Signs of Drug Addiction

Identifying signs of drug addiction early is important. The earlier you’re able to catch signs of addiction, the earlier you will be able to take the steps necessary to overcome addiction.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at some of the most common signs of drug addiction.

8 Signs of Drug Addiction

It is the nature of addiction to live in a state of denial.

If the facts of the situation were examined and accepted, it would be hard to continue to engage in a behavior that is so apparently damaging and destroying. Being exposed to the typical features that are characteristic of addiction can provide you or your loved one with an increased ability to face the reality that substance abuse has taken root.

Here are 8 signs of drug addiction.

Tolerance

Most people experiencing a substance for the first time – whether it be alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription drugs – will be able to notice the effects of such substance with only minimal doses involved. Over time, the body and brain learn to expect the influence of the substance, and something remarkable happens. Our bodies will adjust to compensate for the expected influence of the drug by putting chemical safeguards in place to mitigate the effects of it. What this means for the user is that more of the substance will be required before the desired physical and mental responses are able to be experienced. This process of needing to increase the substance over time in order to continue to experience the effects of it is known as tolerance. Tolerance is one of the first signs that someone is heading toward the problem of addiction.

Withdrawal

The next physical stage of addiction that is tangibly recognizable is the experience of withdrawal. When the body is exposed to a chemical for long enough, and at high enough doses, it eventually learns to accept it as part of its basic functioning. The brain and body become lazy, in a sense, and stop working as hard to produce whatever it needs apart from the substance. An addicted body will develop a dependence on the substance, meaning that removing such substances throws the body and brain into turmoil. This period of physical freak-out is known as withdrawal. Depending on the severity of the substance and of the addiction, withdrawal symptoms can range from a slight headache to seizures and death.

Preoccupation

For an addicted person, time that is not spent in actually obtaining or using the substance is often spent thinking about the next time that such will occur. Thoughts about being able to get that next drink or indulge in that next high will begin to creep into every activity and interaction, crowding out the ability to focus on, and enjoy the present moment. This type of obsessive thinking is known as a preoccupation. Depending on the type of substance and the severity of the addiction, preoccupation can occur after a sustained period of abstinence, or very soon after the effects of the last binge have worn off.

Ignoring Consequences

Many of the signs of a developing addiction are not as empirically observable as the experience of tolerance and withdrawal. The psychological aspects of addiction are less easy to spot but are just as telling. A person in addiction will begin to throw caution to the wind when it comes to engaging in that next high. This disregard for consequences can range from getting drunk the night before work to visiting a dangerous neighborhood for the next score, to sharing a dirty hypodermic needle. The prospect of losing a job, being assaulted, or even dying from the use is minimized or dismissed in the shadow of ravenous craving to use the substance.

Dishonesty

It is an unfortunate fact that people in addiction are not known for their honesty. The reasons for this compulsion to deceive can vary, but they are often an integral part of a substance abuse habit. An addicted person may not want to face the anger or disappointment of a loved one finding out about the habit. An addicted person may not want to risk losing a job over revealing the real reason for the missed days of work, or may decide to steal or pilfer in order to obtain the funds for the next score. The dishonesty may be as simple as downplaying the amount or frequency that the substance is used. 

Deception and addiction often go hand-in-hand.

Anhedonia

Folks commonly begin using substances as a way of feeling good. Getting high or drunk can turn an otherwise mundane activity into something more fun, exciting, or interesting. The hidden consequence of invoking this artificial means of experiencing happiness is that the ability to experience good feelings, while sober, gradually diminish. The inability to experience pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed is called anhedonia. An addicted person is likely to find that it is very difficult to find pleasure in anything outside of the substance use.

Neglecting Responsibilities

Due to any or all of the factors listed as signs of addiction, above, an addicted person will tend to let other people down when it comes to holding up his or her end of the bargain. Normally hardworking people will begin to take more sick days due to withdrawals, hangovers. Normally attentive parents will begin to sleep during the day or leave their kids home at night. While there are some people who will identify as high-functioning addicts, even they will often need to provide excuses for why they are not able to consistently operate at their best.

Damaging Relationships

Along with damaging their own lives, an addicted person tends to negatively affect those around them. Partners, parents, children, and friends are increasingly dismissed or treated poorly as the dependence on the addictive substance increases. Addicted people can become someone that is no longer recognizable to those who once adored them. 

In order for a condition to technically qualify as a disorder, it has to cause significant distress for either the individual or for those who are socially involved in the individual’s life. People in the middle of addiction may not be of the mindset to notice or care that their own lives are going down the drain, but those who love them will be acutely aware. If your substance use is resulting in damaging the lives of your family and friends, you are likely suffering from a substance abuse disorder.