Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Misinformation about addiction is prevalent in the United States. Because addiction is widely regarded as deserving of shame and ridicule, few people are willing to get help after realizing that they have a problem.

In fact, the problem is worse than many people imagine:

  • 21 million Americans struggled with substance abuse in 2014. (National Survey on Drug Use and Health)
  • 8 million Americans dealt with an addiction and co-occurring mental health problem in 2014. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
  • Just 10% of Americans struggling with addiction will receive treatment this year. (American Society of Addiction Medicine)
  • Over 64,000 Americans were killed by a drug overdose in 2016. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

That’s why it’s so important to educate as many people as possible about the signs, symptoms and underlying causes of addiction. This resource provides helpful insights for anyone wanting to know more about the signs and consequences of drug and alcohol addiction.

Common Drug and Alcohol Addictions

While there are similarities between each case of addiction, substance abuse issues are extremely personal. The history and motivation behind one’s addiction will have a major impact on treatment. That’s why it is important to understand the unique symptoms and signs of the most commonly abused substances. This knowledge may help you spot a problem in a loved one’s life before it escalates out of control.

Illegal Drugs

If you suspect a loved one may be abusing illegal drugs, look for the following signs and symptoms:

  • Cocaine/Crack – Chronic sinus problems, the appearance of powdery residue beneath the nostrils and sudden increase in confidence are all signs of cocaine and crack abuse.
  • Methamphetamine – You may suspect meth addiction if your loved one loses a large amount of weight, no longer appears to sleep soundly and seems constantly anxious.
  • Heroin – Look for heroin users to fall asleep in public and experience chronic vomiting and nausea. These signs, along with paraphernalia like syringes, point toward heroin use.
  • Codeine – A loved one abusing codeine that’s not prescribed for them may often exhibit sluggishness or drowsiness. They may also experience seizures and chronic dizzy spells that put them in harm’s way.

Learn More on Drug Addiction

Prescription Drugs

Your loved one may be taking a prescription medication for a legitimate reason, so it may be hard to distinguish if he or she is abusing those meds. Here are signs and symptoms to look for:

  • Benzodiazepines – Those abusing benzodiazepines exhibit all the general signs of abusing a sedative, including drowsiness throughout the day, poor communication and loss of coordination.
  • Sleep Aids – Loss of focus, slurred speech and lack of concentration are just a few of the many symptoms of a loved one abusing sleeping pills.
  • Opioids – Those who abuse opioid painkillers like Vicodin and oxycodone commonly experience shallow breathing, disorientation and chronic constipation.

Learn More on Prescription Addiction


Alcohol may be legal and widely available if you’re 21 or older, but it is one of the most dangerous and addictive substances out there. More than 15 million Americans will reportedly struggle with alcoholism in any given year.

Common signs of alcohol abuse include:

  • Neglecting work, home and/or school responsibilities
  • Loss of interest in previously beloved hobbies and activities
  • Increased tolerance, so daily amount of drinking increases
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent headaches
  • Redness of the nose or cheeks
  • Digestive problems, such as heartburn

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Co-Occurring Disorders

Spotting a substance abuse problem in a person who is also struggling with mental illness is extremely difficult. It can be hard to distinguish addictive behaviors from those motivated by mental health problems, making treatment difficult as well. It should be emphasized that those with mental health problems are at a higher risk for developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

The following conditions are among the most common mental health issues that coincide with substance abuse:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Explore Mental Health’s Ties to Addiction

Universal Addiction Signs

Addiction symptoms vary widely from drug to drug, as you just read. However, one element that is similar among all cases of addiction is that the individual begins to prioritize their substance of choice above all else. This shift in priorities results in heavy consequences that can take place quickly or over time.

Drug use lifestyles often preclude routine hygiene, for example, which can lead to major health problems. Additionally, substance use can contribute to a person’s daily depression and anxiety. When an addiction problem is ongoing, mental health systems may appear more often or are more pronounced.

No matter the substance, addiction elicits a handful of universal physical and mental effects on the user. Look for the following red flags if you suspect addiction in yourself or a loved one.

Physical Signs of Addiction:

  • Repetitive speech
  • Changes in diet or body shape
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Red eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Chronic sickness
  • Pale skin

Mental/Emotional Signs of Addiction:

  • Defensiveness
  • Irritability
  • Chronic dishonesty
  • Rationalizing poor choices
  • Limited interest in friends
  • Rapid changes in mood

Treatment Through Holistic Healing

Once you understand the signs and symptoms of addiction, it is equally important that you understand how to get treatment. There are multiple types of treatment methods available, including those that integrate multiple schools of thinking into a single, effective recovery program.

One approach to rehabilitation that is gaining widespread popularity is holistic drug and alcohol treatment. This approach focuses on healing a person’s emotional, physical and mental states. Time-tested clinical modalities are deployed alongside a number of alternative, naturopathic techniques in such programs.

The reasoning behind this strategy is that addiction is unpredictable. The urge to take substances can feel like a powerful emotional desire, as easily as it might manifest as a painful physical need. By tailoring treatment to these specific needs, holistic rehab programs offer a more personalized and effective path toward sobriety.

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Finding Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Want to know more about holistic treatment for drug or alcohol abuse? Maybe you have a loved one in need and aren’t sure whom to call next. We encourage you to reach out to The Dunes East Hampton anytime by contacting us online. We offer a holistic and individualized approach to recovery amid a luxurious, private setting in the world-renowned Hamptons.

See Our ‘Interesting Facts About Addiction’ Infographic