What Are Key Signs that You or a Loved One is Becoming Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol?

Substance abuse often starts through casual use, either as a means of controlling pain or for its own enjoyment. Some people never go beyond casual use, but substance use does become a problem for others. They begin using more and more of the substance just to obtain that same level of relief. In many cases, they need to take a certain amount of the drug or alcohol just to feel normal and to be able to function in their daily lives.

This cycle of addiction doesn’t come without a unique set of symptoms and signs. Depending on the type of substance being used, those signs can vary in severity and frequency. However, there are some indications of addiction that hold true regardless of the type of substance being used. While there will likely be symptoms caused that are specific types of drugs, the symptoms mentioned here can be commonly observed in most people who suffer from addiction.

Substance Abuse Patterns

The signs and symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction may be difficult to identify at first. In fact, your inability to see a substance abuse problem in a loved one can even be one of the signs that there is an addiction problem. People suffering from addiction will often go to great lengths to hide that they are using at all. They may hide liquor or pill bottles and only use at times when they know they will be undisturbed.

Hiding substance abuse becomes more common after someone has observed that the individual might have a problem. Rather than risk another confrontation, they will hide their use of alcohol or drugs altogether. They may even learn to control their withdrawal symptoms enough that they will seem normal most of the time. However, as the addiction becomes stronger, the addict usually becomes withdrawn. He or she may avoid social encounters and may limit the time they spend with family members. This type of isolation is done partly to avoid criticism of their substance use, but also to provide more opportunities to use drugs or alcohol.

Physical Symptoms of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Addiction causes chemical changes in the brain and, over a longer period of time, the brain relies on the drug or alcohol to maintain that altered state. This is why many addicts fail when they try to quit on their own. The brain and central nervous system rely on the substance to operate normally by this stage in the addiction, so a sudden absence of the drug or alcohol causes intense cravings. The cravings often become so strong that, when the addict does relapse, he or she uses larger and more frequent doses to compensate.

While you may not notice cravings, there are other common symptoms of withdrawal that you can observe. In people suffering from a stronger addiction, these symptoms may be observable even in a short time between doses.

  • Frequent nausea and vomiting
  • Red or watery eyes
  • Insomnia (lack of sleep) or hypersomnia (too much sleep)
  • Fatigue

Behavioral Changes Caused By Drug and Alcohol Addiction

You may also notice behavioral changes, which can be caused by substance abuse or by a desire to continue using. For instance, tardiness to school or work is common among struggling addicts. They may also miss days entirely, either because they overused the substance the night before, or because they’re going through withdrawal as a result of being out of the drug or alcohol. These attendance problems often worsen over time, until they are either suspended from school or fired from their job.

A strong indication that a loved one is suffering from addiction is that their overall appearance has changed. Since they have withdrawn from most social activities, they may no longer care about their appearance. It’s common for an addict to stop bathing, brush their teeth infrequently, and stop conducting other personal hygiene rituals. They may also wear the same clothes for days or weeks at a time. In itself, this may not be the result of drug addiction, but, when coupled with other signs, it could indicate a substance abuse problem.

If you do suspect a loved one may be struggling with addiction, consulting experienced counselors may help you. When you call 800-737-0933, our counselors can provide you with guidance and resources that will help you talk with your loved one about their addiction. This is the first step in getting your loved one the addiction treatment they need to recover and begin a healthier way of life.