It may not always be obvious when a loved one is struggling with a substance abuse disorder and it may even take some time to realize you have a problem yourself. Addiction is a serious disease and can present itself in various ways. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, there are several warning signs of drug use that you can watch for. If you notice any of these in yourself or in a loved one, it’s time to seek treatment for substance abuse.

How Does Drug Addiction Start?

Drug addiction can begin in a number of different ways. For some people, it can be a result of their environment or upbringing. For others, it may develop in response to stressful situations or medical emergencies. The following factors could play a role in the development of your addiction or that of a loved one.

  • Curiosity – Teens and adults alike may develop an addiction due to simple curiosity. Unfortunately, even trying a drug once could lead to years of substance abuse.
  • Peer pressure – Peer pressure is a factor for individuals of any age. Whether it’s a friend, a sibling or a spouse, many people feel like using a drug will help them fit in, but casual usage with friends can easily spiral out of control.
  • Early exposure – According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, early exposure to drug abuse can result in substance abuse later in life.
  • Genetic makeup and biology – Even a person’s genes can impact their likelihood of becoming addicted to a drug. Gender, mental disorders, and ethnicity all play a role in the way your body responds to various drugs.

Becoming addicted is easier than you may think. After using a drug, a rush of dopamine follows and the over-stimulation of the brain’s reward system encourages you to continue using, despite any negative consequences you may experience as a result.

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Drug Use

If you are concerned that you or someone you love is addicted to drugs, there are several behaviors and warning signs of drug addiction that are major red flags and may signal an addictive lifestyle.

  • Lack of judgment: If you notice your loved one continually engaging in unsafe behaviors or catching them in lies, this could be a sign of addiction—especially if this behavior is unlike them. On the other hand, if you find yourself purposely misleading friends and family to disguise your drug use or driving under the influence to avoid asking for a ride, you should seek help as well.
  • Purposeful isolation: Self-isolation is common with addicted individuals. This could involve keeping friends and loved ones at a safe emotional distance, finding ways to avoid social events, and not participating in conversation during dinner or other group functions.
  • Frequent irresponsible behavior: Ditching school, missing work or getting into trouble with the law are all red flags that something is going on and should be a major cause for concern.
  • Financial hardship: If you find yourself or others draining bank accounts, stealing money from friends or family members, or suddenly needing of large sums of money, drugs may be the cause. Sudden financial difficulties are often caused by irresponsible spending habits to support an addiction.
  • Harmful social habits: Sudden changes in social habits, such as spending time with peers who abuse drugs, could signal an addiction problem. Many people who are abusing drugs will associate with peers who are doing the same thing because their addictive behaviors are the accepted norm within that social circle and no one will confront them about it.
  • Lack of hygiene: Many people suffering from substance abuse problems develop a lack of interest in their hygiene, resulting in a disheveled appearance. If you notice a friend or loved one whose physical appearance has drastically changed in a short period of time, they may be suffering from a substance abuse problem.
  • Sudden mood changes: Drug abuse can cause severe changes in mood, resulting in irritability, depression or a general lack of energy.

Physical Symptoms of Addiction

In addition to behavioral changes, addiction also causes many physical symptoms. These are typically very easy to diagnose in others, as well as in yourself.

Your Own Physical Changes

  • Withdrawal symptoms: Common withdrawal symptoms include shakiness, nausea, insomnia, excessive sweating, and headaches.
  • Tolerance: If you find that you need more of the drug to obtain the same high or effect desired, your body has developed a tolerance, which is a definite sign of addiction.
  • Physical dependence: Not being able to function normally without a substance is not normal behavior. If you feel like you need a drug just to get through the day, you may need professional help to stop using.
  • Intense cravings: Are your thoughts constantly consumed by the idea of getting high? Have you lost interest in things you previously enjoyed? Do you spend large amounts of time trying to figure out how you will get more of the drug? If so, these cravings are signals of a severe substance abuse disorder.

Physical Changes in Others

  • Sudden weight loss or gain: While drastic changes in weight can happen for a variety of reasons, this is typically a cause for concern and may be a sign of addiction.
  • Consistent bruising and infections: Many people who inject drugs into their arms or legs develop bruises and infections. These infections should always be dealt with appropriately to prevent disease, but if they are recurring, your loved one may need addiction help.
  • Glazed-over or bloodshot eyes: Many individuals who are addicted will often have glazed or bloodshot eyes after using. Watch for this side effect, especially after your loved one returns from spending time with peer groups who are known to abuse drugs.
  • Paranoia or confusion: A short-term side effect of several addictive drugs is paranoia or extreme confusion. If your loved one is acting strangely, hallucinating or having a nervous breakdown, you should consider confronting them about a substance abuse problem.

How to Get Help

If you discover that a loved one has a substance abuse problem, an intervention may help this person get treatment and overcome their addiction. A carefully planned and executed intervention can be a catalyst for lifelong change and recovery, although it will require a great deal of courage on your end.

To plan an intervention, you’ll need to gather a group of equally concerned family members and friends to determine what needs to be said, how it should be communicated, and when/where the intervention will take place. Once you hold the intervention, you’ll need to follow up with the addicted individual afterward, while keeping in mind that any decision to seek treatment must be made by that individual—not you.

It’s not always easy to recognize the warning signs of addiction, especially when it concerns you or a loved one, but recognition is an essential part of the recovery process. If aspects of your own life have been affected by these warning signs of drug use, you may need professional help. Please contact Hill Country Detox today to speak with a member of our admissions team. We can help you determine an appropriate level of care and get started with your addiction treatment as soon as today.



  1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/symptoms/con-20020970
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction
  3. http://drugabuse.com/library/symptoms-and-signs-of-drug-abuse/

Image used under license from Shutterstock.com

Call Now Button