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Signs & Symptoms of Addiction to Drugs or Alcohol – A 2023/2024 Guide to Assist in Your Search

Last Updated: May 2, 2023

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Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol may show signs and symptoms that can help identify when treatment may be necessary.

If someone you love struggles with drug or alcohol misuse, it’s natural to be concerned. Sometimes, it’s unclear whether someone is living with addiction or if another problem is causing their behavior changes. It’s helpful to be aware of the signs of addiction so you know when to intervene.

Common Signs of Addiction 

While addiction symptoms can differ by person, depending on their unique circumstances and the substance they are using, some common signs point toward addiction. Some are physical, whereas others reflect changes in behavior or emotions.

Physical Signs of Addiction

Drugs and alcohol can take a toll on the body, leading to some or all of the following physical symptoms of addiction:

  • Changes to the eyes, which can include bloodshot eyes or abnormally sized pupils
  • Noticeable weight loss or weight gain that occurs suddenly
  • Strange odors on the body or clothing
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors/shakiness
  • Declining physical appearance, which may include poor hygiene or appearing unwell

Behavioral Signs of Addiction

A person showing signs of drug addiction will likely have some behavioral changes, including:

  • Getting into fights
  • Skipping school or work or starting to perform poorly
  • Appearing extremely agitated or hyper
  • Changes in appetite, such as not eating
  • Abnormal sleep schedule, which might include staying up for days on end or often sleeping during the day
  • Loss of motivation 
  • Showing sudden personality changes
  • Behaving in a secretive manner 
  • Getting into legal trouble, for instance, being arrested or spending time in jail 
  • Financial problems, which may include desperate attempts to obtain money

Emotional Signs of Addiction

When addiction takes hold, it’s also common to notice changes in a person’s emotions, such as:

  • Outbursts of anger
  • Extreme irritability
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Paranoid behavior, such as questioning the motives of others
  • Noticeable anxiety or fear with no logical trigger

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Signs of Alcohol Addiction

A person with an alcohol addiction may show telltale signs, such as strong alcohol cravings or drinking first thing in the morning to avoid withdrawal symptoms. They may also drink such large quantities of alcohol that they black out. Legal problems are also common due to dangerous behavior like driving under the influence. A person with an alcohol addiction may also drink alone because they are not drinking to socialize but due to the compulsion to consume alcohol. 

Signs of Cannabis Addiction

People with an addiction to cannabis or marijuana may show frequent signs of intoxication, including problems with thinking and memory and mood changes. Long-term use can lead to breathing problems, including cough and lung infection from smoking. Heavy, chronic marijuana users may show signs of delusions, which are false, sometimes bizarre, beliefs or hallucinations. These can be perceptions that are not actually present, such as hearing voices or sounds that aren’t there. 

Signs of Heroin Addiction

Heroin is highly addictive and comes with numerous health risks. People addicted to heroin may experience poor mental functioning, clouded thinking and flushed skin while under the influence. It is also common for heroin users to go “on the nod,” which describes a state of alternating back and forth between wakefulness and unconsciousness. 

Over the long term, people addicted to heroin will likely show several addiction symptoms and side effects, such as:

  • Sleep problems
  • Skin abscesses (if injecting) 
  • Constipation
  • Mental health conditions like depression
  • Collapsed veins from frequent injecting 
  • Liver, kidney and lung problems

Signs of Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription medications used primarily to treat anxiety and insomnia, but some people may misuse these drugs. People with a benzodiazepine addiction may show signs including

  • Frequent drowsiness
  • Dizziness 
  • Problems with concentration
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion 
  • Memory problems
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Trouble breathing

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

As a highly addictive stimulant, cocaine comes with some specific signs and symptoms of addiction. People under the influence of cocaine often show high levels of energy, alertness, elation and hypersensitivity to noises, touch and sights. High doses of cocaine can lead to irritability and paranoia, and some people may become violent or show bizarre behavior when under the influence. 

Other signs of cocaine use include: 

  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Dilated pupils
  • High body temperature

With long-term use, people risk infections and collapsed veins from injecting the drug, or nose bleeds and frequent runny noses from snorting. In addition, smoking cocaine can lead to respiratory infections, pneumonia and chronic cough.

Signs of Opioid Addiction

Prescription opioids are used for pain management but are addictive and may be misused by some people. These medications have a relaxing effect and can make people feel high. People misusing opioids may appear especially happy. Other signs of opioid use and addiction include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing

Opioid overdoses are potentially fatal because these drugs can cause a person to stop breathing. Some people may progress from prescription opioids to heroin because the two substances are chemically similar, but heroin is often easier to obtain. 

Signs of Methamphetamine Addiction

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug, and people addicted to it may go on days-long drug binges, giving up food and sleep to use the drug repeatedly. While under the influence of methamphetamine, users may experience the following: 

  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased wakefulness
  • Higher activity levels
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Fast breathing 
  • Increased heart rate

People under the influence of methamphetamine may also show paranoid or violent behavior and can develop hallucinations, causing them to see or perceive sensations that aren’t present.

Long-term methamphetamine use has numerous health-related consequences, including weight loss, tooth decay, skin lesions from scratching and picking, extreme anxiety, problems with learning and memory and an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. 

If you or someone you love is showing symptoms of addiction to drugs or alcohol, The Recovery Village Columbus can help. We’re located just outside Ohio’s capital city, with a full continuum of treatment offerings, including medical detox, inpatient rehab, medication-assisted treatment and outpatient rehab options. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to learn more or begin the admissions process. 


Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.