:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine
  • Prescription painkillers
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Prescription sedatives and sleeping medications
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamines

The Early Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Addiction can begin in many ways. Sometimes it starts with prescription drug use that progresses to prescription drug abuse when the person continues to take the medication after the prescription ends. Prescription painkiller abuse is the most common example of this as people continuously take pain medicines outside their prescription.

In other cases, addiction begins with occasional recreational drug use and progresses to a substance use disorder over time. Some drugs are more addictive than others, and some people are more prone to substance abuse, so the exact pattern of addiction isn’t always predictable. A family history of drug addiction and existing mental health issues can be risk factors for addiction.

As an addiction develops, one of the first drug addiction symptoms is a higher tolerance for the drug. Doses that once caused a high or led to a relaxed state may not have the same effect anymore. You might need larger doses or more frequent doses to get the reaction smaller doses once provided. Eventually, the brain may become dependent on the substance, causing intense cravings if you stop using it. In some cases, you might experience withdrawal symptoms if you try to quit and need drug rehab.

woman with signs and symptoms of drug addiction seeking help of a mental health professional

Some of the early signs and symptoms of alcoholism and drug dependence include:

  • Needing more drugs or alcohol to achieve the effect you once got from a smaller amount
  • Continuing to take prescription drugs after a completing a prescription or after you no longer require it for your health condition
  • A craving or need to take drugs daily or more frequently to get through everyday activities
  • Regularly taking more drugs or drinking more alcohol than you intended
  • Keeping a stash of drugs or alcohol on hand at all times
  • Using drugs or alcohol even when you know you should stop and feeling unable to control your substance use disorder
  • Spending money you should reserve for other things on drugs and alcohol

  • Neglecting your responsibilities, friendships or hobbies in order to spend more time doing drugs or drinking
  • Taking extreme measures to acquire drugs, such as theft
  • Participating in risky behaviors while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,such as engaging in risky sexual encounters or driving while impaired
  • Feeling consumed with thoughts about acquiring more drugs, doing drugs and dealing with the after effects of having done drugs
  • Being unable to stop using, whether through peer pressure or intense cravings.

  • Blood pressure problems

  • Rapid or rambling speech and being defensive when asked about your drug addiction problems

Recognizing the Signs of a Serious Addiction

Friends and family members are often the first to notice that a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse. Here are some possible warning signs and symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction you might notice in a friend or family member:

image representing how drugs wear down the physical appearance of an addicted woman

Physical Signs And Appearance Changes

Someone who has drug abuse problems may experience physical signs such as sudden weight loss or weight gain, involuntary eye movements and poor coordination. Drug users might also neglect their personal care, including bathing and hair care. Sometimes, specific drugs can cause visible physical signs. As an example, people who take methamphetamines may develop meth mouth, a deterioration of the teeth and gums directly caused by drug use. Other physical signs include red or glassy eyes, dilated pupils, slurred speech and impaired coordination.

image representing negative consequences of a drug problem at work or school

Trouble Maintaining a Normal Work or School Schedule

Drug use not only affects your relationship with family members, it also often affects work and school performance. The drug user might frequently show up late or not finish required work by the deadline or even have memory loss of their responsibilities. Neglecting responsibilities at home is another sign of drug or alcohol abuse.

man experiencing behavioral and mental health problems due to addiction

Behavioral Changes

Unusual changes in a person’s behavior can be symptoms of drug addiction. Common behavioral signs of drug abuse include mood swings, irritability, restlessness, acting secretive about everyday activities and increased fights with loved ones. Drug abuse can also lead to changes in sleep schedules, including trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual.

couple with financial problems because of drug addiction

Money Problems

One of the most common signs of drug abuse is the sudden development of unexpected financial issues. The person might fail to pay bills or rent or might sell valuable personal items to get the money to support their drug use. Sometimes a drug user resorts to stealing money or items they can sell to support the addiction.

Long-Term Drug Addiction Signs and Effects

Drug abuse can have long-term health consequences, such as mental illness. A mental health disorder can cause symptoms such as anxiety and depression, in the worst case, hallucination. An overdose could be deadly, and engaging in risky behavior while under the influence of drugs or alcohol could increase the chances of a dangerous accident.

Using illicit drugs may also lead to legal problems. You could be arrested for using illegal drugs or participating in illegal activities to acquire drugs.

Withdrawal symptoms can also be deadly when the person has been using drugs for a long period of time. For this reason, many outpatient drug rehab and inpatient drug rehab treatment programs include a detox period to manage withdrawals, during which addictive drugs are purged from the system under a doctor’s supervision.

Drug and alcohol abuse can have a significant impact on your life, and breaking free of addiction can be a difficult task. For many people who misuse drugs, an inpatient addiction treatment program can help. Call 772-774-3872 or contact our team today to find out more about drug and alcohol rehab programs that can help you recover from addiction.

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Medically reviewed by:

Dr. K. Dodge, PhD, MSPH, MSW

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