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Identifying Behavioral Signs of Drug Addiction

addiction sign

Drug addiction, known clinically as substance use disorder (SUD), is a chronic but treatable disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking behavior that occurs despite negative consequences. Addiction is both a “complex brain disorder and a mental illness,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Addictive behavior can happen with illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine, with prescription drugs like Oxycontin or Valium or with marijuana, a drug classified as legal in some states.

Do You Have a Drug Addiction?

According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of drug addiction often include some or all of the following:

Intense urges and need for higher doses

  • focusing on your need for the drug above all else
  • needing increasingly higher doses to get the desired effect
  • taking a greater dose than you intended
  • using once or more often every day
  • trying but failing to stop drug use

Financial signs

  • spending money you can’t afford to spend on drugs
  • asking to borrow money
  • stealing money
  • neglecting to pay bills

Failing to meet personal and professional obligations

  • missing work or school
  • a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • feeling lethargic and unmotivated

Withdrawal symptoms when not using

While withdrawal symptoms vary in severity, common symptoms include:

  • sweating
  • chills
  • headache
  • nausea or other gastrointestinal problems
  • insomnia
  • extreme fatigue
  • rapid heart rate
  • anxiety
  • depression

Note: You should always talk to your doctor before discontinuing prescription or illegal drugs. In case of moderate to severe SUD, stopping the use of drugs should always be done under medical supervision.

The National Institutes of Health provides a summary of the criteria used to diagnose SUD.

Recognizing Problem Drug Use in Others

While anyone can be moody and uncommunicative from time to time, these are warning signs they could be using drugs. Indications your loved one has a drug problem may include:

Problems at school

  • Frequently absent
  • Declining grades
  • Lack of interest in schoolwork or school activities
  • Spending time with new group of friends.

Problems at work

  • Frequently missing work
  • Declining performance
  • Disciplinary actions

Physical health issues

  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Red or bloodshot eyes
  • Appearing tired and run down

Neglected appearance

  • Wearing dirty or wrinkled clothing
  • Poor hygiene
  • Lack of grooming
  • Other changes in appearance

Changes in behavior

  • Noticeable changes in relationships with family and friends
  • Engaging in risky behavior like driving while under the influence of drugs
  • Failing to acknowledge the negative consequences of their drug use

Money issues

  • Asking to borrow money
  • Valuable items missing from home

In the case of teens

  • Not wanting family in their bedroom
  • Being secretive about where and with whom they’re spending their time

SUD is a chronic but treatable disorder. If you think you or a loved one has a drug problem, reach out for help. Contact your physician, an addiction specialist, or consult one of the resource links listed below.

NIDA: Finding treatment for drug use disorders

SAMHSA: Virtual Recovery Resources

Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987.

Turning Point of Tampa Addiction Treatment Tampa Florida

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