Symptoms of Drug Addiction

Understanding Substance Abuse

Learn About Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is commonly defined as a pattern of harmful abuse of any substance with the intention of experiencing mood-altering effects. Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, painkillers, and other prescription medications are among the most commonly abused substances. When a person abuses alcohol or other drugs, many adverse effects can result. Substance abuse can lead to the decline of a person’s mental and physical health and the destruction of many other areas of his or her life.

Substance abuse has the ability to quickly develop into an addiction, which can lead to a host of additional serious consequences. If proper treatment for substance abuse is not sought the risk for serious and possible permanent consequences only increases.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Substance Abuse and Co-Occurring Disorders

The following mental health disorders have been known to occur alongside substance use disorders:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia


Addiction Statistics

It is estimated that nearly 24 million people in the United States have used or abused alcohol or other drugs at some point in their lifetimes. Furthermore, researchers anticipate that substance abuse and addiction in the United States may become an even bigger problem as synthetic substances are becoming more prevalent and popular.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Drug Abuse

Substance abuse and addiction can be caused by a wide variety of factors and influences, including the following:

Genetic: Extensive research has determined that there is a connection between a person’s genetics and his or her susceptibility for developing an addiction. When a person has a family history of substance abuse and/or addiction, there is a high probability that he or she will also develop problems with alcohol or another drug.

Environmental: The environment in which an individual spends a significant amount of time can play a role in determining whether or not an individual will begin to use substances. For example, living in low socioeconomic areas, having easy access to alcohol and other drugs, and having a traumatic past can all increase an individual’s likelihood for abusing substances.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of chemical dependency or mental illness
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Poor parenting during childhood
  • Lack of effective, appropriate coping skills
  • Low self-esteem or self-worth
  • Peer pressure
  • Easy access to substances
  • Exposure to violence
  • Being the victim of abuse, neglect, or crime

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse

There are many signs and symptoms that may indicate that an individual is abusing alcohol or another drug. The specific signs and symptoms an individual displays will depend upon the type of substance being abused, the amount that is consumed, and the length of time that the abuse has gone one. Some common signs and symptoms of substance abuse may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Missing days of work
  • Inability to fulfill roles or responsibilities
  • Hyperactivity
  • No longer participating in things that were once enjoyed
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Increased conflict with others
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Change in peer group

Physical symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor hygiene
  • Injection sites
  • Shakiness / tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Impaired memory
  • Delayed thinking
  • Confusion
  • Poor concentration
  • Derealization
  • Poor decision-making
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Inability to reason
  • Psychosis

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Changes in temperament
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety


Effects of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and addiction is not something to take lightly. If left untreated, a substance abuse problem can lead to a series of negative consequences, including damage to a person’s emotional wellbeing, physical health, and professional life. Some of these negative consequences may include:

  • Job loss
  • Strain in relationships
  • Divorce
  • Organ damage
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Development of cancer
  • Fertility problems
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Contraction of HIV or other diseases
  • Development of depression or anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Arrest records
  • Probation or incarceration
  • Overdose
  • Death

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Drug Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of withdrawal: Should an individual stop using certain substances after prolonged use, he or she may experience symptoms of withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal one experiences will ultimately depend upon his or her substance of choice, but may include the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Nightmares
  • Mood swings
  • Clammy skin
  • Fever
  • Hand tremors
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions

Effects of overdose: When alcohol or any other type of drug is consumed in large amounts or in combination with other substances, an individual is at risk for experiencing an overdose. The symptoms of an overdose will depend upon the substance that has been consumed, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Pale or bluish skin tone
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chest pains
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Heart attack

For years I was addicted to multiple substances as a way to escape the hardships I was experiencing life. After getting treated at Starlite Recovery Center, I am now 2 years sober and a much better individual!

– Clara C.