Recognizing the Signs of Addiction

It’s possible that you’ve already noticed a loved one using drugs or alcohol, but you’re still unsure if they’re overusing. How can you begin recognizing the signs of addiction? Look for a noticeable change in behavior or a sharp change in how your family interacts with each other/the loved one in question may have already occurred – something definitely feels off but you can’t quite pinpoint it yet. Unfortunately, many times these scenarios mean that someone in your life has an addiction, and the more information you have about their routines and changes in attitude, the more likely you are to recognize the signs of addiction:

Behavioral Changes

  • Has changed relationships with family members or friends
  • Uses chewing gum or mints to cover up breath
  • Often uses over-the-counter preparations to reduce eye reddening or nasal irritation
  • Frequently breaks curfew
  • Has money problems
  • Drives recklessly, and has car accidents or unexplained dents in the car
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Locks doors
  • Goes out every night
  • Makes secretive phone calls
  • Makes endless excuses
  • Has the “munchies” or sudden appetite
  • Exhibits uncharacteristically loud, obnoxious behavior
  • Laughs at nothing
  • Has become unusually clumsy: stumbling, lacking coordination, poor balance
  • Disappears for long periods of time
  • Has periods of sleeplessness or high energy, followed by long periods of “catch up” sleep

Health Issues

  • Unusually tired
  • Lethargic movement
  • Unable to speak intelligibly, slurred speech, or rapid-fire speech
  • Nosebleeds
  • Runny nose, not caused by allergies or a cold
  • Frequent sickness
  • Sores, spots around mouth
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Wetting lips or excessive thirst (known as “cotton mouth”)
  • Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Skin abrasions/bruises
  • Accidents or injuries
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Sweatiness

Mood & Personality Shifts

  • Exhibits mood changes or emotional instability
  • Sullen, withdrawn, depressed
  • Shows loss of inhibitions
  • Silent, uncommunicative
  • Hostile, angry, uncooperative
  • Deceitful or secretive
  • Less motivated
  • Unable to focus
  • Hyperactive
  • Unusually elated

Hygiene & Appearance Changes

  • Smell of smoke or other unusual smells on breath or on clothes
  • Messy appearance
  • Poor hygiene
  • Red, flushed cheeks or face
  • Track marks on arms or legs (or long sleeves in warm weather to hide marks)
  • Burns or soot on fingers or lips (from “joints” or “roaches” burning down)

School and Work Concerns

  • Absenteeism or loss of interest
  • Loss of interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies or sports
  • Failure to fulfill responsibilities at school or work
  • Complaints from teachers or supervisors
  • Reports of intoxication at school or work

 

At Home and in the Car

  • Disappearance of prescription or over-the-counter pills
  • Missing alcohol or cigarettes
  • Disappearance of money or valuables
  • Receiving unusual packages in the mail
  • Smell in the car or bottles, pipes or bongs on floor or in glove box
  • Appearance of unusual containers or wrappers, or seeds left on surfaces used to clean marijuana
  • Appearance of unusual drug apparatuses, including pipes, rolling papers, small medicine bottles, eye drops, butane lighters, or makeshift smoking devices, like bongs made out of toilet paper rolls and aluminum foil
  • Hidden stashes of alcohol or drugs

Recognizing the signs of addiction can help you or a loved one start the first step towards recovery. We urge you to not self-diagnose based on the list above. If you are concerned about an addiction problem, please seek help from a professional.