Addiction has many faces and lives all around us. It does not discriminate, does not have any discretion with regards to which neighborhood it is found in, and doesn’t care how much money you have. It is not concerned with what kind of job you have or how much education you received.
Whether you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, once you notice the need for that substance becoming your primary focus, it has already taken over.
Recognizing the signs of addiction is a critical first step in getting help for yourself or a loved one. This can be a difficult task because addiction has so many different ways in which it can manifest. No two addictions are ever quite the same; however, most do have certain noticeable signs and symptoms.
Once you have identified the presence of substance abuse, you are then able to seek treatment. The good news is that there is help available. All you have to do is ask.
To help you navigate through this article and find the information you need, click on any of the topics listed below to skip directly to that section:
- Overview of Addiction
- Adderall Addiction
- Alcohol Addiction
- Benzo Addiction
- Cocaine Addiction
- Crack Addiction
- Ecstasy Addiction
- Ketamine Addiction
- Opioid Addiction
- Heroin Addiction
- Meth Addiction
- PCP Addiction
- Sleeping Pill Addiction
- Synthetic Marijuana Addiction
- Getting Help
Addiction is an enormous problem in America today. In fact, it is estimated that over 20 million American adults suffer from an addiction. Sadly, only a fraction of them actually receive treatment. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), there were an estimated 22.7 million Americans who suffered from a substance abuse disorder in 2013, but only 2.5 million received treatment.
Overview of Addiction
Addiction is as a complex brain disease that involves a person continuing to use a substance despite the negative consequences. This means that an individual continually abuses a substance even though bad things keep happening as a result of that use.
One of the most important things to recognize with addiction is the fact that it is a disease. It may seem easy to be quick to judge someone who is struggling with addiction, but would you judge someone who suffers from diabetes in the same way? Similarly, people often lack compassion for themselves when they suffer from addiction, but it is likely that they would be more understanding if they had asthma instead.
Being that it is a disease, there is no magic “cure” for addiction. However, the good news is that for those who are ready to make a change in their lives, there are many treatment options that have proven to be effective.
Addiction can catch many people off guard. Perhaps it starts with a legitimate prescription for pain medication from your doctor to help manage your chronic pain. Unfortunately, many patients who use prescription painkillers can develop a tolerance to the drug after even a short time of using them, causing a need for higher dosages or more frequent use. This is where the addiction begins.
Before long, it can spiral out of control and result in doctor shopping, lying, stealing from family members, loss of employment, and legal problems. Despite those negative consequences, many people continue to abuse the substance, sometimes moving on to the next more powerful drug to achieve the high their body craves so badly.
There are certain signs to look for if you are worried about yourself or a loved one and think there might be an addiction to a substance. Of course, depending on which substance is being abused, many of the signs will vary. However, some signs are fairly universal and will present themselves at one time or another in just about every case. These include:
- Increased use of substance/developing tolerance
- Secretism or hiding things
- Legal or financial trouble
- Social isolation/withdrawal
- Changes in friends/social circles
- Sudden shift in moods/behavior
- Loss of interest in former activities
In the next few sections, we will look at different substances and discuss signs of addiction that are specific to each of them.
Signs of Adderall Addiction
Adderall is a prescription medication used to treat Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and one of the drugs that has been growing in popularity amongst those who misuse it. The medication is available with a prescription from your family doctor and is made up of a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
The drug is classified as a stimulant, as it affects the central nervous system and gives the user a feeling of having energy and sometimes a sense of euphoria. The drug is one that has a high potential for misuse and addiction. Some signs of Adderall addiction include:
- Changes in sleep patterns/less sleep
- Dry mouth
- A feeling of being invincible
- Grandiose thoughts
- Rapid heartbeat
- Talking too fast or talking about random things
- Reduced appetite
- Pounding or fast heartbeat
- Short, rapid breaths
- Changes in sex drive
Signs of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol is the most abused of all substances in the United States and is also the most readily available. Anyone over the age of 21 can go to their local grocery or liquor store and purchase a bottle. The damage that alcoholism can cause both the addicted person and their families is extensive.
Alcohol affects the body in several ways. First of all, it is a depressant, so when it enters the body, it travels through the blood and into the brain. Once it arrives there, it slows down major functions of the body such as reaction time, coordination, and clear thinking. It also impairs your vision. Some signs of alcohol addiction may include:
- Irritability or mood swings
- Blacking out or not remembering things
- Drinking alone
- Frequent hangovers
- Hiding consumption
- Change in appearance/looking malnourished
- Feeling guilt or shame
- Early morning drinking
- Thoughts consumed by getting the next drink
- Making excuses about drinking habits (“I drink to relax” or “I only drink socially”)
Signs of Benzodiazepine Addiction
Benzodiazepines, or “benzos” for short, are a common type of medication often prescribed by a doctor to help a patient calm down or relax. Benzos are tranquilizers and can help a patient during times of anxiety or for chronic panic attacks. Some of the most common types of benzos on the market today are Xanax and Valium.
Some common signs of benzo addiction to look for may include:
- Increased drowsiness
- Impaired coordination
- Slurred speech or incoherent
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shallow breathing
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle pain
Signs of Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine is a street drug that is classified as a stimulant. It works by causing the brain to release extra dopamine into the body, forcing a feeling of pleasure or euphoria. With repeated use, the brain becomes used to these newer elevated levels of dopamine to feel good. Soon, the person may find that the only time they feel good at all is when they are using the drug.
Cocaine is a very addictive substance that could lead to serious medical conditions or even death. Some signs to look for with cocaine addiction are:
- Hyperactivity or sudden bursts of energy
- Nose bleeds or runny nose
- Muscle spasms
- Decreased sleep
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Inability to smell
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
Signs of Crack Addiction
Crack is a form of cocaine that is easily made in your kitchen. The process takes the powdery form of cocaine and turns it into a smokable rock form. The high felt from smoking crack is far more intense than regular cocaine, but very short in duration. According to the US National Library of Medicine, the human brain could essentially be rewired after just one hit of crack.
Some easily identifiable signs of crack addiction include:
- Sudden periods of mania or energy, followed by periods of exhaustion
- Rapid heartbeat
- Talking fast and not making sense
- Drastic change in food intake
- Violent and unpredictable mood swings
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
- Paranoia and hallucinations
- Shaking or trembling in the hands
- Hoarse voice
- Bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils
- Feeling like their skin is crawling with bugs
Signs of Ecstasy Addiction
Ecstasy is a drug that continues to grow in popularity amongst younger Americans. It is a synthetic modification of methamphetamine and causes both energetic highs and hallucinations. The drug is readily found in many clubs and at large music festivals due to its popularity with the younger generations. One of the main side effects of the drug is increased body temperature. When you combine an increase in body temperature with hours of dancing in a crowded, warm place, the result can be deadly.
Some signs to look for if you are concerned about Ecstasy addiction are:
- Sweating or high body temperature
- Heightened sensory perception
- Lowered inhibitions
- Feeling of euphoria
- Increased energy
- Loss of time
- Clenching teeth
- Rapid heart rate/high blood pressure
- Muscle tension
- Dizziness/ feeling light-headed
- Irregular sleep schedule
- Absence of pain when injured
- Multiple sex partners
Signs of Ketamine Addiction
Ketamine, also known as Special K, is another drug that is increasing in popularity amongst young party-goers. Originally intended as a veterinary anesthesia, the drug can have tranquilizing effects on the user, making them feel detached from their own body. It also has hallucinogenic elements that can make a person who is under the influence of ketamine extremely unpredictable. Because of its strong paralyzing effects, it is often referred to as the “date rape” drug, because a person is often awake but unable to move their body parts while under its influence.
Some warning signs of ketamine abuse include:
- Feeling disoriented or confused
- Sudden or violent mood swings
- Feeling detached or dissociative
- Inability to think clearly or process information
- Memory loss
- Redness of the skin
- Rapid eye movements
- Slurred speech
Signs of Opioid Addiction
Opioids are used as painkillers for people with chronic or severe pain. They are usually prescribed by a physician for a medically necessary condition; however, their popularity has caused people to find ways to obtain the drug illegally as well. The drug acts on the body by hitting the central nervous system and causing a sense of intense pleasure and pain relief. This euphoric feeling is oftentimes what leads a person to abuse the drug. Although the use of opioids may begin innocently with a doctor prescribing medication to treat pain, opioid use can very easily and quickly spin out of control and become abuse.
Some signs of opioid addiction are:
- Doctor shopping to get additional prescriptions
- Slower thoughts or speech
- Restlessness or intense drowsiness
- Mental illness
- Anxiety or depression
- Suicidal thoughts
- Memory impairment
- Difficulty focusing or paying attention
- Impaired judgment
Signs of Heroin Addiction
One of the strongest opioids available on the streets today is heroin. Heroin not only has pleasurable effects on the body and brain, but it also has some of the strongest withdrawal symptoms as well, making it extremely difficult for addicts to stop using the drug on their own. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the number of Americans who are addicted to heroin has more than doubled in the 10 year period between 2002 and 2012. Heroin-related deaths during that same period of time increased by 500%. Because of the method of ingestion (usually via a hypodermic needle), overdose can occur easily and oftentimes results in death.
Some signs to watch for if you are concerned about heroin addiction are:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry mouth
- Sudden changes in behavior or mood
- Nodding off
- Muscle or bone pain
- Diarrhea or intense constipation
- Decreased interest in personal hygiene
- Slurred or incoherent speech
- Paraphernalia found including burnt spoons, baggies, balloons, needles, orange caps to syringes, aluminum foil, gum wrappers, missing shoelaces, pipes, etc
Signs of Meth Addiction
Crystal methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that is easily found on most streets in America. It can be snorted, smoked, injected or eaten. It gives the user a feeling of intense energy and euphoria. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 6% of all Americans have tried methamphetamine in their lifetime.
Methamphetamine users may display many signs that they are using the drug, both physical and behavioral, including:
- Increased heart rate
- Higher body temperature
- Long periods without any sleep followed by long periods of sleep
- Faster breathing rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Long periods of time without any food
- Sudden and extreme weight loss
- Depression and anxiety
- Feeling invincible
- Delusional thoughts
- Bones and teeth become brittle and easily break
- Sudden intensity towards sex or decreased sex drive
Signs of PCP Addiction
PCP was originally manufactured to be used as a surgical anesthetic. It quickly affects the user’s brain and central nervous system, giving them a feeling of being outside of their body. The drug is classified as a hallucinogen, and while it has strong sedative properties to it, many users may experience a feeling of stimulation. The drug has long-lasting effects on certain parts of the brain that control perceptions of pain and the surrounding environment, as well as those that control memory function and ability to learn.
Some signs of PCP addiction include:
- Delusional or erratic behavior
- Feeling invincible and super strong
- Excessive sweating
- Irregular breathing
- Lack of coordination
- Violent or sudden mood swings
- Slurred speech
Signs of Sleeping Pill Addiction
It is often difficult to determine whether a person is abusing sleeping pills. Because some forms are available to purchase over the counter at any major supermarket or drugstore, they are easy to obtain legally. However, when a person becomes addicted to sleeping pills, there may be some particular signs to watch out for. Some of these include:
- Slurred speech
- Unsteady walking
- Inability to focus
- Difficulty remembering things
- Inability to tell the difference between dreams and reality
- Long periods of sleep
- Feeling light-headed or like you are going to pass out
Signs of Synthetic Marijuana Addiction
Synthetic marijuana is growing in popularity and is oftentimes available to purchase easily in many smoke shops. Also known as K2 or Spice, many of these stores offer the drug which is heavily marketed to young people. Unfortunately, because synthetic marijuana is man-made, it is oftentimes much stronger than actual marijuana and can have severe side effects. Overdosing on this drug is a growing concern for our nation, and many people belonging to the younger generation have lost their lives after using this drug.
Some signs to watch for if you are concerned about synthetic marijuana addiction include:
- Sudden hyperactivity or periods of lethargy
- Unprovoked and extreme outbursts
- Physical aggression
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Muscle spasms
- Panic attacks
- Delusional thoughts or speech
- Anxiety or extreme depression
If you have noticed any of these signs or symptoms in a loved one and are concerned, the best thing you can possibly do is try to get help for them. Many addictions are not realized until it is too late. The earlier you are able to catch an addiction, the easier it will be to receive effective treatment for it.
That there are numerous places where you can get help for any kind of substance abuse issue. The most important thing to remember about talking to a loved one is that they might not yet realize that they have a problem. It is important to approach them in a way that is non-confrontational; you may want to emphasize your concern for their well-being.
Before you approach your loved one, it is a good idea to be as informed as possible. The following list is made up of various organizations and sources where you can get help, information, and advice when it comes to helping a loved one with an addiction issue.
Narconon is a worldwide organization that aims to help provide an effective path for rehabilitation from drug abuse. Narconon also provides comprehensive training to professionals and organizations seeking workable drug rehabilitation and prevention solutions.
This website can help you find a state-funded addiction treatment center near you. This is especially helpful to those who do not have private insurance coverage.
SAMHSA is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. They can help locate a number of resources near you to help with a substance abuse issue. This includes finding treatment facilities, self-help groups, and informational websites.
Self-Help, Peer Support, and Consumer Groups-Self-Help Groups(Addiction)
Web portal to U.S. government information and services on the web.
Recovery from crystal meth addiction through a 12-step program including regular attendance at group meetings.
Comprehensive information about disability programs, services, laws, and benefits.
Recovery from joint chemical dependence & emotional/psychiatric illness through a 12-step program including regular attendance at group meetings.
Recovery from marijuana addiction through a 12-step program including regular attendance at group meetings.
Recovery from drug addiction through a 12-step program including regular attendance at group meetings.
4-Point Program® helps people recover from all types of addictive behaviors by teaching how to change self-defeating thinking, emotions, & actions.
Helps family and friends recover from the effects of someone else’s drinking through a 12-step program including regular attendance at group meetings.
Helps family and friends of addicts recover from the effects of living with an addicted relative or friend.
American Society of Addiction Medicine(ASAM)
Professional physicians’ society promoting the appropriate role of physicians in the care of patients with addictions.
National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors(NAADC)
Addiction focused professionals; education, advocacy, standards of practice, ethics, professional development & research.
National Association of Drug Court Professionals(NADCP)
Non-profit corporation promoting justice system improvement by judicial monitoring & treatment for drug-using offenders.
Information for Veterans, Active Duty Military, and Military Families
Department of Veterans Affairs(VA)
Provides information about benefits and services available to American military veterans.
Provides resource information, services, and tools for military members, military spouses and families.
HHS.gov: Supporting Military Families (HHS)
HHS & its operating divisions offer a variety of resources and programs specifically designed to support military families.