Signs of Drug Addiction

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: January 24th, 2022

James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

About one in ten people in the United States aged 12 and older said they used an illegal drug within the previous month, according to the results of the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. With such widespread use of illicit drugs, there is a good chance that the average American knows someone who has a drug use problem. Anyone who has ever suspected that a friend has a drug abuse problem has probably wondered, “What are the warning signs of drug abuse?”


The Importance of Knowing the Warning Signs

Learning the signs of drug abuse and knowing how to address it with friends can help prevent the problem from getting worse. Drug use can have significant short-term and long-term effects, including physical and mental health problems, increased risk of infectious diseases from sharing needles or unsafe sex, accidents, overdose, loss of jobs, trouble with family, arrest and even death. Using some drugs can be particularly risky, especially when used at high doses or when combined with alcohol or other drugs.


The Complication of Co-Occurring Disorders

Drug abuse signs and symptoms can vary greatly, depending on the drug used, the length of time the individual used drugs, the doses used, and many other factors. Co-occurring disorders, particularly those conditions requiring prescription drugs, can increase the risk of drug abuse. Certain mental illnesses, such as depression and eating disorders, can also increase someone’s risk of abusing drugs. The specific signs of drug abuse depends largely on the type of drug a person abuses, but the abuse of nearly any drug causes some general physical and behavioral signs. The signs and symptoms of drug abuse may become more prominent the longer a person abuses the substance.


General Signs that Someone is Using Drugs

Physical Signs of Drug Use

Drugs cause physical effects, of course, which is why people use them. Some of the primary effects of drugs include euphoria, and increased or decreased energy. Drugs also cause other effects, and these effects can cause physical signs, such as:

  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Dilated (large) or constricted (small) pupils
  • Abrupt weight changes
  • Behavioral symptoms


Behavioral Signs of Drug Addiction

Drug abuse changes the brain in ways that can affect behavior. This is because drugs change areas of the brain associated with behavior. Behavioral symptoms of drug abuse can include:

  • Changes in personality, such as going from outgoing to reclusive
  • Changes in habits, including staying out late at night
  • Increased irritability or aggression
  • Changes in personality or attitude, such as going from upbeat to depressed or quiet to overly loud
  • Lethargy, lack of energy
  • Depression
  • Sudden changes in a social network, usually towards drug-abusing friends
  • Dramatic changes in habits and/or personal and professional priorities
  • Financial problems from purchasing drugs, drug-related loss of work or drug-related legal problems
  • Involvement in criminal activity


Drug Addiction and Physical Dependence

Addiction and physical dependence are serious side effects of drug abuse. Addiction is a brain disorder that causes uncontrollable drug cravings and changes in behavior. Physical dependence is a condition where a person must use a certain amount of drugs every day for their bodies to feel “normal.” Many people who abuse drugs become addicted to them. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences.” This means that drug addiction is a long-term condition where a person seeks out and uses drugs, even though he or she knows the harmful effects drug use causes. Drug abuse and addiction signs and symptoms include:

  • Using drugs more than a person wants to
  • Continued use of drugs even though the person understands the negative consequences
  • Using stronger doses to achieve the same effects, a condition known as tolerance
  • Neglecting other activities and responsibilities
  • Engaging in risky behavior to get more drugs
  • Relationship problems
  • Secrecy, especially when it comes to getting, hiding and using drugs
  • Changing appearance, such as a decrease in personal hygiene, unclean clothes
  • Signs of withdrawal when the individual stops using drugs


Key Takeaways

  • Signs of drug abuse can vary, depending on the drug, dose, duration of abuse, and other factors
  • Different drugs produce different signs of abuse
  • Signs of drug abuse can develop and intensify over time
  • Learning the signs of drug abuse can help someone identify drug abuse in a friend
  • Knowing how to address drug abuse can help a friend seek out and complete treatment

Remember, different drugs can result in different abuse signs. For more information about a particular substance refer to its drug-specific page. We offer information about:


Substance Use Disorder Treatment at Granite Recovery Centers

Millions of people show signs of drug abuse, yet many do not get the rehabilitative treatment they need to overcome it. It’s true that the person with a substance use disorder must want to get well, but recognizing the signs of a drug problem can be a crucial first step. You can’t do it for your loved one, but you can start the conversation. Granite Recovery Centers can help you start that conversation. Contact us at (603)339-4160 or contact us online to find out how we can help you or a loved one find life and hope in sobriety. Whether you’re seeking information about our inpatient drug rehab program, or just need tips on the next steps. Our dedicated and knowledgeable staff are ready to help.


At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.