woman talking to young female about her struggles with addiction
Addiction is devastating not only to those addicted but to those who surround and care for them. Millions seek professional addiction treatment each year. But millions more go without, simply because they may not be able to recognize the signs of addiction in themselves or those they’re close to. With addiction rapidly reaching epidemic proportions in the US, understanding the signs and being able to tell if someone is struggling with addiction is crucial to getting the right help before the problem becomes too serious.

Recognizing Early Signs of Addiction

Recognizing the early signs of addiction is vital to getting help for the individual before the situation becomes too dire. Addiction is a progressive disease, and will eventually result in greater tolerance, which will build greater dependence. Once the addiction has grown over time and has deepened the physical and psychological dependence, the treatment will be much more challenging. 

There are some early indications that you can watch for, both in yourself and those you love, that may signal that an addiction is developing or has recently developed. These early signs of substance abuse include:

  • Experimentation with substances the individual hasn’t used previously
  • An inexplicable draw toward a particular substance or its use
  • Having a family history of addictive behavior
  • Substance binges that are not followed by feelings of regret or remorse
  • A growing interest in seeking out or obtaining drugs or alcohol, that while not obsessive, is noticeable

Physical Signs of Addiction

The physical signs of addiction are some of the most easily noticed, even for those who aren’t particularly close to the individual struggling with addiction. The physical signs may manifest as signs of continued use, they may be the result of withdrawals, or they may even be the result of overdose situations. Some of the more common physical signs of addiction will include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Pupillary constriction or dilation
  • Sudden or unexpected changes in appetite or weight
  • Disruption of the sleep cycle, including insomnia, often makes the individual appear tired
  • Reduction in motor skills or coordination
  • Slowed or slurred speech
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Body odor
  • Lack of attention to personal appearance and hygiene

If the individual is currently experiencing overdose conditions, they may display additional signs. If someone you know is displaying these signs, it’s important to get them medical attention immediately:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Inability to maintain consciousness
  • Sudden violent or aggressive behavior
  • Shallow or difficult breathing
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • General agitation or tension

Additionally, if someone has been living with an addiction for a while, they may display additional physical signs related to withdrawals when not using. These signs include:

  • Shaking or tremors
  • Diminished appetite
  • Nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Depression
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Changes in Behaviors

For those close to someone living with addiction, taking notice of the behavioral change that it causes can be one of the easiest ways to confirm the addiction. Behavioral signs of addiction indicate how a person acts and their relations with the world around them, particularly in the interpersonal dynamics of work, school, or home life. The most common behavioral signs of addiction include:

  • Obsession with the drug: Addicts become obsessed with finding and using their substance of choice. This creates a constant compulsion that reprioritizes their life around the substance, often to the detriment of family obligations, work, and school.
  • Denial or disregard of obvious harm: Another of the major signs of addiction is for the individual to ignore the obvious harm that the substance is causing to their life or their loved ones while continuing to use.
  • Loss of control: Many addicts will have the desire to stop using, but not the ability to follow through with quitting themselves.
  • Hiding or obscuring their substance use: Individuals struggling with addiction will often go to great lengths to obscure or hide their addiction from others. They may also become dismissive or even angry if the subject of their addiction is brought up.

Changes in Overall Health

Depending on the type of drug addiction, there can be an incredibly wide range of health effects that take place. Every system in the body can be damaged, including cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine, digestion, respiratory, and more. While the potential for damage to the individual’s health is nearly endless, getting help from an addiction professional as soon as possible can help stop further damage and mitigate the damage that has already been done.

Psychological Signs of Addiction

Psychological signs are going to be some of the most challenging signs to recognize, and will often only be seen by those with close relationships with the addicted individual. These signs can include:

  • Increasing self-isolation from family and friends
  • Reduced interest in activities or hobbies they once loved
  • Showing diminished commitment to professional or educational obligations
  • A dramatic increase in risk-taking, to obtain or use their substance of choice
  • Changing sleep patterns

Emotional Changes

Just as psychological signs can be difficult to identify, emotional signs of addiction can be challenging as well. Some of the emotional changes you may notice in someone living with drug addiction can include:

  • Emotional instability or mood swings
  • Apathy
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation
  • Sudden irritability or aggression

How Can You Help?

The most significant way that someone can help an individual struggling with addiction is to talk to them openly and honestly about getting professional treatment. The emphasis should be on how it will help them while being sure to avoid any blaming or demeaning. If they feel like they’re being shamed or guilted, it will often only result in them refusing help and isolating further.

When Treatment is Necessary

When someone you know has begun to display some of the negative effects of addiction listed here, it can be a significant sign that they may need treatment for drug addiction. Another strong indicator is if the individual is showing any physical signs of withdrawal after substance abstinence. Get professional help today from a local addiction expert, begin creating a treatment plan tailored to the individual, and help them start down the path of recovery.