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Addiction is a devastating disease that changes the lives of everyone involved, not only the individual living with the addiction, but everyone who cares about them as well. While millions of people seek professional help for their addictions each year, millions more may have or may know someone who has a substance use disorder. 

Young adults are some of the most likely to develop such disorders, though anyone can be a victim, millions of adults and even seniors have been caught in the cycle of addiction. Knowing what the signs and symptoms are, as well as how addiction grows and progresses can be crucial to identifying it early and getting treatment in time.

Signs of an Addiction

When potentially dealing with a substance use disorder or addiction, it’s helpful to understand the various signs that an individual may display while living with an addiction. Several factors can lead to addictions, such as a family history of addiction, mental health conditions or disorders, and even the social environment the individual places themselves in. By recognizing the early sign of addiction in yourself or someone you care about, you can seek treatment earlier, which can make it much more effective.

Some early signs of addiction include:

  • Increased secrecy: Individuals that have recently developed issues with substance use will often try to hide them, which will result in more secretive behavior. This secrecy may be directly related to when they are using, it or simply a byproduct of trying to hide their newfound habit.
  • Changes in appearance or grooming: There are often significant changes in how an individual cares for their appearance or hygiene while becoming addicted to a substance. They will frequently look tired and may start neglecting their personal care. Depending on their addiction, they may have obvious needle marks or glass pipe burns. 
  • Losing interest in hobbies or activities: While substance use is often used as a method of escapism from things that the individual is having problems coping with in healthy ways, it can also begin to isolate them from other things that they enjoy or find enriching. This will include stopping participation in various activities or hobbies that they once enjoyed, often without giving a reason.
  • Financial difficulties: One of the most obvious signs that an individual has developed a substance abuse disorder is that they will begin to have financial difficulties due to that disorder. For those lacking good budgetary skills, who may already have money issues from time to time, this loss of control can be catastrophic. This is also what will cause those with newfound addictions to begin pawning their belongings or even stealing to support their habit.
  • Denial: Even those with serious, longstanding substance abuse disorders may be seen to deny their issues. In some cases, the individual may not even realize how bad their situation has become until outside parties intervene. They may also realize that they are dependent on a drug but still refuse to allow professional treatment.

Stages of Addiction

Everyone that goes down the path to addiction goes through 5 distinct stages of the addiction cycle. This starts with experimentation and moves to regular drug use. They will then begin more risky methods of drug use, which will lead to drug dependency, and eventually drug addiction. Understanding the stages of addiction can help you recognize potential problems as they grow, whether in a loved one or yourself.


The first stage of addiction is often the hardest to notice, particularly in those that you don’t see daily. If someone tries something, there is a significant challenge in determining if that single occasion of use or experimentation will lead to dependence or addiction. Some of the biggest indicators will be in how they experiment, and the reasons driving their use.

Regular Drug Use

In the regular use stage, the individual will have made the use of the substance something they experience daily. It will become part of their daily routine, and will frequently lead to what some would call “high functioning” addicts. When an individual uses drugs daily, they can mask the symptoms and signs much easier, which can make spotting the addiction much harder for those close to them. 

Risky Drug Use

Risky use may be hard for many people to accurately quantify since risk levels are relatively subjective and can vary significantly from one person to another. As someone continues using a substance, they may display changes to their behavior that could be indicative of an addiction. These could be increased isolation, criminal activity, or other changes that may seem alarming. Getting help for an individual in this stage is often perceptive to help or treatment to help stop the addiction before it becomes more serious.

Drug Dependency

Once an individual becomes a regular and even risky user of a substance, it will generally result in drug dependency. Drug dependency happens when the individual’s body becomes reliant on the substance to help it function normally. This stage is responsible for significant changes in behavior and neurochemistry, and these changes will be hard to ignore for both the user and those around them. The physical dependency will also result in physical symptoms of withdrawal when the substance use is stopped, which makes it even more crucial that professional help be utilized.

Drug Addiction

Once drug dependency has been in place for some time, the user will be considered to be addicted. Once addiction is firmly in place, solo efforts to weather the withdrawal stage are often unsuccessful and frustrating, leading to continued use. At the addiction stage, the only lasting solution is often to get professional addiction treatment.

How Addiction Treatment Can Help

If you or someone close to you may have developed an addiction or substance abuse problem, getting help as soon as possible is important to receiving effective treatment. Addiction treatment can help the individual learn what triggers them to use, as well as healthy coping mechanisms for when they have cravings. Reach out today and discuss your needs and goals in a confidential environment, with trusted local addiction experts.