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The Physical, Behavioral, and Emotional Signs of Addiction: What to Look Out for

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Signs of AddictionSometimes the warning signs of addiction can be quite subtle and not easy at all to identify. You may not recognize the red flags, even if they are right in front of you. That’s why it’s important to know what to look out for.

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Short-term Physical Signs of Addiction

The following are some standard physical indicators of substance use:

  • Severe weight changes
  • Tremors or shaking hands, feet, or head
  • Runny nose
  • Flushed face and blushing
  • Unusual body smells
  • Excessive talking and hyperactivity
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Pupils that are larger or smaller than usual
  • Presence of needle marks on the arm, legs, or feet
  • Tooth decay
  • Slowed or unsteady coordination

Keep in mind that these symptoms alone don’t necessarily indicate that your loved one is using drugs. They could be part of another medical or psychiatric condition. But if they persist (or worsen), it could indicate a problem and a reason to talk to your loved one about potential addiction.

Behavioral and Emotional Signs of Addiction

Substance use can dramatically impact someone’s mood, which can disrupt how they function on a daily basis. Below are some signs to look out for:

  • Sudden changes in friendships
  • Declining performance at work or school
  • Severe mood swings
  • Paranoid thinking
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal from usual activities or hobbies or activities or hobbies they once enjoyed
  • Sudden financial problems or a need for money
  • Unexplained legal issues
  • Secretive behavior
  • Aggression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Self-Assessment: Am I Addicted?

Long-Term Signs of Addiction

The longer someone struggles with addiction, the more likely they are to struggle with chronic physical or emotional complications. Some common long-term side effects of addiction include:

  • Cardiac issues
  • Stroke
  • STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and other infectious diseases
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic headaches and migraines
  • Memory problems
  • Gastrointestinal distress

Drug Specific Signs of Addiction

You may realize, based on some of the signs of addiction above, that your loved one is using something, but you’re not sure exactly what that something is. Understanding the symptoms of different drugs and being able to identify drug paraphernalia can help.

Alcohol Signs of Addiction

When someone is intoxicated on alcohol, they usually have poor judgment and they lack coordination. At times, they may seem happy and more talkative, but severe intoxication can result in emotional outbursts, a sense of physical numbness, and confusion. People can lose control of their bodily functions, and they risk falling into a coma.

The signs of an alcohol problem may include:

  • Drinking more frequently than usual
  • Complaints of headaches in the morning
  • Shaking hands
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hallucinations
  • Frequent blackouts

This list isn’t exhaustive. Learn more about the physical, behavioral, and emotional signs of alcohol abuse here.

Learn about how to get help for alcohol addiction here.

Benzodiazepines Signs of Addiction

Benzodiazepines include medications like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Many people obtain these pills through their doctors for anxiety or sleep issues. Some people take them illicitly (without a prescription) and/or in combination with other substances.

The signs of a benzodiazepine problem may include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination
  • Complaints of dizziness
  • Mental confusion
  • Sweating and “feeling hot”
  • Excess fatigue
  • Frequent blackouts

This list doesn’t include all the signs of addiction to a sedative like benzodiazepines. Learn more about the physical, behavioral, and emotional signs of sedative abuse here.

Learn about how to get help for prescription drug addiction here.

Marijuana Signs of Addiction

Marijuana has become more socially acceptable in recent years, but it does carry a serious risk for misuse. When someone is under the influence of marijuana, they may have slurred speech and sense things differently. They may start engaging in irrelevant conversations.

The signs of a marijuana problem may include:

  • Rapid changes in mood
  • Depression
  • Lack of motivation
  • Irritability
  • Weight fluctuations
  • The presence of rolling papers, bongs, and pipes

Learn about how to get help for marijuana addiction here.

Opioid Signs of Addiction

Opioids include both prescription and illegal substances. Some common opioids include morphine, hydrocodone, heroin, and fentanyl. Opioids are powerful drugs that can be extremely addictive. When someone is on opioids, they may feel an enhanced sense of pleasure, diminished physical pain, sleepiness, and relaxation.

The signs of an opioid problem may include:

  • The presence of needle marks on the arms, legs, or feet
  • Pinned pupils
  • Complaints of muscle aches or pains
  • The presence of needles, cotton, or spoons
  • Abscesses
  • Overdosing

This list isn’t exhaustive. Learn more about the physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms of opioid abuse here.

Learn about how to get help for opioid addiction here.


Stimulants include both legal and illegal substances. Amphetamine, cocaine, and methamphetamine are all different kinds of stimulants. When someone is under the influence of stimulants, they may have greater focus, concentration, alertness, and higher energy levels.

The signs of a stimulant problem may include:

  • Irritability
  • Weight loss
  • Tooth decay
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Paranoid thinking
  • Anxiety
  • Sudden disappearances

This list doesn’t include all the symptoms of stimulant abuse. Learn more about the physical, behavioral, and emotional signs here.

Learn about how to get help for prescription drug addiction here.

Cocaine Signs of Addiction

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that comes in either powder or crack form. When someone is using cocaine, they may seem overly alert and excited. Users often feel invincible when they’re high. But this euphoria is short-lived; the comedown or crash happens soon after. As a result, many people binge on cocaine to maintain the positive effects.

The signs of a cocaine problem may include:

  • Persistently bloodshot eyes
  • Disappearing frequently and without explanation
  • Erratic sleep patterns
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Dilated pupils
  • Aggressiveness
  • Delusions
  • The presence of pipes, plastic straws, razor blades, and lighters

This list doesn’t include all the signs of a cocaine addiction. Learn more about the physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms here.

Learn about how to get help for cocaine addiction here.

How to Know If You Need Help

It can be scary to recognize these signs of addiction in a loved one. It can be even scarier to notice them within yourself. If you identify with any of these signs of addiction or you’ve tried to quit using drugs without success, you may need professional help.

Addiction treatment works. At Footprints to Recovery, we can help you on the path towards recovery. Change takes time, but it is possible. You can learn how to rebuild your life and be free of the confusing, frightening, and dangerous symptoms of substance abuse. Contact us today to get started!

Questions about treatment options?

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