The 10 Most Common Signs of Drug Use and Addiction
What Are the 10 Most Common Signs of Drug Use and Addiction?
While every person’s experience of drug use or addiction is unique, there are some signs that are common to many people who abuse substances, including the following:
1. Intense cravings.
3. Withdrawal symptoms.
4. Physical dependence.
5. Engaging in increasingly risky behaviors.
6. Drug-seeking behaviors.
7. Financial trouble related to drug use.
8. Neglecting responsibilities.
9. Developing unhealthy relationships with those who support addiction.
10. Isolating behaviors.
For anyone who has a few or all of these signs, finding quality drug and alcohol addiction treatment is an important first step. Beginning with a detox period, treatment usually progresses to either an inpatient or outpatient program and is followed by comprehensive aftercare.
The signs and symptoms of drug addiction vary according to the individual and the substances he or she uses. There are, however, a number of indicators that could potentially indicate that you or a loved one is suffering from a drug addiction.
Drug addiction is the physical and psychological need to continue using a substance, despite its harmful or dangerous effects. It is important to keep in mind that these signs do not appear in every case, or for every drug addiction. However, these signs appear often enough that they are worth noticing and responding to with appropriate treatment.
If you or someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they could exhibit a few or all of the following signs and symptoms:1
- Cravings. People suffering from addiction usually experience intense urges or cravings for the drug as their addiction develops. Cravings can be thought of as the conscious or unconscious experience of wanting to use a substance.2 They are a central feature of addiction.
- Tolerance. Over time and with prolonged use, those who use drugs can build up tolerance to them, meaning they need more of a drug to achieve the desired effects.3
- Withdrawal symptoms. Many drugs create withdrawal symptoms when those who use them attempt to stop abruptly or reduce their usage. The presence of a withdrawal syndrome and tolerance indicates that physiologic dependence on a substance is occurring.4
- Physical dependence. Physical dependence on drugs can develop as individuals grow accustomed to the persistent presence and influence of the substance. The changes in physiology that accompany this process leave people feeling poorly or functioning sub-optimally when the drug is no longer in the system.5
- Poor judgement. When an individual is addicted to drugs, he or she may do anything to obtain more, including risky behaviors such as stealing, lying, engaging in unsafe sexual activity, selling drugs, or crimes that could land the person in jail.6-8
- Drug-seeking. People may spend excessive amounts of time and energy finding and getting their drug of choice.
- Financial trouble. Individuals using drugs may spend large and unexplained amounts of money, drain their bank accounts, and go outside their budgets in order to get the drug. This behavior can be a major red flag for addiction and has massive consequences. A recent survey of 341 Americans showed that 44% had a loved one with a substance use disorder, and of those with a substance use disorder, 48% drained savings or retirement accounts, 42% sold assets for cash, 11% filed for bankruptcy.9
- Neglect responsibilities. When people choose using or getting the drug over meeting work or personal obligations, this is a classic sign of addiction.
- Developing unhealthy friendships. When people start using new substances, they may spend time with others who have similar habits. They may hang out with a new group of people who may encourage unhealthy habits; doing so makes them more likely to use for a longer time, especially if others in the group have a negative life outlook.10
- Isolate. Alternatively, individuals may withdraw and isolate themselves, hiding their drug use from friends and family. Some reasons for this may include perceived stigma or increased depression, anxiety, or paranoia as a result of their drug addiction.
When some people struggle with an addiction, they may deny that they have a problem. Others may be reluctant to enter treatment due to lack of support or cost or simple fear.However, once they finally overcome any reservations and are ready to enter treatment, they must choose between an outpatient or inpatient/residential program.
Outpatient treatment usually involves some sort of treatment at a clinic or treatment center that allows you to go home after receiving treatment. Outpatient treatment allows you the flexibility to manage your other responsibilities while still attending drug or alcohol treatment.
The levels of intensity of the various outpatient treatment approaches will vary; however, they often include therapeutic interventions similar to that of inpatient or residential programs:
- A detoxification period
- Medication management, if appropriate
- Group therapy
- Individual therapy
- Relapse prevention education
- Ongoing support after treatment
Inpatient or residential treatment requires patients to live at the treatment facility for the duration of their treatment. It is often the preferred option for people who want to get away from their current temptations and focus completely on getting sober with no distractions. Inpatient drug rehab offers close medical supervision and access to medical care, if needed. It provides an environment in which others going through the same struggles can provide their support, share their experiences, and offer hope.
Inpatient treatment often includes:
- A safe recovery environment.
- Support of other patients at varying stages of recovery.
- Supervised detox.
- Medically assisted treatment.
- Individual and group therapies.
- Therapeutic activities, such as yoga, meditation, and exercise classes.
- Outings to the beach, movies, or restaurants.
- Family weekends.
- Family therapy.
Inpatient programs vary by treatment center and may include a number of other features, ranging from life skills training to yoga and meditation.
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One variation of inpatient treatment are luxury residential treatment centers. Usually set in upscale environments, they are designed to go above and beyond with the services they offer. Luxury treatment treats addiction in similar ways to standard residential programs, including supervised detox, individual and group therapy, and relapse prevention education. But luxury treatment supplements these basic treatment modalities with many extra therapies and activities, such as:
Many people with a drug addiction may not reach out for help or quit using drugs on their own. In these cases, loved ones may need to step in and assist them in getting the life-saving help they desperately need. By knowing what to look for, friends and family can address the situation earlier in the process before the drug addiction has a chance to spiral too far out of control.
- Mayo Clinic (2014). Symptoms.
- Tiffany, S.T., Wray, J.M. (2012). The clinical significance of drug craving. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012;1248:1–17.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (2007). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction: 6: Definition of tolerance.
- Nestler EJ (2013). Cellular basis of memory for addiction. Dialogues Clin. Neurosci. 15 (4): 431–443.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (2007). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction: 8: Definition of dependence.
- Leigh, B.C. (1999). Peril, chance, adventure: concepts of risk, alcohol use and risky behavior in young adults. Addiction 94(3), 371-383.
- Centers for Disease Control (2018). Substance Use and Sexual Risk Behaviors Among Youth.
- Feldstein, S.W., Miller W.R. (2006). Substance use and risk-taking among adolescents, Journal of Mental Health, 15(6), 633-643.
- True Link Financial Services (2018). Financial Wellness in Addiction and Recovery: Hard Truths and Real Consequences.
- Shadur J., Hussong A. (2014). Friendship Intimacy, Close Friend Drug Use, and Self-Medication in Adolescence. J Soc Pers Relat. 31(8), 997–1018.