What are the signs and symptoms of drug addiction?

Drug addiction can result in a whole host of profoundly negative effects, including physical complications and long-term cognitive impairment. When drugs are consumed excessively, an individual typically develops a physical and psychological dependence on these substances, resulting in numerous problems that ultimately have a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing.

The symptoms that are associated with drug addictions can vary from person to person and also depend on a number of additional factors such as:

  • The type of drug that is being misused
  • The method by which you are consuming the drug
  • How long you have been dependent on the substance in question
  • How frequently you consume the drug
  • The amount of the drug you are taking

Understanding the many signs and symptoms that are associated with drug addiction can help you to identify when you or a loved one may have developed this serious condition, and take the next steps towards recovery.

At Manor Clinic, our expert treatment team are dedicated to providing specialist drug addiction treatment, therapy & support allowing our patients to tackle their drug addiction symptoms, overcome their dependence on these substances, and return to a healthy, happy and fulfilling life.

As well as consuming drugs on a regular basis, the following are also signs that you, or someone that you know, may be struggling with a harmful drug addiction.

Psychological symptoms of drug addiction:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Increased temper and irritability, leading to angry outbursts
  • Feeling nervous and ‘on edge’
  • Defensiveness
  • Paranoia
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Intense mood swings
  • Feeling tearful and emotionally drained
  • Memory problems
  • Poor judgement
  • Finding it hard to focus or concentrate
  • Finding that you need to take the drug in order to function on a daily basis
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Regularly taking the drug for stress relief; this can often be the trigger for many people who go on to become addicted to drugs
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or stress

Behavioural and social symptoms of drug addiction:

  • Continuing to take drugs even after experiencing negative repercussions from previous misuse
  • Spending a large amount of time acquiring and using drugs, and attempting to recover from their effects
  • Avoiding contact with family and friends, leading to social isolation
  • Finding that you only tend to spend time with other drug users
  • Prioritising drugs over other activities
  • Losing interest in activities, hobbies or events that were once important to you
  • Failing to meet personal responsibilities
  • Poor performance and/or attendance at work
  • Lying about your whereabouts, activities and drug use
  • Taking drugs even at times when it is clearly dangerous to do so e.g. when driving
  • Engaging in increasingly risky, reckless, or otherwise dangerous patterns of behaviour, when under the influence of drugs

Physical symptoms of drug addiction:

  • Experiencing an increased tolerance to the drug – finding that you need to take more and more of the drug in order to experience the desired effects
  • Experiencing bruises, scabs, scars, infections and other skin problems as a result of injecting drugs
  • Weight gain or loss due to increased or reduced appetite
  • Feeling clammy and sweating excessively in the absence of physical exertion
  • Headaches caused by dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Frequent nosebleeds as a result of snorting drugs
  • Lack of concern over physical appearance/personal hygiene
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia
  • Bloodshot eyes, or dilated/constricted pupils
  • Appearance of drug withdrawal symptoms if you haven’t consumed drugs for a certain amount of time

What are the long-term effects of drug addiction?

Without effective, professional treatment, drug addiction can result in a broad array of devastating long-term consequences. These may include:

  • Strained or ruined relationships
  • Family breakdowns
  • Job loss and chronic unemployment
  • Significant financial difficulties
  • Homelessness
  • Legal problems, including arrest and imprisonment
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviours

In addition, drug addiction is also linked to a whole host of physical health problems, some of which may even lead to death. The long-term physical health complications that are related to drug addiction include:

  • Liver damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Increased risk of developing numerous types of cancer
  • Respiratory problems
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • High blood pressure, stroke and other heart problems
  • Increased risk of catching HIV, hepatitis or other blood-borne diseases (as a result of injecting drugs using infected needles)
  • Ulcers
  • Gout
  • Pancreatitis
  • Weakened immune system
  • Problems in brain functioning
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Development of co-occurring mental health conditions

Signs of drug overdose

In addition to the above, repeatedly taking or administering drugs increases an individual’s risk of suffering from a drug overdose, which can be fatal. Signs that someone may have suffered from a drug overdose include:

  • Dilated or pinpoint pupils
  • Rapid heart rate and/or increased blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate and/or decreased blood pressure
  • Irregular breathing
  • Cold and/or clammy skin
  • Bluish colouration at edges of fingernails and/or lips
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Seizure
  • Coma

This page was reviewed by Sarina Wheatman (FDAP) in October 2021.

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