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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

February 28, 2021 (Originally Published)

April 26, 2024 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Addiction, clinically described as substance use disorder, is a chronic but treatable condition. It’s also a progressive disorder, which means that identifying the signs of addiction early on can streamline treatment. Read on to learn more about the most common forms of addiction and find out how to connect with compassionate care. 

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction, known informally as alcoholism and clinically as alcohol use disorder, is characterized by the compulsive consumption of alcohol in the face of obviously negative outcomes. Alcohol addiction is associated with a lack of control over alcohol intake and a preoccupation with drinking. Developing an awareness of the signs of alcohol use disorder could help you or a loved one unchain yourself from addiction. Addiction warning signs linked to alcoholism include: 

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  • Increased tolerance: One of the first signs of addiction is the need for progressively larger amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effect. Requiring more alcohol to deliver the initial effects shows that tolerance is developing.
  • Withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation: Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms indicates physical dependence on alcohol. Symptoms can include nausea, sweating, shaking, and extreme anxiety when not consuming alcohol. These side effects can be severe and potentially life-threatening and even lead to other long-term effects and issues.
  • Loss of control: Frequently drinking more alcohol than intended, or drinking for longer than planned, is a common sign of addiction and a diagnostic criterion for alcohol use disorder. This loss of control is often a result of compulsive drinking habits that develop over time.
  • Inability to stop drinking: A telling sign of alcohol addiction is the persistent desire to stop drinking coupled with unsuccessful attempts to do so. This cycle of wanting to quit but being unable to is also among the criteria for alcoholism outlined in DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
  • Neglecting personal and professional responsibilities: When drinking begins disrupting social or occupational activities – especially when activities are given up entirely to make more time for drinking – this can be a sign of alcohol addiction.
  • Spending lots of time on alcohol-related activities: When someone spends long periods of time drinking or recovering from the effects of alcohol, this suggests that addiction is already developing.
  • Continuing to drink alcohol despite adverse outcomes: If a person continues drinking despite clear evidence of damaging consequences – issues with relationships, job loss, or health problems, for instance – this may indicate a severe alcohol addiction.

Signs of Drug Addiction

There are many sub-types of substance use disorder (drug addiction), each manifesting uniquely but severely impacting health and well-being. Becoming more away of the signs of drug addiction, whether involving prescription medications or illicit narcotics, can help inform timely intervention and appropriate support. Common indicators include: 

  • Compulsive use: One of the most common signs of drug addiction is when someone experiences an overwhelming need to use a drug, often repeatedly during the day. This compulsive pattern of consumption often prioritizes drug use over other important interests and obligations.
  • Intense cravings: Strong, uncontrollable desires for the drug that consume all other thoughts are a hallmark of addiction. These cravings can drive behaviors and make it extremely challenging for someone to focus on anything else.
  • Diminished effects of drugs: A progressive need to use more of the drug to deliver the initial high signifies the development of tolerance, which leads to an increased risk of physical drug dependence.
  • Financial stress: Spending money on drugs rather than essential financial responsibilities suggests a preoccupation with substance use which should be addressed.
  • Risky behaviors: Engaging in dangerous activities to obtain the drug ­– driving under the influence or committing theft, for instance – reflects a disregard for safety being driven by mounting drug addiction.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug: Physical withdrawal symptoms like tremors, nausea, sweating, and anxiety when unable to use the drug are a direct indication of physical drug dependence.
  • Continued use in the face of negative consequences: Persistently using drugs despite ongoing legal issues, relationship breakdowns, or health problems, especially when these issues are directly linked to drug use, suggests a more severe substance use disorder.

Opioid Addiction

Opioids, derived either directly from the opium poppy plant or synthesized in laboratories, are powerful drugs that can be highly addictive. Recognizing the signs of opioid addiction is essential for early intervention and effective treatment. Here are the main indicators: 

  • Drowsiness: One of the most common signs of opioid abuse is a noticeable increase in sleepiness. Affected individuals may appear unusually lethargic and may sleep for extended periods.
  • Weight loss: Unexpected and significant weight loss can occur with opioid addiction. This may be a result of changes in diet or a general neglect of nutritional needs.
  • Altered sleep patterns: Opioid addiction often disrupts normal sleep schedules, resulting in excessive sleep or severe insomnia. These disturbances can dramatically impair overall health and daily functioning.
  • Social withdrawal: Withdrawal from loved ones or a drastic change in social circles can be indicative of opioid abuse. This isolation often helps conceal the frequency and extent of drug use, whether it involves prescription painkillers or illicit opioids like heroin and fentanyl.
  • Flu-like symptoms: Regularly exhibiting flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, sweating, and shaking can be signs of withdrawal or effects of consistent use that commonly manifest in those with opioid addictions.
  • Uncontrollable cravings: Experiencing powerful, uncontrollable cravings for opioids is among the diagnostic criteria for opioid use disorder. These cravings can drive persistent drug-seeking behaviors despite harmful consequences.
  • Behavioral changes: Noticeable changes in behavior, including increased secrecy, sudden mood swings, and less attention to personal hygiene, may also indicate opioid addiction. 

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant which can be damaging to physical and mental health. It can lead to a number of cardiovascular problems like arrhythmia and heart attack as well as exacerbate many mental health disorders. The drug is derived from the coca plant, and it’s used recreationally for its intense euphoric effects. Here are some signs of cocaine addiction

  • Euphoria: One of the immediate effects of cocaine use is a surge of euphoria, resulting in heightened energy and a pronounced feeling of happiness. This intense joy is often short-lived, fading quickly and possibly leading to increased frequency of use to recapture the sensation.
  • Enhanced mental alertness: People using cocaine usually experience a temporary increase in alertness and attentiveness. This heightened state can also manifest as irritability or agitation, affecting interpersonal interactions and overall mood stability.
  • Overconfidence: Cocaine can cause people to display unusually high levels of confidence, which can appear as extreme sociability or aggressive behavior. This overconfidence can impair judgment and increase the likelihood of risk-taking behaviors ­– it’s one of the most common signs of a cocaine addict.
  • Paranoia: Intense and irrational suspicions or paranoia, without any evident cause, are common psychological effects of regular cocaine use. This can lead to social isolation and distress.
  • Decreased appetite: A notable reduction in appetite is a common physical effect of cocaine. This can lead to significant weight loss and malnutrition, further inflaming health complications.
  • Nasal congestion: For those who snort cocaine, chronic nasal congestion or a persistently runny nose can be a telltale sign of misuse. Over time, this can cause more severe nasal cavity damage, as well as the development of cocaine addiction (stimulant use disorder).

Meth Addiction

What are the signs of a meth addiction, then? These manifestations can be physical and psychological, including: 

  • Dental problems: Meth mouth is a term used to describe the serious dental issues faced by people who use meth long-term, including cracked, decayed, and missing teeth. This condition stems from a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological changes leading to dry mouth and poor oral hygiene.
  • Skin sores: Those who use meth often experience outbreaks of sores and acne across their skin. Compulsive picking at these sores can lead to lasting scars and infections, worsened by the way in which meth interferes with the body’s ability to heal.
  • Hyperactivity: Increased energy and hyperactivity are suggestive of meth use. Individuals using the drug may show patterns of excessive talking and a dramatically reduced need for sleep, behaviors driven by the stimulant effects of the drug.
  • Twitching and jerky movements: Meth can trigger noticeable physical twitching, facial tics, and jerky body movements. In severe cases, people may exhibit bizarre behaviors such as talking to themselves. This can be a manifestation of underlying neurological damage.
  • Paranoia and hallucinations: Long-term meth use is often associated with severe paranoia as well as visual and auditory hallucinations. These symptoms can isolate the person and cause extreme psychological distress.
  • Agitation: People who use meth may exhibit extreme agitation or irritability, which can sometimes escalate into violent behaviors. This heightened state of agitation is a direct result of methamphetamine’s impact on the brain. 

What to Do After Recognizing Addiction Signs

Recognizing the signs of addiction in yourself or a loved one can be an unsettling experience. The realization may come with a flood of emotions: confusion, fear, guilt, and despair. That said, acknowledging the problem is only the first step toward recovery. Here’s what you can do after identifying potential signs of addiction. 

Learn more about addiction

Addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder that’s influenced by genetic, environment, and personal variables. Addiction affects the normal functions of the brain, leading to compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. Learning more about addiction can help you find the help you or a loved one needs to initiate recovery. 

Reach out for support

Reaching out to close friends or family members can provide emotional support and accountability. If possible, consult with a professional therapist or counselor who specializes in addiction. These experts can offer guidance, support, and therapy options for recovery. Support groups for both those experiencing addiction and their loved ones can also be invaluable. 

Consider professional evaluation and treatment

A professional assessment by a healthcare provider or an addiction specialist can help people determine the extent of their addictions. Appropriate treatment options might include detoxification, medications, psychotherapy, counseling and aftercare planning. Early professional intervention can significantly enhance the chances of successful and long-term recovery from addiction. 

Create a healthy environment for sober living

Addiction recovery involves more than stopping substance use. Creating a lifestyle that supports ongoing sobriety might mean a person making changes to their environment to remove triggers or stressors that could lead to relapse. It could also involve adopting new hobbies or activities that do not involve substances, helping to build a fulfilling, substance-free life. 

Prepare for setbacks

All addictions are relapsing conditions and recovery is not always linear. Understanding and preparing for challenges can make them easier to handle when they occur. Develop strategies for coping with stress and triggers in healthy ways, such as through exercise, meditation, or other relaxation techniques. 

Stay positive and persistent

Remain positive, hopeful and persistent. Recovery is a journey, and it involves mistakes, learning, and growth. Celebrate small victories along the way and recognize the strength it takes to confront addiction head-on.

Getting Help for Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

Now you know what are the signs of addiction, reach out to Renaissance Recovery to kickstart your recovery. 

We can connect those who are dependent on alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs with licensed medical detox centers, reducing the intensity of drug or alcohol withdrawal and minimizing complications. After detoxing, you can transition to ongoing outpatient treatment at our California or Florida locations.

All addictions are unique and all Renaissance treatment programs reflect this. Expect to access an individualized array of the following interventions: 

  • Psychotherapies (CBT or DBT) 
  • Motivational therapies
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Holistic therapies
  • One-to-one counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Aftercare planning

For immediate assistance dealing with drug or alcohol addiction, call our friendly recovery specialists at 866.330.9449.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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