The Three Warning Signs of Drug Addiction

The Three Warning Signs of Drug Addiction

If you’re worried that there’s a possibility that one of your loved ones may be experiencing drug or alcohol addiction, you’re probably feeling pretty scared, wondering how you can help and if you even have real reason to worry. We get it. The potential of somebody you care about hiding a drug addiction is a really difficult and scary position to be in, and it can often make you question whether you’re just making things up in your head or if there is actually something to be concerned about.

Thankfully, as a friend or family member of a person with a drug problem, there are many ways you can step in to try and encourage the one you care for to seek help. However, it’s a highly sensitive subject and you don’t want to make a person feel attacked or accused of something they are not really going through. That’s why it’s important to inform yourself about what drug addiction looks like before you take action or start a conversation about drug addiction with your loved one. Here are three different types of warning signs that you can look out for to help you determine if there might actually be a problem for you to respond to.

Physical Warning Signs

Woman's thin fraile hand pressed against a window with rain dropsOne of the main types of warning signs of drug addiction you can look out for is physical warning signs, which are changes in your loved one’s appearance that may signify a drug problem. These warning signs have the advantage of being pretty easy to notice and identify, but the disadvantage of potentially being an indicator of a problem totally unrelated to drugs, or potentially not even a problem at all. However, it is still important to keep an eye out for them.

Physical warning signs include:

  • Rapid weight gain or loss – Many drugs affect the user’s appetite, which can lead to quick changes in weight.
  • Glazed or bloodshot eyes
  • Pupils that are unusually large or small
  • Poor hygiene – Often, drug addicts will lose their interest in or ability to engage in daily activities, such as showering
  • Frequent runny noses or nosebleeds
  • Extreme fatigue or hyperactivity
  • Difficulty staying focused
  • Headaches (claiming to suffer from headaches, taking pain relievers for headaches)
  • Sores on the face or mouth
  • Cold or sweaty palms and/or shaky hands
  • Visible changes in mood or attitude
  • Fidgeting and shaking
  • Noticeable paranoia, anxiety, or irritability
  • Track marks on arms or legs
  • Wearing long sleeves in warm weather, attempting to hide arms
  • Puffy, swollen face
  • Frequent hangovers, the symptoms of which include fatigue, sensitivity to light and noise, decreased sleep, and gastrointestinal distress

Naturally, just one or two of these warning signs are not enough in and of themselves to suggest that a person may have a drug problem, but when combined with other types of warning signs, they might indicate reason for concern. If you notice these physical warning signs, it’s a good idea to take note of them and then devise a strategy with your friends and family on how best to approach the individual who may be suffering with addiction.

Behavioral Warning Signs

Woman with addicition problem trying to be happyAnother category of warning signs that your friend or family member might be abusing drugs or alcohol is changes in their behavior. To notice warning signs in this category, it’s important to pay close attention to your loved one’s day-to-day actions and compare them to how they behaved in the past.

Timing is especially important. While staying out late and hanging out with a sketchy new crowd of people may seem like obvious signs of potential drug addiction, they’re less relevant as such if your loved one has been engaging in them since long before you began to suspect that a drug addiction is even possible.

Behaviors to look out for include:

  • Frequently asking for money
  • Stealing, particularly if it is cash – Often, drug addicts will spend all of their own money on drugs. They then turn to stealing from friends and family as a way to continue to pay for their habit.
  • Missing school or work
  • Participating less in school or work
  • Performing poorly at school or work
  • Lying and making excuses
  • Abandoning friends and acquaintances they’ve known and cared about for a long time
  • Losing interest in previous hobbies and activities they once loved
  • Suspicious or secretive use of phones and computers
  • Locking bedroom doors
  • Avoiding eye contact, conversations, or being around loved ones
  • Staying out late at night and/or breaking curfew
  • Acting irresponsibly and irrationally, including missing deadlines, ruining relationships, breaking rules, and neglecting their health
  • Ignoring calls or messages
  • Isolating themselves
  • Being disrespectful or rude to friends, family, and/or authority figures
  • Suddenly hanging out with new people, especially if these people also show warning signs of addiction or are known drug users or abusers
  • Resisting discipline
  • Denying or ignoring feedback or criticism

Some of these behaviors are more serious than others. In fact, you may want to address them even if you aren’t necessarily sure that they are related to a drug or alcohol abuse problem. However, when combined with other drug and alcohol addiction warning signs, they can be taken as a good signal of a potential problem and treatment options can be discussed.

Psychological Warning Signs

Women exibiting signs of drug addicitionThe last kind of warning sign we’ll cover is the psychological warning sign. This category can be a little bit trickier to spot, because it is usually less obvious from the outside. In order to determine whether your loved one is experiencing these psychological warning signs, you may have to ask them openly which, as you can imagine, can be a challenge. Depending on how open they are to talking about their feelings and experiences honestly, you may have more or less difficulty getting them to tell you if they are experiencing any of these issues.

The psychological warning signs of drug addiction include:

  • Having frequent thoughts about drugs or alcohol, especially if they are disruptive
  • Feeling that they have to use drugs or alcohol regularly, especially multiple times in one day
  • Having urges for the drug that are so intense they block out other thoughts or interfere with daily life
  • Needing to take more of the drug over time in order to feel the same effect they once experienced from a smaller quantity
  • Using the drug for a longer duration or in larger quantities than they expected or intended
  • Keeping or hoarding a supply of the drug
  • Spending money on the drug that they can’t afford
  • Allowing the drug to draw focus away from friends, relationships, hobbies, school, or work
  • Not meeting responsibilities and obligations as a result of drug use
  • Continuing to use the drug despite it causing physical, psychological, or any kind of harm to them or people they care about
  • Doing things they normally wouldn’t to get the drug, like stealing
  • Taking risks while under the drug that they normally wouldn’t, like driving under the influence
  • Spending a significant portion of their time taking the drug, getting the drug, or recovering from effects of the drug
  • Trying and failing to stop using the drug
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, such as anxiety, fatigue, sweating, vomiting, depression, seizures, and hallucinations, when stopping use of the drug

Though it can be difficult to determine whether your loved one might be experiencing these psychological symptoms, these are perhaps some of the clearest signs that a drug abuse problem is present. Therefore, if you are seriously concerned about the possibility of your loved one having a drug addiction, it can be very useful to find out whether or not these warning signs are present.

If you have noticed one or more physical and behavioral warning signs, it may not necessarily be a sign of drug addiction, but if they are combined with even one of these psychological warning signs, it is recommended to start thinking about how you may approach the topic of drug addiction and drug rehab with your loved one.

If, after you have read over these warning signs, you do feel that there is a reason for you to be worried about a potential drug addiction, it’s important not to panic or make any rash decisions. Know that there are many drug treatment options available for your loved one that can help them overcome and heal from their problem. Drug rehab, drug and alcohol rehab, and drug treatment centers are all resources that exist specifically for the purpose of treating addiction. Knowing the warning signs may be the first step in the treatment process.

Silver Linings Recovery Center is a “patient-first” drug rehab treatment center in Langhorne, PA and East Windsor, NJ focused on long-term treatment and recovery. If you are considering services for your loved one, please give us a call at 1-844-546-4644 or email us at [email protected].


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