According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 20.4 million Americans experience a substance use disorder, which is the clinical term for an addiction, within a given year. Since addiction is so prevalent, most people will know someone with an addiction at some point.

If you suspect someone in your life is struggling with drug abuse, it is helpful to know the signs of addiction, so you know when your suspicions are correct. The signs below can help you to determine when it might be time to intervene.

Signs of Addiction, Based on Diagnostic Criteria

When someone with an addiction seeks treatment, an addiction professional will diagnose a substance use disorder. The diagnostic criteria for this condition can provide some key signs of addiction that you may notice when someone is struggling:

  • Using larger amounts of drugs or alcohol than intended
  • Using substances even when it is dangerous, such as driving when under the influence
  • Giving up other activities, such as sports, hobbies, or time with friends, in favor of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Spending significant amounts of time using drugs or recovering from drug use
  • Being unable to cut back on drug or alcohol use
  • Developing a tolerance, meaning larger amounts of drugs or alcohol are needed to achieve the same effects
  • Continuing to use substances, even when it worsens a physical or mental health problem
  • Strong drug or alcohol cravings
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using
  • Using drugs despite ongoing problems in personal relationships
  • Being unable to fulfill duties at work or home because of drug use

Based upon the above criteria, a person who is suffering from an addiction may begin to show up late for work, neglect family responsibilities, or be so impaired from drug use that they are unable to help with duties around the house or keep up with bills. They may spend all of their time seeking and using drugs, while previous hobbies and friendships fall by the wayside. A person with an addiction may also claim they are going to stop using, but fail to cut back on drug use because cravings and withdrawal side effects are so intense.

Other Signs of Addiction

Sometimes, the signs of addiction may not be as clear as the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder. For example, someone may attempt to hide their substance abuse, so it may not be obvious that they are giving up other activities in favor of drugs, or using larger amounts of drugs than intended.

  • a change in peer group
  • carelessness with grooming
  • decline in academic performance
  • missing work or skipping school
  • loss of interest in favorite activities
  • trouble at work, in school, or with the law
  • deteriorating relationships with family members and friends

Early-stage signs of addiction

If someone is in the early stages of addiction or in denial about the problem, they may show more subtle addiction signs and symptoms.

Some other signs of addiction can include mood swings or changes in behavior. As the American Psychiatric Association explains, those “with a substance use disorder may have distorted thinking and behaviors…” Drug use changes the brain in ways that lead to difficulty with impulse control and decision making, even after the high has worn off and a person is no longer under the influence. This means a person who is struggling with addiction may display outbursts of anger, lapses in judgment, and rash behaviors. They may also become forgetful or have trouble taking in new information, as drug use can interfere with learning and memory.

Given the fact that addiction can cause people to give up other activities in favor of drug use, someone who is addicted may also appear very socially withdrawn. They may keep to themselves and isolate from others, even if they were once especially social. You may also notice that a person who is addicted is spending time with new friends, as old friendships may fall by the wayside and be replaced by connections with others who are using drugs or alcohol. Similarly, failure to fulfill duties at work can result in financial problems if a person is fired or is not reporting to work as often as scheduled. This, combined with the cost of an addiction, can result in difficulty with paying bills, and a person may even resort to stealing money or engaging in other criminal activities to support the addiction.

Addiction Signs Based Upon the Substance of Abuse

Another way to determine signs of addiction is to look at the effects of specific drugs. Some signs that someone has used an opioid drug like heroin or oxycodone include confusion, extreme sleepiness, nausea, constipation, and euphoria. Someone who has an opioid addiction and who is withdrawing from opioids is likely to experience uncomfortable side effects, including stomach cramps, diarrhea, agitated behavior, anxiety, sneezing, sweating, extreme pain, tremor, goosebumps, runny nose, and sleep disturbances.

On the other hand, stimulant drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription medications such as Ritalin speed up the body’s processes and lead to feelings of exhilaration, increased activity, reduced appetite, and the ability to stay awake for extended periods. High doses of these drugs can cause someone to become aggressive or hostile and display behaviors like panic and agitation.

If you suspect someone might be using drugs but you have never specifically witnessed drug use, the signs above may suggest that they are under the influence. If you repeatedly witness signs of intoxication, they may be dealing with an addiction.

Seeking Treatment

If a friend or loved one shows signs of addiction, it may be time to suggest that they seek treatment. Reaching out for help can be scary, and they may be in denial, but if you approach them from a place of concern and describe specific concerning behaviors, such as their withdrawal from usual social activities, they may be more open to a conversation.

Many times, people are worried about the stigma associated with seeking addiction treatment, and they may be concerned that others will judge them harshly if it is known they are in rehab. At iRecoveryUSA, we offer a solution, by providing private, convenient addiction treatment in a 100% online format via our telehealth portal. Visit our website today to learn how we can help you or a loved one overcome the side effects of addiction.