Signs and Symptoms of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Couple Talking

A person who is using drugs and alcohol can behave in ways that they never did before the alcohol or drug addiction began. However, some addicts go to great lengths to hide the addiction so that none of their friends or family members know what is really going on.

Knowing some of the signs and symptoms can help concerned family members know when to intervene


Changes in Appearance

Drug or alcohol abuse can cause changes in the user’s appearance over time. Such changes may not be noticeable to others until the problem has become quite severe. For instance:

  • One of the effects of drug addiction may be weight loss, since some drugs cause extreme loss of appetite.
  • A person in the grips of an addiction may begin paying less attention to their appearance than they did before and may neglect their hygiene and changing clothes.
  • Another physical symptom of drug addiction is that a person may begin picking at their skin or eyebrows. This in particular is associated with methamphetamine and the use of other stimulants.
  • A person’s eyes may show some of the tell-tale signs of addiction. A person using drugs or alcohol may have bloodshot or watery eyes. Some drugs can cause a person’s pupils to become dilated or to become much smaller than usual.


Asking for Money

A person who abuses drugs or alcohol will need to find a way to fund their habit and can become quite creative with reasons that they need help with finances. They may use the same excuses over and over, such as needing money for car repairs or groceries. They may have problems overdrawing accounts and ask family members to bail them out when this happens. Some addicts will even resort to stealing when they need to feed their addiction and an opportunity arises.


Legal Problems

Many people who abuse drugs or alcohol will begin having trouble with the law.

Some addicts may be caught selling or possessing an illegal substance, or they may begin associating with others who do so and can be arrested when such persons are caught in a sting operation.

Others may be caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and the police are typically trained to be able to detect whether or not someone is intoxicated. This can result in an arrest for driving under the influence.

Some addicts will begin stealing to support their habit, as previously mentioned. Most addicts tend to steal small amounts when they see an opportunity arise and may even begin stealing from their own family members. A very serious addict may even begin stealing from businesses, such as a pharmacy or liquor store. It is only a matter of time before they get caught if they are resorting to theft to continue abusing drugs or alcohol.

Some people may become violent when addicted to drugs or alcohol, and this can lead to fights and cause multiple arrests. It is best not to confront someone about their drug or alcohol abuse while they are intoxicated if you believe that they have a tendency to become violent while under the influence.


Changes in Mood

A drug or alcohol problem makes many people change their behavior, and some begin acting as if they are almost like a different person entirely. Many people with a drug or alcohol addiction may experience mood swings and appear happy or content one moment, then behave as though they are angry or sad the next. Many people use drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate for problems with their mood. It is common for a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol to also be experiencing a mood disorder. The medical term for suffering from more than one condition is comorbidity. Another one of the effects of drug addiction is that it makes some people become apathetic about things they once cared about . They may exhibit no expression or emotion when they normally would have reacted to what is happening before the addiction began.


Changes in Sleeping Habits

Another sign of a drug addiction or drinking problem is a change in a person’s sleeping habits. One of the effects of alcoholism is that it makes a person dependent on alcohol to get to sleep. This is a reason that many people start drinking. Some people with an alcohol problem will overdo it and pass out in unusual places. This is an effect of many drugs as well.

Some drugs have the effect of causing someone to stay awake all night, and some people may stay awake for days at a time. This is common with amphetamines such as methamphetamine. After many days of staying awake, a person may begin to become paranoid and may even begin hallucinating. One of the symptoms of serious methamphetamine addiction is methamphetamine-induced psychosis, which happens when a person begins having trouble distinguishing what is real or not. Typically, this goes away after a person has had a chance to rest and the drug has had a chance to leave their system after the person has gone several days not using it.


Unexplained Odors

A person who is using drugs or alcohol may carry an unusual odor on their breath, body or clothing. When a person has been drinking, it is possible to smell it on their breath, and if they have been drinking a heavy amount, their sweat may even begin to have the distinct odor of alcohol. The smell of alcohol and marijuana are distinctive, but it may be more difficult to detect the use of other substances by smell. Some people may begin using strong mouthwash, perfume or cologne in an attempt to mask the smell of smoke or alcohol on their breath or clothes.


Unexplained Absence or Illness

Addicts may begin missing work or may claim they are sick with little or no explanation. A person with a serious alcohol addiction may begin feeling sick all the time due to hangovers and the withdrawal effects of alcoholism. Many people are able to mask signs of a drinking problem until they begin missing work and suffer a major event such as a job loss as a result. A person with a drug or alcohol addiction may avoid friends or family members while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol so that none of their loved ones knows what is really going on.


If you think that your loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, it is important to encourage them to get help. Many people with serious addictions need professional help to quit. Some substances such as alcohol can even be deadly if a person tries to quit alone without medical supervision. If you are concerned that a loved one is struggling with an addiction, it is important that you explain your concerns in a nonjudgmental way. Tell them how the addiction makes you feel and offer to help take them to a place where they can get help. If you can get several friends or family members involved, it may be a good idea to stage an intervention and take that person directly to a treatment facility after they have agreed to get help.