Signs of an Addiction - Drug Addiction

What are the signs of an addiction? How do you know if someone has developed an addiction? What indicates a dependency to alcohol, drugs or tobacco?

Addiction affects both the mind and body so it is important to look for signs of an addiction in a person in terms of their physical and mental behaviour.

Physical signs of an addiction

Even though people experience addiction in different ways there are physical indications of an addiction which are common to a particular substance. So, for example, people who are addicted to cocaine will show dramatic weight loss, be prone to nosebleeds, poor skin health and a general air of neglect. If someone injects drugs then they will wear long sleeves even in hot weather to hide signs of needle marks.

The signs of addiction will vary between substances but there are some signs which are common to most substances.

In general the physical signs of addiction are:

  • Weight loss
  • Poor skin health/pale skin
  • Spots especially around the nose or mouth
  • Red rimmed eyes
  • Dull or lank hair
  • Brittle or broken nails
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Palpitations
  • A decline in overall health

The physical aspects of addiction are discussed in greater detail in the types of addictions section. That section talks about each addictive substance on an individual basis which includes information on the physical and psychological signs of that particular addiction.

Psychological signs of an addiction

These will manifest themselves as changes in behaviour and personality. Someone who is addicted will be able to hide these signs to start with but as their addiction takes hold they will less concerned about this. Their need for their drug of choice will override any such considerations.

Addiction means that someone will be less concerned about their appearance, behaviour and how their actions are seen by others. Basically they are drive by their need for their particular drug and this will make them less aware to any changes in their physical and mental status.

Mental or psychological changes mean changes on a social, behavioural and emotional level. These will include some or all of the following signs:

  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Lying
  • Stealing/Borrowing money or possessions
  • Withdrawal from society
  • Paranoia
  • Lack of interest in other people

Obvious signs are those when a person is experiencing cravings or are desperate for their ‘fix’. They will go from extreme highs to lows in a short space of time and will become restless or anxious if they are unable to satisfy those cravings.

This will be more noticeable in someone of a previously calm and relaxed disposition. If they start to show signs of anger or mood swings or become very secretive in their behaviour then these may be indications of a dependency.

If that person starts to withdraw from their family and/or friends or appears to have lost interest in other people then this too may be a sign of an addiction.

Other signs of an addiction

If someone you know starts behaving in ways which are completely out of character for them, is reluctant to discuss what they have been doing and why or becomes friendly with people you may consider to be ‘undesirable’ then this can also be a sign of a problem.

However there may be other reasons for this behaviour and so you need to be careful before taking any action. But early intervention is important in terms of a successful recovery so if there is possibility of addiction then it needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

However there are organisations which can help with this which are included in our links section.


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