What Are the Warning Signs of Addiction?

Drug and alcohol addiction does not discriminate; it can affect anyone. Some individuals are better at hiding their addiction from others, but there still may be signs that indicate they are struggling. Addiction often shows itself in the form of physical, emotional, and behavioral signs and symptoms. By educating yourself on these warning signs, you can help yourself or someone you care about receive the help they need before it is too late. 

Physical Symptoms

Addiction affects everyone that struggles with it differently, meaning that not everyone will exhibit the same symptoms. However, physical symptoms can be easier to spot and should be known to help those struggling. Common physical signs of drug or alcohol addiction include:

Poor Hygiene

In individuals that have become addicted to drugs or alcohol, personal hygiene typically falls on the back burner of priorities. They may begin to bathe less, not keep up with dental hygiene, and generally be less clean and organized. 

Sudden Weight Loss

Individuals addicted to certain drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine, and methamphetamine commonly experience appetite loss. This can cause them to lose weight rapidly.

Red, Bloodshot Eyes

Miosis, the formal name for constricted pupils, is a common symptom exhibited in individuals struggling with heroin addiction. The eyes may also appear bloodshot or red. 

Complexion Differences

Those that have struggled with long-term addiction will often experience changes in their complexion. This can include appearing paler, having more acne, bruises, scars, jaundice, and other marks on the body.


Your mental and emotional health can suffer significantly at the hands of addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, you can experience several mental health effects as a result of addiction to specific drugs such as:

  • Marijuana
  • LSD
  • Prescription drugs
  • MDMA
  • Cocaine
  • Ketamine
  • PCP
  • Steroids
  • Methamphetamine
  • Inhalants
  • Kratom

 These effects can include:

Anxiety and Depression

Many individuals use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism for anxiety and depression. Long term addiction can cause you to avoid social situations, be more paranoid, and feel more isolated. This can cause further anxiety and depression.

Living in Denial

Addiction can cause those who struggle to live in a world of denial -- they don’t want to admit they have a problem. This allows them to continue using and can distort their reality if they live in this denial for an extended period.


While those amid active addiction often describe themselves as happy so they can continue using drugs or alcohol, their lives are often full of despair, loss of hope, and anger. This can cause a person to lash out at others, especially when they are not using, leading to violence and aggression.

Inability to Cope With Stress

Drugs and alcohol are often used as coping mechanisms, meaning the struggling individuals usually do not know how to cope with distressing emotions such as stress properly. This can leave them feeling helpless and as if they need to use more, causing stress to become a common trigger for use.

Behavioral Symptoms

The person you knew before addiction is most likely not the same person you see standing in front of you. Not only have they changed both physically and emotionally, but they most likely have begun to engage in behaviors they usually never would have partaken in. Addiction becomes their number one priority, and they must do what is necessary to allow it to continue. Common behavioral symptoms of addiction include:

Living a Life of Secrets and Lies

Those that are struggling with addiction become masters of lying, denying, deceiving, and deflecting. They will begin keeping things from their loved ones and lying about their behaviors because they don’t want others to know what is happening. They may lie regularly, disappear without explanation, steal money, isolate themselves, and get defensive if asked about their behavior.

Withdrawal From Daily Life

The person that once spent time with you on the weekends and never missed a football game will most likely flake on their social obligations. Often, people going through addiction cannot feel a sense of pleasure, causing them to lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. They may also stop hanging out with friends.

Falling Short of Obligations

Long term addiction can leave individuals not caring about their responsibilities. They may begin to miss work or school, stop paying bills, or miss important events. Addiction becomes their whole world, causing them to no longer care about others’ needs and wants.

Getting Into Legal Trouble

When an individual has fallen far down the rabbit hole of addiction, they may begin getting into various kinds of legal trouble. This can include several charges, such as:

  • DUIs
  • Assault
  • Theft
  • Public intoxication
  • Domestic violence
  • Possession
  • Fraud

Addiction can be difficult to spot if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Even if the struggling individual is good at hiding their addiction, there will most likely be signs and symptoms pointing to them being in trouble. By educating yourself on the various physical, emotional, and behavioral signs of addiction, you can be vigilant in noticing when a loved one needs help. This way, you can take the next step and talk to them about your concerns and hopefully get them to treatment. Facilities such as Northstar Transitions remain open through the COVID-19 pandemic, so if you or someone you know needs help, there is a place for them to come. Recovery is not always easy, but it is possible. Contact our facility today to learn more about the warning signs of addiction and learn how to talk to someone about getting help. Call us today at (303) 558-6400.

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