Warning Signs Of Addiction: Addictive Behavior Signs & Symptoms

Different signs of addiction

Addictive disorders or substance-related addictions are serious problems that can be recognized by certain behaviors and conditions. By knowing and noticing these addiction signs and symptoms one can seek the right treatment immediately!

Recognizing the signs of addiction for drugs, alcohol, and other types on time will help one and their family seek help on time which will help avoid long term consequences.

Seeking professional help is highly recommended when any type of substance abuse or other addiction sign is manifesting.

There are more than 14000 specialized substance abuse treatment centers in the U.S according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

What this means is that there are so many rehab options for you or a loved if you or they are showing the symptoms and signs of addiction. With so many rehab facilities, getting an addiction help has become easier.

We will be providing some helpful information on how to detects addiction signs and other information that will help you or your loved one(s) with addiction.

First the basics – What is addiction exactly?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 20 million Americans need treatment for substance use, and 2 million Americans have an opioid use disorder problem.

This shows addiction as a problem in American.

So what is an addiction then? Addiction can be defined as a brain disease or a complex condition that can sometimes be manifested by the compulsive and extensive use of any substance regardless of its consequences.

People are said to be addicted when they display a severe need for a substance to the point of abuse. The strongest sign of addiction is that individuals are intensely focused on using those substances that they are addicted to even to the point of letting it take over their life, however harmful it is.

Many people wonder how someone can become addicted to substances. It is a common concept that those who abuse alcohol or drugs don’t have the willpower to stop or that they choose not to quit it.

The fact is that a strong will and good intentions are not enough to help these people quit. The alcohol or drugs they are focused on cause changes in the brain that make it hard to quit even if the person wishes to.

Addict behavior is caused when harmful changes occur in the function of the brain following the use of addictive substances.  The intoxication caused lasts even long after use.

The high, the intense pleasure, the calm, or the heightened senses are the signs of addiction that are directly caused by the use of the drug.  This is also called intoxication and its symptoms are varied depending on the substance.

How does addiction typically start

There’s a fine line between the normal use of substances and other addictive behaviors.

The problem is that most people do not know when they have crossed the line and become addicts.

So understanding how these behaviors develop can also help one recognize that he or she has an addiction problem.

Addictions such as drugs or alcohol usually start off from a voluntary or recreational use, where the substance is used in a comfortable social setting.

For examples, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people start taking drugs for the following reasons:

  • Makes them feel good – provides a feeling of pleasure
  • Makes them feel and perform better – relieves their stress
  • Due to curiosity
  • Peer pressure

Behavior becomes addictive when, with the passing of time, tolerance increases and the frequency of usage increases.

This is when the person can start to display addict behavior such as intense cravings and even withdrawal symptoms when they are not able to ingest the drug.

Individuals begin to display signs of addiction, but may be unable or unwilling to control their habits at this stage.

Addictive substances often trigger large amounts of dopamine in the brain, which produce a feeling of euphoria or the feeling of reward.

Addiction occurs when there is an increasing urge to repeat the behavior that produced the positive feeling.

According to this article on the American Society Of Addiction Medicine ASAM) website,  the substance takes over particular circuits of the brain and increased the urge to consume more of it to re-experience that rewarding effect.

Often, once the disorder has become an addictive behavior, the alcohol or drug will no longer produce those earlier rewarding feelings.

Sometimes, when the individual attempts to abstain from the substance, symptoms of withdrawal can occur which can unpleasant and lead to overdose.

The person usually ends up using the drug again just to prevent this discomfort. Thus, they find themselves caught in the vicious trap of addiction.

So what are the signs of addiction?

Addiction behavior stemming from overuse of a substance has a range of physical, psychological, emotional, social, and behavioral effects that can drastically reduce a person’s quality of life.

An increasing aversion to social interactions and other related problems can cause and worsen psychological issues such as depression and anxiety.

Signs of addiction may not be found immediately in a friend or family member who is entangled in drug use.  They will seldom be able to admit to the problem even if they are openly confronted.

Their first instinct may be to hide their problem.  They may not even yet realize that they have a problem. But there are some general signs which you cannot miss.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has provided a list of some of the common addiction signs which you may detect in your loved one even though you may not want to believe the possible level of control their addiction has exercised over them.

  • A shift in attitude, mood, and motivation
  • New friends as well as new hangouts
  • Deteriorated performance and repeated absence at work or school
  • Behavioral issues such as secrecy and telling lies
  • Problems with friends and family and also at work
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Sudden and unexplained spending patterns
  • The sudden need to be alone and is often unreachable
  • Enlarged pupils or bloodshot eyes
  • Strange body odor and trembling hands
  • Strange variations in daily schedules and sleeping patterns
  • Sudden unexplained health issues

Physical signs of addiction

Repeated abuse of a substance can create an adverse effect on a range of bodily systems and functions. The signs and symptoms may be some or many of the following.

  • Sleeplessness – Insomnia or a disrupted sleep cycle is a common symptom of addict behavior. He might become lethargic or hyperactive depending on the drug used.
  • Appetite changes –Eating habits and appetite may be altered. Marijuana consumption might greatly increase the appetite, whereas cocaine might reduce it. Unusual weight loss or weight gain may result.
  • Diseases and health damage – Smoking substances such as crack and tobacco can cause incurable lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. Injecting drugs can lead to limb damage and problems with arteries and veins. It can even lead to infections and possible limb loss. Regular and excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to chronic liver issues.
  • Changed Appearance – The addicted person may look more tired, haggard, and disheveled than before, often displaying dilated pupils and red eyes. Personal hygiene may be ignored since the addictive behavior patterns become the priority. The clothes may not fit the same due to weight gain or weight loss. The person may look undernourished and pale due to the lack of proper nutrients in their body.
  • Increased tolerance – Over time, the effect produced by a substance subsides and a higher quantity must be consumed to obtain the same gratification as was originally experienced. This leads to exacerbation of all other physical, psychological, and emotional signs of addiction as well.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms – When the addicted person experiencing a high dependence on a substance doesn’t get their next dose on time, physical symptoms might be experienced which vary from substance to substance. This is called withdrawal.  Common symptoms include trembling, cravings, diarrhea, constipation, seizures, sweats, excessive sniffing, runny nose, repetitive patterns of speech, uncharacteristic behavior, and maybe even violence.

Psychological(emotional) signs of addiction

Psychological symptoms and signs caused by mental disorders developed from addiction include the following:

  • Inability to stop – In most cases of severe dependence on alcohol, nicotine, develops.  There might already have been one serious though sometimes failed attempt to ask for help.  Heroin addiction is chemically addictive and causes severe psychological symptoms that are just like withdrawal symptoms. Even though there may be a desire to quit, the person will find themselves unable to stop using the drug.
  • Unaffected even by health problems – This addiction sign is such that the person continues using the substance despite developing obvious related health issues, even though they are aware of what is happening.
  • Dealing with troubles – An addicted person is often compelled to take the drug or repeat the addictive behavior in order to deal with their problems.
  • Obsession – The addiction may become an obsession with them, leading them to spend most of their time and energy in finding ways of procuring the drug and using it.
  • Taking Risks – An individual with a severe addiction disorder may be willing to take unreasonable risks to get the substance or to carry out addictive behavior such as stealing or trading sex. They may not even think twice about engaging in risky activities such as violence or dangerous driving as long as they believe they will get the drug.
  • Taking large doses – The individual may at times use large quantities of the substance in order to increase the drug’s effects and to feel good, which might seem or actually be suicidal.

Addiction-related behavior can cause multiple emotional issues which can be both long-term as well as short-term.

They include the following.

  • Secrecy – Prefers to be secretive about it.
  • No control – Not able to control addict behavior and related habits. Keeps wanting to take the drug one more time. Continues the use of the substance, even when they cannot afford it. Feels anxious when they think about quitting. They feel that they cannot stop and are under the misconception that it is their life-saver.
  • Solitude – Prefers solitude. Loses interest in the people or activities they enjoyed previously.
  • Ignores people – Ignores the concern and advice of family and friends. Either become irritable and argumentative or withdrawn. Blames others for their problems. Avoids discussion on the topic.
  • Cannot cope with stress – Not able to deal with any stress. It becomes confusing and fuzzy. Suffers from anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or tendencies.

Social and behavioral signs of addiction

Substance abuse adversely impacts how the addicted person relates to other people and how they behave in a social setting. Some examples are:

  • Dropping activities – A common sign of addiction is not being interested in activities and hobbies which they used to enjoy before. Engaging in sports or family outings is no longer interesting.
  • Secrecy – A person with addict behavior may do so in secret and in solitude.
  • Denial – At least some of the people with an addiction are not aware they have a problem and refuse treatment. Their belief is that they use it for health purposes and that they can quit anytime they want to.
  • Maintaining stashes – An addicted person always makes sure that there is a good supply even though they cannot afford it. Other social responsibilities are not a priority any longer. Small amounts may be stashed away in different locations – in the car or in the house – for easy access and to avoid detection.
  • Excessive consumption – Some addictions lead can to a psychological condition where the individual consumes excessive quantities, which increases the risk of overdosing.
  • Relationship Problems – A person with addict behavior is no longer concerned about the well-being of his immediate family and is unable to provide for them. This leads to marital problems which ultimately pushes them toward the drug to dull the shock of their life.
  • Legal issues – Illicit drug use can lead to legal problems. Driving under the influence of drugs is illegal and it also impairs judgment and causes the person to take unreasonable risks which can lead to violence or breaking the law.

The effects if untreated

When signs of addiction are ignored, it can lead to a dangerous effect.

The addicted individual body functions and thinking may become distorted due to prolonged abuse of drugs or alcohol. Intense cravings for the substance, which is a sign of addiction, are caused by changes in brain function which increase the individual’s inability to discontinue use.

Over time, addicts build up a tolerance which means larger amounts of the drug are needed to get the same effects as before.

Changes are caused in the parts of the brain in charge of decision making, judgment, learning, behavior control, and memory which, inevitably, causes them to display severe addict behavior.

It is estimated that more than 7 million people are suffering from drug addiction today.

It is the cause of one in four deaths. Addicted individuals are highly vulnerable to accidents, unintentional injuries, punishable offenses, and domestic violence.

Illegal and prescription drugs are the cause of about 16 percent of motor vehicle accidents.

80 percent of the offenders in jail, in the US, are the victims of alcohol and drugs.

Drugs pose a high risk if used during pregnancy since the impurities contained in them are harmful to the unborn baby.

 Get help before it is too late

In cases of substance abuse, identifying and acknowledging the issue as a problem is vital, only then is it possible to seek and receive the help you or a loved one need.

The right addiction treatment centers can help you manage and even end substance abuse uses screening and treatment to identify the issues at hand.

In the US, there are 3500 certified physicians who specialize in addiction medicine plus 14000 plus treatment centers.

All this means that there are many options for people to get help and recover from their addiction.

The treatment helps the addicts to counteract the most disruptive, and powerful effects of the substance on the brain and behavior as well as to take back control of their lives.

So if you or loved one is showing an addiction behavior contact us to be connected with a professional.

Never ignore the signs of addiction.


  1. U.S Department of Health & Human Services: Warning Signs Of Drug Abuse and Addiction
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse: Exploring Myths About Drug Abuse