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Recognizing the Signs of Addiction


Signs of addiction could show up as physical changes, loss of control, mood swings, and becoming reclusive. There are many other signs, but these are the most common.

What is an Addiction?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the United States each year, or 261 deaths per day.” Speaking up can save a life. 

Addiction, both substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder, is a common, chronic, treatable mental disorder that leads to compulsive use and an inability to stop using despite obvious negative consequences. The major factors behind addiction are the chemical dependency that the user builds up while using, as well as the resulting changes to the individual’s brain structure, in particular, the reward and memory centers. 

Addiction starts with the initial misuse or substance abuse, which leads the user to feel a positive effect. This can be a euphoric effect from illicit use or the cessation of chronic pain that the user may be trying to manage. In either case, the positive effect causes the user to keep using, which builds a tolerance to the substance, and causes them to use larger amounts or more frequently.

Eventually, the use and tolerance begin to build a dependence in the body and brain. This means that neither one can function properly without the substance present, and can often be diagnosed by the individual entering detox or experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they stop using drugs or alcohol.

Types of Addiction

No matter what kind of addiction you’re dealing with, either alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, there are multiple types of addiction that may be present. Each one will have unique signs or traits that set it apart from the other type.

Behavioral addiction is being addicted to specific, often complex behaviors. Some of the commonly seen addictive behaviors include sex, theft, gambling, and even playing video games. Instead of using a substance to gain a pleasurable feeling, the brain releases pleasurable neurotransmitters when the individual engages in the addictive behavior.

Substance addiction is when an individual develops a physical dependence on a substance or drug. People are commonly addicted to nearly every drug in existence, including opioids, cocaine, meth, benzodiazepines, nicotine, and even alcohol. 

Impulse addiction is a similar disorder to the previous two, but can stem directly from previously diagnosed or undiagnosed impulse control disorder. It’s estimated that more than 10% of US adults have some form of impulse control disorder, and the behaviors that arise from impulse control can lay the foundations for addiction.

Identifying the Initial Signs

The National Institute for Mental Health’s Mental Health Information page has information about specific conditions and disorders as well as their symptoms. However, having a good overview of what signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for can mean the difference between helping someone and not even knowing that they are struggling with addiction.

Below, we cover many of the most common signs and symptoms of addiction, as well as what type of changes they are. It’s important to remember that no two addictions are the same, and each one will be as unique as the person struggling with it. 

You may only see a few of the signs, or you may see one warning sign after another, so if you feel that you or someone close to you may be living with an addiction it’s important to reach out for professional diagnosis and treatment.

Changes in Personality

Drug use or alcohol use over time will create physical signs like poor coordination, but not everyone displays those signs easily. For many, the changes to their personality will be the most obvious, such as:

  • Suddenly isolating from friends and family more
  • Becoming more secretive, particularly about substance use
  • Losing interest in things that were once loved
  • Changing social circles to include primarily those who use the substance or are otherwise involved with substance use

Changes in Behaviors

Addiction changes many of an individual’s core behaviors, and as a result, many other behaviors change as well. The behaviors themselves may also have negative consequences that manifest. One of the behavioral signs of showing up to work under the influence, for example, is itself a risky behavior that can lead to other consequences, like job loss.

 Here are some very common behavioral signs of addiction:

  • Going to work or school while under the influence, or other important functions like family obligations or meetings
  • Cycling between wanting to quit drinking, and periods of abstinence that ultimately end in relapse
  • Having dramatic reactions to anyone bringing up addiction or alcoholism in the context of their drinking
  • Growing financial stress due to poor decision-making and increased spending on substance use
  • Engaging in other behaviors that are risk factors for things like legal or criminal trouble
  • Loss of control over how much or how often they consume the substance

Changes in Health

Some of the changes in health will be less obvious unless they are dramatic, and they will be much less dramatic in some than others.

Health changes that may be seen include:

  • Increased dental issues
  • Infections and general illnesses from lowered immune function
  • Potentially picking up illnesses more common to using needles, like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis
  • Giving less attention to personal hygiene
  • Drastic or sudden changes in weight, either gaining or losing

Getting Help for Addiction

If you or someone you care about may be struggling with addiction, help is available, and it comes in many forms. Outpatient programs can create a recovery framework while still allowing the individual to maintain part-time or even full-time employment or school enrollment. 

For those who need a more intensive recovery solution, working with local professionals on admission to an inpatient or residential program can be the best solution. No matter what your treatment needs are, working with a treatment center like Agape means you can get the treatment options you need while starting your recovery in the most comfortable and luxurious environment in the state. 

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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