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SIGNS OF ADDICTION

The signs of addiction are not always obvious, but, if you know what to look for, you can help spot a growing addiction in yourself or a loved one before it’s too late. When looking for signs of addiction it is important to remember that many addicts are very skilled at concealing or denying the fact that they have lost control over their drug or alcohol use. In many cases they may even be able to convince themselves that they “don’t have a problem” or “can quit anytime.” In fact, this denial is a common feature of addiction for many individuals, as no one likes to admit that a substance has hijacked their freedom of choice. However, to finally conquer any addiction, this recognition is a critical first step. And, by recognizing and cataloging the signs of addiction in yourself or others, you can help yourself or someone you love take that first step toward freedom.

Signs of Addiction Across Substances

Although every drug has its own unique signs and symptoms of addiction, some signs apply across multiple drugs, making them a good indicator of addiction regardless of which drug is being abused. The hallmark of addiction to alcohol or any other drug is that the person continues to use the substance despite the presence of negative and sometimes severe consequences. One cannot simply diagnose addiction and alcoholism based on the amount of substance that is consumed, nor specifically on the frequency of use, although both are predictive indicators for the presence of the disease. If you or a loved one is concerned about your substance use, it is worthwhile that you closely examine your patterns of drinking and drug use and their resultant consequences. Some of the following signs of addiction are common across many different substances.

Common Signs of Addiction

  • Being dishonest and secretive
  • Not taking care of your responsibilities
  • Risk taking behavior, such as driving under the influence, sexual risk factors, or using in risky situations
  • Legal problems, such as a DUI, public intoxication, theft, and problems due to not paying your bills
  • Relationship problems that get better when you don’t use drugs or alcohol and get worse when you do
  • Unusual mood swings, irritability and anger
  • Employment problems, either related to poor performance, not showing-up, or arguments at work
  • Financial problems
  • Needing to use more of the substance to elicit the same effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Planning your day and events around drug and alcohol use, or in such a manner to hide your use
  • Decreased or no participation in social or recreational activities
  • Drinking more alcohol or taking more drugs than you intended
  • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs for a longer period than intended
  • Trying to cut-down your use, but being unable to for the intended period
  • Feeling guilty about your substance use
  • Being annoyed at others criticizing your drug and alcohol use
  • Being aware of the consequences that you have suffered from drug and alcohol use, but continuing to use
  • Having bottles of alcohol, drugs, or paraphernalia hidden around the house and car and storing them in unusual places
  • Using drugs or drinking alcohol before going to a social event
  • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs alone
infographic about the signs of addiction using illustrations for several different signs

Addiction is a Widespread Problem

Drug addiction and alcoholism continue to be widespread problems in the United States among all ethnic groups and genders. The following graphs based on data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for US residents aged 12 and older illustrates how no segment of the US population has been left unscathed by alcoholism and the abuse of illicit drugs.

illustrated bar chart showing usage statistics for binge drinking
illustrated bar chart showing usage statistics for drug use in the past month

Signs of Addiction for Specific Drugs

In addition to the common signs of addiction that can apply to most any drug, each substance also has their own unique signs of addiction that can help you determine what specific substance or substances are being abused by the individual in question. These can be further broken down into two categories: Medical and Psychiatric/Emotional. The two sections below highlight some of the Medical and Psychiatric/Emotional signs of addiction for different drugs. In each section you can click on the tab associated with each drug to display the signs of addiction associated with that drug. By educating yourself about these unique symptoms, you can more easily identify which drug your loved one may be abusing, enabling you to better help them get the professional drug treatment they need to free themselves from addiction.

Medical Signs of Addiction to Individual Categories of Drugs

Alcoholism
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Agitation
  • Headache
  • Tremor
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Apparent intoxication
  • Incoordination
  • Yellowing of eyes and skin
  • Broken capillaries (especially in the nasal area)
  • Unexplained bleeding and bruising
  • Increase in abdominal size
  • Blackouts
  • General memory problems
  • Poor hygiene
  • Flushed skin
  • Rapid aging
Opiate Addiction
This category includes the natural, semi-synthetic, and synthetic opiates (opioids), like morphine, codeine, heroin, Demerol (meperidine), Oxycontin (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone), Dilaudid (hydromorphone), methadone, fentanyl (Duragesic, Actiq), and buprenorphine (Subutex/Suboxone).

  • Sedation or drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Sweating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Obvious intoxication
  • Nodding off
  • Decreased respirations
  • Constricted pupils
  • Chronic constipation
  • Effects of infections obtained through illicit drug use, like Hep. C. HIV, and other STDs
  • Infections from injection site reactions, including abscesses, pneumonia, sepsis and a weakened immune system
  • Destruction of veins and skin from chronic IV drug use
  • Pulmonary embolism from infections and contaminants in the drug after being prepared by the user
Stimulant Addiction
This category includes amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, diet pills and some other synthetic drugs like XTC (MDMA).

  • Fatigue
  • Scarring, abscess, or other infections from IV use
  • Poor hygiene and grooming
  • Agitation
  • Increased alertness
  • High energy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rambling speech
  • Irritability
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Nasal congestion, bleeding from nose, damage to nasal structure from snorting
  • Skin picking and skin infections and scarring from picking
  • Poor dentition (poor oral hygiene and loose of teeth and gum tissue)
  • Seizures and psychosis in overdose
  • Abnormal mouth movements
Benzos Addiction

This category includes benzos like Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and others, and barbiturates like Phenobarbital, Amytal (amobarbital), secobarbital (Seconal), and butalbital (Fiorinal).

  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Apparent intoxication
  • Slurred speech
  • Incoordination
  • Poor concentration, memory problems, and blackouts
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Poor inhibition
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased respirations
  • Blood pressure and heart rate abnormalities – especially decreased blood pressure
Marijuana Addiction
Marijuana can be smoked, eaten, used as an oil, vaporized in an e-cigarette, and other ways. There are creams, oils and ointments on the market.

  • Changes in visual, auditory and taste perception
  • Hunger
  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Poor reaction time
  • Paranoia and sometimes hallucinations
  • Body smells like “pot”
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Reduced interest in the outside world, including friends, family and work
Synthetic Drug Addiction

Drugs like Spice and K-2 (synthetic “marijuana”) and synthetic stimulants (cathinones, bath salts) are included in this group, as is flakka.

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Increased energy
  • Relaxation
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Increase heart rate and blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Panic attacks
  • Violence and psychosis

Psychiatric/Emotional Signs of Addiction to Individual Categories of Drugs

Alcoholism
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts, gestures, or attempts
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Changes in mood and personality
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Poor attention span
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Isolation
  • Poor self-esteem and low self-worth
  • Impulsiveness
  • Lack of fulfilling family, work and school obligations
  • Legal problems
  • Financial problems
  • Violence in and outside of the home
  • Cravings
Opiate Addiction

This category includes the natural, semi-synthetic, and synthetic opiates (opioids), like morphine, codeine, heroin, Demerol (meperidine), Oxycontin (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone), Dilaudid (hydromorphone), methadone, fentanyl (Duragesic, Actiq), and buprenorphine (Subutex/Suboxone).

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Fear
  • Poor spatial memory
  • Impaired working memory
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Euphoria
  • Cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of financial, housing, and work stability
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Changing close relationships, or getting into frequent arguments with loved ones
  • Lack of responsibility in taking care of obligations
  • Sexual dysfunction
Stimulant Addiction

This category includes amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, diet pills and some other synthetic drugs like XTC (MDMA).

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive disorder
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Mania or hypomania
  • Cravings
  • Paranoia, hallucinations, or delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of grandeur and super-human strengths of abilities
  • Poor hygiene
  • Increased motor activity, jitteriness
  • Sexual acting out with resultant STDs or unwanted pregnancies
Benzos Addiction

This category includes benzos like Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and others, and barbiturates like Phenobarbital, Amytal (amobarbital), secobarbital (Seconal), and butalbital (Fiorinal).

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Erratic behavior
  • Sleep walking, sleep eating, or sleep driving without having a memory of the event
  • Hiding pills or doctor shopping
  • Other illegal behaviors
  • Failure to meet obligations
  • Delirium
  • Short- and Long-term memory impairment
  • Organizing behavior around obtaining the drug(s)
  • Agitation
  • Disinhibition
  • Feelings of anger and violence
Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana and other THC-containing compounds: Marijuana can be smoked, eaten, used as an oil, vaporized in an e-cigarette, and other ways. There are creams, oils, and ointments on the market that contain THC.

  • Euphoria or other pleasant effects
  • Anxiety
  • Disinterest and apathy
  • Distortion of reality (time, place, people, and events)
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Changing interests or dropping all interests
  • Fatigue
Synthetic Drug Addiction

Drugs like Spice and K-2 (synthetic “marijuana”) and synthetic stimulants (cathinones, bath salts) are included in this group, as is flakka.

  • Periods of extreme hyperactivity
  • Psychosis
  • Euphoria
  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Increased sensory experiences
  • Increased sex drive
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations
  • Inability to manage one’s obligations
  • Suicidality
  • Self-injurious behavior
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Changing set of friends, or frequent arguments with family members
  • Altered perceptions
  • Confusion

Taking the Next Step: Intervention

Once you have identified that someone you love has some of the signs of addiction to one or more drugs, what should you do next? Oftentimes, a well-planned intervention is the best next step to take. An intervention may be conducted by family and friends, in consultation with a doctor or professional such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor or directed by an intervention professional. During the intervention, an addict’s loved ones confront them about the consequences of addiction and ask the addict to accept treatment. An intervention typically has the following components, designed to convince a loved one to pursue treatment for their addiction.

An addiction intervention:

  • Provides specific examples of destructive behaviors and their impact on your loved one with the addiction and family and friends
  • Offers a prearranged treatment plan with clear steps, goals and guidelines
  • Spells out what each person will do if your loved one refuses to accept treatment

Source: Mayo Clinic

Stop Addiction in its Tracks

If you notice the signs of addiction gaining a foothold in your life or that of your loved one, act now before it’s too late. The experienced professionals at BWR can help you identify the root causes of the growing addiction and start on the road to recovery and a healthier and more fulfilling life. Call us today at 800-683-4457; we’re available 24/7 to answer your call.

"THE GOLD STANDARD IN CARE"

Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

"THE GOLD STANDARD IN CARE"

Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

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