Signs of Drug Addiction to Look For

A man struggling with drug addiction looks out as the sun sets.

Drug addiction is both a brain disorder and a mental illness that affects millions of Americans each year. You may have heard of the three C’s used to describe addiction. In this case, the National Institute on Drug Abuse defines drug addiction as a compulsive behavior with continued use despite harmful consequences that produces long-lasting changes in the brain.

Some people with a drug addiction are easy to spot. Others spend their lifetime hiding from their unhealthy behaviors. If you or a loved one speculate someone is misusing drugs and may have an addiction, there are several signs and symptoms that serve as indicators. We outlined behavioral, emotional, and physical cues to track or look for.

Behavioral Signs of Drug Addiction

Addiction affects the brain’s ability to perform everyday activities such as knowing what’s right and wrong and making decisions in a clear state of mind.

Behavioral signs that may signal someone is experiencing drug addiction can include the following:

  • Changes in habits and priorities: This means missing work, school, or other important engagements. Even if they do perform activities, you may notice a lack of energy or motivation. 
  • Dependence: The substance user can develop cravings that lead to increased dependence and frequency, starting from daily use to several times a day. Over time, the person with a drug addiction may need more of the drug to achieve a similar effect.
  • Disregarding consequences: You may notice your loved one still engages in unhealthy behaviors even when they know they’re harming their body. Sometimes, in their mind, the need to take the drug to fix a problem outweighs the potential harm.
  • Financial and legal troubles: Like illegal activities and taking risks, the substance user can become obsessed when trying to keep up with the addiction, leading to debt or legal issues.
  • Illegal activities and taking risks: Out of desperation, a person with a drug addiction may go to great lengths to get more drugs. This could range from stealing to trading sex for drugs or the money needed to buy the drugs. 
  • Problems sleeping: Drugs that stay in the body longer can impact sleep patterns, causing the dependent to stay up for several nights at a time.
  • Seeking increased privacy: As a result of guilt, shame, or isolation, a person with an addiction may be secretive about what they’re doing.

Emotional Signs of Drug Addiction

Addiction affects the ability to think rationally, process emotions, and maintain relationships with others.

Emotional signs that may signal someone is experiencing drug addiction can include the following:

  • Changes in typical demeanor: A person with a drug addiction may become more irritable or aggressive. Their attitude can also change, including shifts in personality. They may lack motivation and become lethargic as they struggle to deal with stress.
  • Defensiveness: A person with a drug addiction may make excuses or change the topic to avoid uncomfortable discussions. 
  • Denial: A pillar of addiction, the substance user will lie, avoid conflict, and deflect blame. They’ll try to justify their actions by rationalizing behavior.
  • Loss of interest in activities: Hobbies and activities that used to bring joy may no longer matter. Or, in some cases, it can lead to sacrifices. They may choose to stay home and engage in unhealthy behaviors instead of meeting up with family or friends.
  • Mental health shifts: Many people with a drug addiction have underlying mental health issues. But, feelings of anxiety and depression may further manifest and lead to hopelessness or emptiness with prolonged drug use.
  • Problems with loved ones: Marital problems may occur and close friendships can erode over time.

Physical Signs of Drug Addiction

Addiction causes many physical disruptions, ranging from speech problems to fluctuating energy levels.

Physical signs that may signal someone is experiencing drug addiction can include the following:

  • Changes in appearance: Being in a consistent altered state may cause a person with a drug addiction to lose sight of everyday activities such as showering and washing clothes. Body odors, poor personal hygiene, and dirty clothes are all telltale signs. 
  • Changes in eating habits: The substance user may experience weight loss or weight gain. Many drugs suppress appetite. The dependent may also forget to eat if a mind-altering drug is involved. Chronic use of marijuana could lead to cravings that cause spikes in weight.
  • Changes in energy levels: Again, certain drugs, such as uppers, will give the substance user a short-term boost before crashing back down. Conversely, opioids have a sedative effect and can make them feel fatigued or sluggish.
  • Eye problems: Depending on the drugs, a person with a drug addiction may have bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, red eyes, or glazed eyes. Certain drugs, such as marijuana and amphetamines, will dilate the eyes and turn them red. Heroin and opioids can make the pupils look hazy.
  • Impaired speech: Alcohol isn’t the only substance to alter speech. Opioids can also cause slurred speech. Other drugs, such as hallucinogens, may cause more rapid or repetitive speech. Be aware of changes in syntax or tone.
  • Memory lapses: Blackouts can occur depending on the quantity of drug used. This may make it difficult to remember basic details while using drugs.
  • Nasal issues: What may appear as symptoms from the common cold could be due to damage from snorting cocaine and other drugs. Inhaling these substances can cause chronic inflammation in the nose.
  • Poor coordination: Drugs can create issues with movements. A person with a drug addiction may have trouble standing up straight or walking in a straight line, leading to a higher chance of injury or accidents.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: A person with a drug addiction can experience seizures, trembling, sweats, and other side effects when going through withdrawal.

How Beachside Can Help With Drug Addiction

Knowing these signs and symptoms isn’t just about recognizing a problem — it could be the difference in saving someone’s life if they overdose. In general, you may need to seek emergency help if your loved one has trouble breathing, is in and out of consciousness, displays signs of a seizure, has chest pain that could indicate a heart attack, or has an uncontrollable physical psychological reaction to the drug.

In some cases, you may need to stage a drug intervention to get your loved one the help they need. We’ve teamed up with skilled professionals to provide you and your family with the tools for a successful intervention. Read our intervention page for more details.

If you or a loved one is ready to make a life change and enter drug rehab, we’re available to assist you with any questions and help start the process. Please call us today at (866) 349-1770 or contact one of our admissions counselors on our website to start your confidential chat. You don’t have to go through drug addiction alone.