Warning Signs of Addiction: Recognizing Drug Abuse In Your Loved Ones

Addiction is a severe medical condition that involves the compulsive need to seek and use drugs, the inability to limit and control the drug use, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not used. It usually starts as recreational drug use but can escalate to addiction within no time. The person abusing drugs may not acknowledge and confess their problem of addiction; however, family and friends are the ones who can quickly notice the early warning signs of substance abuse in their loved ones.


Addiction and substance abuse, if left untreated, has a long-lasting influence on the brain and a detrimental impact on personal, social, academic, occupational, and other vital areas of functioning. Thus, if you suspect that your loved one is going through this condition, consider following signs and symptoms of addiction.


Warning signs of addiction

There are some clear and noticeable signs of addiction that are hard to miss. These signs can be roughly categorized into physiological and behavioral or psychological symptoms of addiction.


Physiological signs of addiction

Drug abuse can significantly change the appearance of the abusing person. Drug of abuse goes into the body and changes its chemistry of it. The change in the body can be visible in the person’s appearance. Following are some common physical signs of drug abuse.


• Bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, watery eyes. 

• Red face and flushed complexion, pale skin or acne

• Nose bleed

• Sniffling 

• Bad breath and dental issues

• Persistent itching in specific areas

• Slurred or distorted speech

• Uncoordinated movements 

• Shakes and tremors in the body

• Headache 

• Fever 

• Nausea and vomiting

• Diarrhea with bloody or tarry stool

• Disturbed appetite, person, eat too much or too little

• Disturbed sleeping pattern: A person is sleepy every time or is fully charged after a few hours of sleep.

• Exhaustion and lethargy 

• Sudden weight gain or weight loss

• Strange marks on the body 

• Poor personal hygiene

• Seizures


These are commonly observed physical signs of an addict. However, these signs may vary from person to person and depend on abuse’s drug as various physical symptoms accompany different drugs.


Behavioral signs of addiction

Along with the change in physical appearance, your loved one may behave and act like a totally different person. Addiction accompanies some observable changes in the behavior and personality of the person. 


• Mood swings

• Depression and irritability or euphoric and high mood 

• Is paranoid, fearful, and obsessive with specific things

• He lost interest in things he used to like.

• Change in daily routine and trouble to keep up with day-to-day tasks.

• Frequent conflicts with family, colleagues, and friends

• Drastic changes in the relationship 

• Distancing with old friends and making new like-minded friends

• Secretive behavior, hiding paraphernalia like bottles of alcohol, joints, pipes, etc. 

• Lying about their whereabouts, money spent, or social circle.

• Excessive money spent on the drug of abuse

• Inability to sleep and relax without drinking or doing drugs

• Deteriorated performance at school and declined grades

• Poor performance at work, always late to work, disinterest in work-related tasks, inability to manage tasks

• Inability to focus and pay attention

• He shows low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in his abilities.

• Poor decision making

• Making frequent promises to quit

• General hopelessness and apathy towards life

• Avoiding the conversation with family and friends with fear of confrontation 

• Being too aggressive and defensive when asked about drugs

• Stealing money and valuable possessions to fulfill the need for drugs

• Denying the problem despite clear signs and evidence


The behavioral symptoms can be tricky to identify. When the changes are gradual, we can easily overlook these behavioral changes and attribute the personality alteration to the situation and environment. Sometimes, we also experience denial and indulge in codependent and enabling behaviors.


Addiction is a medical condition that involves the central nervous system and depends on various factors, including genetic predisposition, environment and society, personality traits, and behavior patterns. This disorder can be challenging to deal with but is treatable.


It is also difficult to cope with the addiction of a loved one. So, it is essential to deal with their problem timely and maintain your own safety and well-being. Persuade your loved one to seek help. Encourage them to talk to a doctor. The doctor can suggest treatment options including detox, medication, therapy and counseling, and support groups like Alcohol Anonymous.  



Heartney, E. (2021). Addictive behaviors that may be problematic for friends and family. https://www.verywellmind.com/addicts-and-the-games-they-play-22427 

Urban, N. B., & Martinez, D. (2012). Neurobiology of addiction: insight from neurochemical imaging. Psychiatric Clinics, 35(2), 521-541. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2012.03.011 

Tyler, M. (2018). Recognizing an addiction problem. https://www.healthline.com/health/addiction/recognizing-addiction