What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Addiction?

The Most General Symptoms of Addiction

More than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2019. (1) It is fair to say that addiction is prevalent in our society. The United States is also where the modern recovery movement took shape. In the midst of despair, we find great hope. Not only hope, but millions of success stories. People who have overcome addiction and found ways to manage their condition and live happy and prosperous lives free from drug and alcohol addiction. The first step in recovering from addiction is admitting there is a problem and that you cannot overcome it alone. As simple as that sounds, it really is the spark that ignites the flames of recovery. So, how do you know if someone else is addicted? What are the signs and symptoms of addiction?

Here is a list of potential warning signs and symptoms:

1.) Unexplained Money Problems.

A person who seems to constantly need to borrow money despite having a steady source of income may be in trouble. Particularly if the need for money seems to arise where there was no issue before, and the person is reluctant to explain what the money is for. Of course, people have money issues without addiction being in the picture, but if the issues suddenly appear, the person is secretive about them and they are exhibiting one or more of the other signs in this list, it may be cause for concern.

2.) Trouble at School or Work.

Addiction inevitably leads to the substance of choice becoming the most important thing in the addict’s life. Nearly everything else suffers as a result. Some people can seem to do a miraculous job of holding it all together, or at least appearing to, for a while. But sooner or later the cracks show. Someone who is frequently late or absent or repeatedly being reprimanded or put on probation may be wrestling with a drug problem.

3.) Changes in Behavior.

Addiction tends to upend a person’s life sooner or later. When a drug becomes the most important thing in your life, you will do whatever it takes to keep using. This invariably leads to noticeable changes in behavior. A person who is suddenly secretive about where they have been and who they spend time with may be in trouble. A person who is normally friendly and outgoing may become withdrawn and moody. A person who is usually quiet and reserved may become overly friendly or inappropriate.

4.) Physical Health Effects.

Drug and alcohol abuse take a toll on human health. A person who is abusing opiates may often “nod off” at inappropriate times. Sitting at the dinner table or even standing in the middle of a conversation. They may seem unusually itchy, absently scratching at themselves. A person abusing amphetamines or cocaine is often unusually talkative and energetic, even manic. People in the throes of addiction sometimes neglect self-care. A person who used to be “put together” who stops showering regularly or lets their hygiene slip in other ways may be in crisis.

5.) Changes in Social Life.

A person who is living an addict’s lifestyle will often surround themselves with other people who use. It’s a matter of convenience. They want to be close to sources of their drug of choice. Despite their desire for secrecy they also may not always want to use alone. They may be ashamed of their behavior around people who do not use. A person who is addicted may suddenly shun friends and even family they were once close to without explanation. They will often be secretive about their new “friends.” Rarely will an addict go out of their way to introduce someone who doesn’t use to their drug buddies.


The signs and symptoms of addiction are only part of the picture. There may be an innocent explanation for some of these behaviors in isolation. It is also possible they may be a sign of a problem unrelated to drugs or alcohol. A person with a serious substance abuse disorder will usually do everything they can to protect their using. They will go out of their way to conceal it and to keep up appearances. If you see two or more of these warning signs in someone you care about, do not accept angry denial or flimsy excuses. It is best not to confront someone unless you are armed with the facts. But you are much less likely to regret being a little nosy in checking on someone you love than you may be if you ignore warning signs.

If you believe or someone you know may be struggling with substance abuse, give us a call. We are available 24 hours a day to advise you, explain treatment options or just listen. Remember, we can only help if you take that first step and call.

(1) https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

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