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What is an addiction? What causes addiction? What are common signs of addiction? defines addiction as the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”  But that can be defined as almost anything. Many of us have some form of addiction such as gambling, sex, internet, work, exercise, sweets, cigarettes, video games, self-harm, or even substance abuse like heroin and cocaine. Addictions, like drug and alcohol addiction, can be very harmful. Addictions need to be addressed as soon as possible.

Addiction has both a psychological and physical component. Drugs like heroin are psychologically and physically addictive, meaning that the user will get sick if they don’t use heroin. In the field of recovery, we have found that many people reach out for help for their loved ones because they believe that their loved one has an addiction. The client in question claims that they can quit whenever they want and that it is their choice. If a person is doing something by choice and they can truly quit whenever they want, then it is more of a habit and not an addiction. The problem is that many people with an addiction think that they can quit on their own and they find that they cannot. Even worse, most people with an addiction end up “hitting rock bottom” before they realize that they need help. Another problem many people face is that they know they have a problem but they let feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, despair, failure, rejection, anxiety and/or humiliation stop them from asking for help even when they need it the most.


Physical Signs of Drug Abuse:

  • Eyes that are bloodshot or pupils that are smaller or larger than normal
  • Frequent nosebleeds–could be related to snorting drugs (meth or cocaine)
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns.  Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Seizures without a history of epilepsy
  • Deterioration in personal grooming or physical appearance
  • Injuries/accidents and person won’t or can’t tell you how they got hurt
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Shakes, tremors, incoherent or slurred speech, impaired or unstable coordination

Behavioral Signs of Drug Abuse:

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school; loss of interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies, sports or exercise; decreased motivation
  • Complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates
  • Failing grades, poor work performance
  • Unusual or unexplained need for money or financial problems; borrowing or stealing; missing money or valuables
  • Silent, withdrawn, engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in relationships, friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into trouble (arguments, fights, accidents, illegal activities)

Psychological Signs of Drug Abuse:

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood changes, irritability, angry outbursts or laughing at nothing
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation
  • Lack of motivation; inability to focus, appearing lethargic or “spaced out”
  • Appearing fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid, with no apparent reason

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Dependence:

Drug dependence involves all the symptoms of drug abuse, but also involves another element: physical dependence.

  1. Tolerance: Tolerance means that, over time, you need more drugs to feel the same effects.  Do they use more drugs now than they used before? Do they use more drugs than other people without showing obvious signs of intoxication?
  2. Withdrawal:  As the effect of the drugs wear off, the person may experience withdrawal symptoms: anxiety or jumpiness; shakiness or trembling; sweating, nausea and vomiting; insomnia; depression; irritability; fatigue or loss of appetite and headaches. 
  3. Loss of Control:  Using more drugs than they wanted to, for longer than they intended, or despite telling themselves that they wouldn’t do it this time.
  4. Desire to Stop, But Can’t:  They have a persistent desire to cut down or stop their drug use, but all efforts to stop and stay stopped, have been unsuccessful.
  5. Neglecting Other Activities:  They are spending less time on activities that used to be important to them (hanging out with family and friends, exercising or going to the gym, pursuing hobbies or other interests) because of the use of drugs.
  6. Drugs Take Up Greater Time, Energy and Focus:  They spend a lot of time using drugs, thinking about it, or recovering from its effects.  They have few, if any, interests, social or community involvements that don’t revolve around the use of drugs.
  7. Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences:  They continue to use drugs even though they know it’s causing problems.  As an example, person may realize that their drug use is interfering with ability to do their job, is damaging their marriage, making problems worse, or causing health problems, but they continue to use.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with drug addiction, get help now for them before it’s too late.


Contributed by Guest Blogger Mark Ambrose-Muzyl

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