How to Know the Symptoms of an Addiction (2022)

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a complex, chronic brain condition influenced by genes and the environment that is characterized by substance use or compulsive actions that continue despite harmful consequences.

For a long time, addiction meant an uncontrollable habit of using alcohol or other drugs. More recently, the concept of addiction has expanded to include behaviors, such as gambling, as well as substances, and even ordinary and necessary activities, such as exercise and eating.

Why Addiction Is a Chronic Brain Disease

Types

While addiction to substances has often appeared clear-cut, there's some controversy about what substances are truly addictive. Current guidelines in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the diagnostic tool used to diagnose different types of mental health conditions, indicate that most psychoactive substances, including medications, have the potential to be addictive.

Addictions vs. Substance Use Disorders

The term addiction is used to describe compulsive drug-seeking behaviors that continue in spite of negative outcomes, but it is important to note that addiction is not considered an official diagnosis in the DSM-5.

Rather than using the term "addiction," the DSM-5 classifies substance use disorders. While the diagnostic criteria vary for each type, the DSM-5 describes these disorders as a problematic pattern of use of intoxicating substances that leads to significant impairment and distress. These symptoms can result in impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and tolerance/withdrawal.

While these conditions might be informally referred to as addictions, your doctor will officially diagnose you with some form of substance use disorder or one of the two behavioral addiction disorders that are officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Substance Use Disorders

There are different substance use disorders found in the DSM-5:

  • Alcohol-related disorders
  • Caffeine-related disorders
  • Cannabis-related disorders
  • Hallucinogen-related disorders
  • Opioid-related disorders
  • Sedative-, hypnotic-, or anxiolytic-related disorders
  • Stimulant-related disorders
  • Tobacco-related disorders

Behavioral Addictions

The DSM-5 also recognizes two types of behavioral addiction:

  • Gambling addiction
  • Internet gaming disorder

There is still much debate about whether many behavioral addictions are “true” addictions. More research is needed to clarify this issue. While shopping addiction, sex addiction, and exercise addiction are often noted as behavioral addictions, the DSM-5 does not officially recognize these as distinct disorders.

Why Some Disorders Are Not Found in the DSM-5

Symptoms

The signs and symptoms vary from one addiction type to another, but some common symptoms of addiction include:

  • An inability to stop
  • Changes in mood, appetite, and sleep
  • Continuing despite negative consequences
  • Denial
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Feeling preoccupied with the substance or behavior
  • Legal and financial problems
  • Losing interest in other things you used to enjoy
  • Putting the substance or behavior ahead of other parts of life including family, work, and other responsibilities
  • Secrecy
  • Using increasingly larger amounts of a substance
  • Taking more of the substance than you intended
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Defining Features of Addiction

Two aspects that all addictions have in common:

  • The addictive behavior is maladaptive. The behavior causes problems for the individual or those around them. So instead of helping the person cope with situations or overcome problems, it tends to undermine these abilities.
  • The behavior is persistent. When people are addicted, they will continue to engage in the addictive behavior despite the trouble it causes. So an occasional weekend of self-indulgence is not an addiction, although it may cause different kinds of problems. Addiction is characterized by frequent engagement in the behavior.

The Side Effects and Dangers of Poppers

(Video) How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Drug and Alcohol Addiction | Genesis HealthCare

Addiction vs. Dependence

It is important to distinguish between dependence and addiction. When people become dependent on a substance, it means that they experience drug tolerance and drug withdrawal:

  • Tolerance means that the body has adapted to the presence of the drug so that it takes more of the drug to produce the same effects.
  • Withdrawal occurs when people experience certain physical and psychological symptoms if the use of the substance is suddenly decreased or halted.

A person can become dependent on a drug without being addicted, although the two often occur together. Addiction occurs when people continue to compulsively use a drug despite harmful consequences.

Diagnosis

Addiction diagnosis usually requires recognizing that there is a problem and seeking help. Substance use is not always an indication of addiction, although drug use carries numerous health and social risks in addition to the risk of addiction.

Once a person has decided that they have a problem and need help, the next step is an examination by a healthcare professional. This involves questions about behaviors or substance use, an examination to assess overall health, and the development of a treatment plan that works best for the individual's specific addiction.

The exact diagnosis a person receives will depend on the nature of their addiction. Commonly misused substances that can lead to addiction include:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • Marijuana
  • MDMA and other club drugs
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opioids
  • Prescription drugs
  • Steroids
  • Tobacco/nicotine

Because some substances have the potential to cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, it is important to receive an appropriate diagnosis in order to get the best treatment.

DSM 5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorders

If You Think You Might Have an Addiction

It is common, if not normal, to go through a stage of engaging in substance use or an addictive behavior without believing you are addicted. This is so common, in fact, that it has a name, the pre-contemplation stage.

If you are starting to think you might have an addiction, you have probably moved into the contemplation stage. This is a great time to find out more about the substance or behavior that you have been engaging in and to reflect honestly on whether you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of addiction.

Many people then decide to make changes. For some people, this is easy and manageable. For many others, quitting can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, even with behaviors, and can open up uncomfortable feelings that were being soothed or suppressed by the addictive behavior.

If this happens, or if you have been drinking or using drugs, such as opioids—illicit or prescribed, other prescription medications, stimulants, cocaine, or meth—you should seek medical help immediately.

Stopping some drugs then relapsing can heighten your risk of overdose, mental health problems, or other life-threatening medical complications, and should be done under medical supervision.

The Stages of Overcoming an Addiction

(Video) Drug Addiction: Recognizing the Warning Signs

Causes

Substances and behaviors can create a physical and psychological high. Over time, people develop a tolerance, meaning it takes more of something to achieve those same initial effects. Some of the factors that can contribute to addiction include:

  • The brain: Addiction leads to changes in the brain's reward circuits over time.
  • Family history: You may be more likely to become addicted if you have family members who also have addictions.
  • Genetics: Research suggests that genetics increases the likelihood of developing an addiction
  • Environment: Exposure to addictive substances, social pressure, lack of social support, and poor coping skills can also contribute to the development of addictions.
  • Frequency and duration of use: The more someone uses a substance the more likely they will become addicted to it.

Addictions take time to develop. It is unlikely that a person will become addicted after using a substance once, although it is possible to develop a mental health problem or to die of an overdose or another complication after one use of some substances.

Treatment

Addiction is treatable, but not all routes to recovery are the same. Relapses are not uncommon, so the journey may take time. Some of the common treatment approaches that may be used include:

  • Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be used to address thought and behavior patterns that contribute to addictions. Other therapies that might be used including contingency management, family therapy, and group therapy.
  • Medications: This may include medications to help treat craving and withdrawal symptoms as well as other drugs to treat underlying mental disorders such as anxiety or depression. Medications that may be prescribed include methadone, buprenorphine, nicotine replacement therapies, and naltrexone.
  • Hospitalization: In some cases, people may need to be hospitalized in order to treat potentially serious complications while they detox from a substance.
  • Support groups and self-help: In-person and online support groups can be a great resource for education and social support as people learn new ways to cope during recovery.

Although there are some schools of thought that stress the need for complete abstinence, many people are able to learn to control addictive behaviors, such as drinking, eating, shopping, and sex. The approach that will be best for you depends on many factors and is best decided in collaboration with your doctor or therapist.

Coping

In addition to getting appropriate treatment, there are things that you can do that will make it easier to cope and aid in your recovery.

  • Recognize the signs. Often people’s addictions become ingrained in their lifestyle, to the point where they never or rarely feel withdrawal symptoms. Or they may not recognize their withdrawal symptoms for what they are, putting them down to aging, working too hard, or just not liking mornings. People can go for years without realizing how dependent they are on their addiction.
  • Learn about addiction. Remember help is always available. Educating yourself is a good start. You can greatly reduce the amount of harm to yourself and those around you, and maybe one day, you will be ready to change for good.
  • Develop coping skills. The harm caused by addiction is particularly difficult to recognize when addiction is the person’s main way of coping with other problems. Sometimes other problems are directly related to the addiction, such as health problems, and sometimes they are indirectly related to the addiction, for example, relationship problems. Developing new coping skills can help you handle life's stresses without relying on substances or behaviors.
  • Get support. Social support from friends and family is important. Joining a support group can be a great way to connect with people with shared experiences.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

A Word From Verywell

Many people fear the term addiction and believe it is an indication of failure or worthlessness. People with addictions often carry stigma about their behavior, leading to shame and fear of seeking help. The world is changing, and you may find that getting help for your addiction is the best thing you ever do for yourself. In the meantime, we hope that educating yourself will help on your journey to wellness.

How to Overcome an Addiction

8 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. American Society of Addiction Medicine. Definition of addiction.

  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. The science of drug use and addiction: the basics..

  3. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition), Washington DC, American Psychiatric Association. 2013.

  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Is there a difference between physical dependence and addiction?.

  5. Cleveland Clinic. Addictions: An overview.

  6. Ducci F, Goldman D. The genetic basis of addictive disorders.Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2012;35(2):495‐519. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2012.03.010

  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction - Treatment and Recovery.

  8. Hilton TF, Pilkonis PA. The key to individualized addiction treatment is comprehensive assessment and monitoring of symptoms and behavioral change.Behav Sci (Basel). 2015;5(4):477‐495. Published 2015 Oct 30. doi:10.3390/bs5040477

(Video) Meth Addiction Signs & Symptoms: How to Tell if a Loved One is Struggling

How to Know the Symptoms of an Addiction (1)

By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.

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(Video) 7 FACTS ABOUT ADDICTION - XANAX

FAQs

How do you know if you suffer from addiction? ›

General signs of addiction are: lack of control, or inability to stay away from a substance or behavior. decreased socialization, like abandoning commitments or ignoring relationships. ignoring risk factors, like sharing needles despite potential consequences.

What are the 6 signs of addiction? ›

What are three warning signs of addiction? ›

Physical warning signs include:

Pupils that are unusually large or small. Poor hygiene – Often, drug addicts will lose their interest in or ability to engage in daily activities, such as showering. Frequent runny noses or nosebleeds. Extreme fatigue or hyperactivity.

What drug makes you talkative? ›

Amphetamines can make people: alert, confident and energetic. talkative, restless and excited.

How do I stop being addicted? ›

10 Ways ANYONE Can Stop Addiction Now
  1. Admit There Is A Problem. The hardest part to recovery is admitting you have an addiction. ...
  2. Reflect On Your Addiction. ...
  3. Seek Professional Support. ...
  4. Appreciate The Benefits of Sobriety. ...
  5. Identify Your Triggers. ...
  6. Change Your Environment. ...
  7. Exercise. ...
  8. Accept The Past.

What are 5 effects of drug abuse? ›

Side effects of drug addiction may include:

Nausea and abdominal pain, which can also lead to changes in appetite and weight loss. Increased strain on the liver, which puts the person at risk of significant liver damage or liver failure. Seizures, stroke, mental confusion and brain damage. Lung disease.

What are the effects of addiction? ›

People with addiction often have one or more associated health issues, which could include lung or heart disease, stroke, cancer, or mental health conditions. Imaging scans, chest X-rays, and blood tests can show the damaging effects of long-term drug use throughout the body.

What is the five symptoms of drug abuse? ›

Interrupted sleep patterns: Common signs of substance abuse include insomnia (difficulty sleeping at night) or hypersomnia (sleeping for too long). Change in complexion: Repeated drug use can lead to acne, paleness and jaundice. There may also be scabs, scars, bruises and track marks on the body.

What is the symbol for addiction? ›

Whether you are in recovery from addiction, or you have a loved one battling addiction (or that has succumbed to the disease) a universal symbol for addiction awareness arrives in the form of a teal ribbon.

How does the brain get addicted? ›

Instead of a simple, pleasurable surge of dopamine, many drugs of abuse—such as opioids, cocaine, or nicotine—cause dopamine to flood the reward pathway, 10 times more than a natural reward. The brain remembers this surge and associates it with the addictive substance.

What are the parts of addiction? ›

The Stages of Addiction
  • Initial use.
  • Abuse.
  • Tolerance.
  • Dependence.
  • Addiction.
  • Relapse.
9 Sept 2022

What are the biggest warning signs for addicts? ›

Physical warning signs of drug abuse
  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual.
  • Changes in appetite, sleep patterns, physical appearance.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing, or impaired coordination.

What are the early stages of addiction? ›

These seven stages are:
  • Initiation.
  • Experimentation.
  • Regular Usage.
  • Risky Usage.
  • Dependence.
  • Addiction.
  • Crisis/Treatment.

What are some of the warning signs of addiction and related Behaviours in general? ›

1 Each person's experience of addiction is slightly different, but there are generally some common symptoms to watch out for, including behavior changes like lying, extreme changes in mood, and changing social groups, as well as physical symptoms like changes in weight, sleep, and energy levels.

What drugs make you angry? ›

Specific drugs associated with aggression include alcohol, anabolic steroids, cocaine, amphetamines, sedatives, opiates, and hallucinogens. Aggression can be categorized into impulsive and predatory aggression. Drugs under certain conditions cause impulsive aggression.

What drug makes you lick your lips? ›

Cocaine/Crack/Methamphetamines/Stimulants:

Dry mouth and nose, bad breath, frequent lip licking.

What is crack dancing? ›

Choreoathetoid movement secondary to cocaine use is a well-documented phenomenon better known as “crack dancing.” It consists of uncontrolled writhing movements secondary to excess dopamine from cocaine use.

What are 5 ways to prevent addiction? ›

Here are the top five ways to prevent substance abuse:
  1. Understand how substance abuse develops. ...
  2. Avoid Temptation and Peer Pressure. ...
  3. Seek help for mental illness. ...
  4. Examine the risk factors. ...
  5. Keep a well-balanced life.
7 Jul 2021

How do you deal with urges? ›

When you get an urge, quickly substitute a thought or activity that's more beneficial or fun. Take a walk or any other form of exercise. Pick up something new to read or turn on something to listen to. The possibilities to substitute (and lessen the craving more quickly) are endless.

How can God help me overcome addiction? ›

Reading the Bible and praying each morning helps you build a routine based on joy and positivity. You can repent and ask for His forgiveness, and you can find solace in praying for others. When you feel temptation creeping up on you, you can ask God to give you the strength to stay sober.

How do drugs affect personality? ›

Addiction often leads to risky or unethical behavior. As noted above, studies have found that prolonged substance use impairs your prefrontal cortex, which is involved with planning, attention, emotional regulation, and self-control. It's also involved with foresight.

How drug affect the brain? ›

Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters. Some drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, can activate neurons because their chemical structure mimics that of a natural neurotransmitter in the body. This allows the drugs to attach onto and activate the neurons.

How does drug addiction affect you mentally? ›

If you or someone you care about is chronically using drugs or alcohol it can lead to changes in the brain, which can lead to mental health issues including paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression, hallucinations, and other problems.

What does psychology say about addiction? ›

Psychology Today makes it quite simple: When individuals engage in an activity that is pleasurable but cannot stop doing it, even to the detriment of everyday living (such as work, hobbies, family time, finances, etc.), and health and wellbeing suffer as a result, this behavior would be considered an addiction.

What are 4 consequences of drug abuse? ›

Young people who persistently abuse substances often experience an array of problems, including academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health), poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system.

How do you deal with a person who uses drugs? ›

7 Tips for Helping Someone with an Addiction
  1. Tip #1: Educate Yourself. Get information about addictions. ...
  2. Tip #2: Get Support. ...
  3. Tip #3: Get Counseling. ...
  4. Tip #4: Seek Specialty Help. ...
  5. Tip #5: Don't Enable. ...
  6. Tip #6: Have Realistic Expectations. ...
  7. Tip #7: Take Care of Yourself.
4 Sept 2013

What are the 4 categories for drugs? ›

DREs classify drugs in one of seven categories: central nervous system (CNS) depressants, CNS stimulants, hallucinogens, dissociative anesthetics, narcotic analgesics, inhalants, and cannabis.

Do drugs make you break out? ›

Acne is a common condition, but some types of acne are caused by medications. Corticosteroids, testosterone, and lithium are a few examples of common culprits. If you think you're experiencing drug-induced acne, let your healthcare provider know.

What are the effects of addiction? ›

People with addiction often have one or more associated health issues, which could include lung or heart disease, stroke, cancer, or mental health conditions. Imaging scans, chest X-rays, and blood tests can show the damaging effects of long-term drug use throughout the body.

What is the five symptoms of drug abuse? ›

Interrupted sleep patterns: Common signs of substance abuse include insomnia (difficulty sleeping at night) or hypersomnia (sleeping for too long). Change in complexion: Repeated drug use can lead to acne, paleness and jaundice. There may also be scabs, scars, bruises and track marks on the body.

How does addiction affect the brain? ›

In a person who becomes addicted, brain receptors become overwhelmed. The brain responds by producing less dopamine or eliminating dopamine receptors—an adaptation similar to turning the volume down on a loudspeaker when noise becomes too loud.

What is the condition of being addicted called? ›

Addiction is “fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.” For example, a person who drinks alcohol heavily on a night out may experience both the euphoric and harmful effects of the substance.

What causes a person to become addicted? ›

Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect a person's likelihood of drug use and addiction. Development. Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person's life to affect addiction risk.

What is the leading cause of addiction? ›

The most common roots of addiction are chronic stress, a history of trauma, mental illness and a family history of addiction. Understanding how these can lead to chronic substance abuse and addiction will help you reduce your risk of becoming addicted.

How do drugs affect personality? ›

Addiction often leads to risky or unethical behavior. As noted above, studies have found that prolonged substance use impairs your prefrontal cortex, which is involved with planning, attention, emotional regulation, and self-control. It's also involved with foresight.

How do you deal with a person who uses drugs? ›

7 Tips for Helping Someone with an Addiction
  1. Tip #1: Educate Yourself. Get information about addictions. ...
  2. Tip #2: Get Support. ...
  3. Tip #3: Get Counseling. ...
  4. Tip #4: Seek Specialty Help. ...
  5. Tip #5: Don't Enable. ...
  6. Tip #6: Have Realistic Expectations. ...
  7. Tip #7: Take Care of Yourself.
4 Sept 2013

What are the 4 categories for drugs? ›

DREs classify drugs in one of seven categories: central nervous system (CNS) depressants, CNS stimulants, hallucinogens, dissociative anesthetics, narcotic analgesics, inhalants, and cannabis.

Do drugs make you break out? ›

Acne is a common condition, but some types of acne are caused by medications. Corticosteroids, testosterone, and lithium are a few examples of common culprits. If you think you're experiencing drug-induced acne, let your healthcare provider know.

Which drugs can cause brain damage? ›

  • ALCOHOL.
  • 10 Dangerous Drugs:
  • That attack your Brain and. Body.
  • AMPHETAMINES.
  • BARBITURATES.
  • COCAINE.
  • HALLUCINOGENS.
  • HEROIN.

How does the brain recover from addiction? ›

Our brains have an incredible ability to adapt and repair – even after prolonged AOD use and addiction. The brain continues to build brain cells and neural pathways throughout our life, and its ability to adapt and change – called neuroplasticity – allows it to modify, grow and reorganise itself after addiction.

What releases the most dopamine? ›

Getting enough sleep, exercising, listening to music, meditating, and spending time in the sun can all boost dopamine levels. Overall, a balanced diet and lifestyle can go a long way in increasing your body's natural production of dopamine and helping your brain function at its best.

What is a general characteristic of addictive behavior? ›

be unable to stop consuming a substance or end a specific behavior. display a lack of control concerning the substance, thing, or behavior they are addicted to. experience increased desires for the specific substance, thing, or behavior. deny that their addictive behavior may be causing negative consequences.

What does the Bible say about addictions? ›

Thessalonians5:6-8. “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”

Videos

1. Signs You Could Be a Sex Addict
(Katie Couric)
2. Signs And Symptoms Of Drug Addiction (A guide for families) 2020
(Put The Shovel Down)
3. 6 Signs of Drug Abuse & Addiction | Addictions
(Howcast)
4. What Causes Sex Addiction?
(Psych Hub)
5. What is Sex Addiction?
(Psych Hub)
6. How to Identify Signs of Youth Vaping and Nicotine Addiction
(U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

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