Drug Addiction Signs, Symptoms, & Effects

Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of addiction is a critical first step in getting help for yourself or a loved one. Bradford Recovery Center, located in Millerton, Pennsylvania, is Northern Pennsylvania’s leading addiction treatment center, providing personalized programming for adults age 18 and over who are struggling with an addiction.

Understanding Addiction

Learn about addiction

It is not uncommon for those suffering from a mental health disorder to also struggle with an addiction. Sometimes, addictions precede symptoms of a mental health disorder; other times, some people who struggle with a mental illness use substances to try to cope with their pain. Unfortunately, frequent use of drugs or alcohol can lead to an addiction.

Addiction is a result of repeated use of a substance. The more you use a substance, the quicker you will build a tolerance to it, which means that it takes more of that substance to achieve the desired physiological or psychological effects. As a tolerance is built, you will find that it is harder to control how much and how often you use that substance. Soon, you become addicted to its effects. Someone who struggles with an addiction may feel as if they need the substance to make it through the day. Furthermore, stopping use of that substance may bring an individual painful and difficult withdrawal symptoms.

The onset of symptoms of an addiction are often the first indicator of your need for professional help, as symptoms can quickly become unmanageable. Failing to address an addiction can lead to potentially devastating consequences. Addictions can be life-altering, as they can impact you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Seeking professional help for an addiction is the best way to manage those symptoms. Those who seek care for an addiction face a greater chance of ceasing use of the substance altogether.

Signs & Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of addiction

Certain signs and symptoms accompany addiction. These signs and symptoms may be behavioral, physical, or emotional, and their onset can help you determine if you or a loved one struggles with substance use or a chemical dependency. Different addictive substances will result in different symptoms. The following list can serve as a general guideline of signs to look out for if you think you or a loved one may be struggling with an addiction:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Continually using the substance despite its harmful effects on you or those you love
  • Using the substance to deal with stressful circumstances or painful emotions
  • Spending your money on the preferred substance
  • Using the substance even in dangerous circumstances, such as while driving or when around children
  • Feeling like you need the substance to make it through the day
  • Neglecting personal responsibilities in favor of using the substance (e.g., using grocery money to buy the substance)
  • Failure to do basic self-care tasks (e.g., bathing, grooming, etc.)
  • Losing interest in hobbies you once loved
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Trying to stop using the substance but being unable to do so

Physical symptoms:

  • Twitches or tremors
  • Itchiness
  • Elevated or slowed heart rate
  • Slurred speech
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • Excessive talkativeness
  • Increase or decrease in energy levels
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Impaired coordination
  • Sexual dysfunction

Mental symptoms:

  • Habitually thinking about the substance
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to focus
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Drastic changes in self-confidence
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia

Short-Term Effects

Possible short-term effects of addiction

Failure to address an addiction can lead to a variety of short- and long-term effects. The effects of an addiction range in severity and can vary depending on the substance. If you notice any of the following short-term effects of addiction in your life or that of a loved one’s, please seek immediate professional care:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and extracurricular activities
  • Poor performance at work
  • Job loss
  • Onset of symptoms of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Strained relationships with friends, family members, coworkers, and/or romantic partners
  • Social withdrawal
  • Physical injury due to reckless decisions while under the influence of a substance
  • Self-harm
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Overdose

Please note that just because the above effects are considered short-term, it does not mean that they are temporary or unworthy of attention. Oftentimes, the onset of any short-term effects of addiction is a cue to pursue professional help.

Long-Term Effects

Potential long-term effects of addiction

If an addiction continues to remain untreated, it can lead to more long-term, or chronic, effects. The longer a person delays professional help, the worse these long-term effects can get. Long-term effects of addiction are serious and may pose a life-threatening risk to the individual. The following are some of the long-term effects of addiction:

  • Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, and other blood-borne diseases
  • Cancer
  • Organ damage
  • Ruined relationships
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Social isolation
  • Homelessness
  • Arrest or incarceration
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Worsening of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Overdose

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above long-term effects of addiction, please seek immediate professional care.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have an addiction

A co-occurring disorder is a clinical term referring to more than one disorder occurring at the same time. If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction, you may be at risk for developing symptoms of a co-occurring mental health disorder. It is also not uncommon for those who have a pre-existing mental health disorder to develop an addiction to substances. Common co-occurring mental health conditions for those suffering from an addiction include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder

I was resistant to go to treatment. I never thought it could change my life the way it did. The staff, the groups, the people, everything about this place has changed my life for the better. For anyone on the fence about getting help, please take Bradford into consideration - it really saved my life in more ways than one.

– Lauren E.
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