10 Substance Abuse Signs & Symptoms

An estimated 22 million Americans struggle with various abuse of substances. Drug abuse and alcohol addiction is not a topic to be taken lightly. As with any substance abuse, it can be hard to watch a loved one go down a dark path. If you suspect that your family member or loved one is abusing substances, watch out for these 10 signs or symptoms of substance abuse that may clue you in. Early treatment is key to a successful recovery. Feinberg Consulting offers intervention services to help your loved one through this difficult time.

10 Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

You’ve noticed in a family member or friend:
1: Neglecting responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting children).
2: Drug or alcohol use is having legal ramifications, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support a drug or alcohol habit.
3: Drug or alcohol use is causing problems in relationships, such as fights with partners or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of old friends.
4: Abandoning activities that used to be enjoyed, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing.
5: Increased agitation or irritability when engaging in common social interactions.

You’ve noticed in yourself:
6: Needing to use more of a drug or alcohol to experience the same effects that used to be attained with smaller amounts.
7: Using drugs or alcohol under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high, such as driving while under the influence, using dirty needles, or having unprotected sex.
8: If gone too long without drugs or alcohol, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
9: You often use drugs or alcohol beyond the limit you had planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.
10: Drug or alcohol use is causing major problems in your life—blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you use anyway.

5 Myths about Substance Abuse and Alcohol Addiction

MYTH 1: Overcoming addiction is simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using drugs or alcohol if you really want to. Prolonged exposure to drugs or alcohol alters the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer force of will.
MYTH 2: Addiction is a disease; there’s nothing you can do about it. Most experts agree that addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn’t mean you’re a helpless victim. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.
MYTH 3: Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better. Addiction recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process—and the earlier, the better. The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes, and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait to intervene until the addict has lost it all.
MYTH 4: You can’t force someone into treatment; they have to want help. Treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to be successful. People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who choose to enter treatment on their own. As they sober up and their thinking clears, many formerly resistant addicts decide they want to change.
MYTH 5: Treatment didn’t work before, so there’s no point trying again. Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is a long process that often involves setbacks. Relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed or that you’re a lost cause. Rather, it’s a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach.

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    1. FOR FUTURE EMPLOYERS, OR ANYONE WHO STUMBLED UPON THIS: I was attempting to sign up for an email list to help an ex partner of mine that struggles with substance abuse problems.

  1. It sure was helpful when you said that two of the signs of addiction is if they are having troubles with their relationships as well as the idea that they are already abandoning their obligations. I guess I can say that a friend of mine has these two signs present, but is that enough to consider that he is an addict? He has been neglecting his job, but I think it will be best if I brought him to the professional to confirm this idea. Thank you.

  2. It sure is nice to know that one of the signs of addiction is the idea that the person is engaging in a lot of disorderly conduct. I cannot recall how many times a friend of mine needed my help because he got in trouble with the traffic law. I do not when it started, but at least I have a lead of what is causing this. I will ask to come with me to a professional to fix this. Thanks!

  3. It was nice to know that those individuals who are pressured into receiving treatment will benefit in the same manner as those who voluntarily underwent treatment and that they will sober up and clear their thinking. That is good to know as I am aware that a friend of mine is currently highly dependent on drugs. Of course, I intend to talk her into it, but I also do not mind putting a little elbow grease if she won’t comply. Her recovery is what matters to me the most after all.

  4. great article I am sure this article will feed some knowledge, Alcohol is a silent killer, there are lots of persons are struggling with alcohol and depression, awareness is much needed, keep doing this great work and keep sharing with us.

  5. It sure got my attention when you said that drug abuse most of the time causes problems with relationships and that it causes the person to have fights with their friends and family members. Of course, a single sign is not enough to consider the person an addict. Though this started when my cousin started taking painkillers. I wonder if they are related. It might be best if I take him to the professional.

  6. I have been contemplating for a while now if someone I know is an addict, though I have no means of determining it. That is why I appreciate this article and the part about how a person is increasingly more irritable as well as being irresponsible in terms of their tasks and responsibilities of they are abusing drugs. At least now I have two. I will ask the person to try counseling with me. Thanks.

  7. I really appreciate it when you said that one of the signs of addiction is when the person is abandoning the things that they used to love, like hobbies, sports, and the like. My friend is not depressed, so I was wondering at first why he stopped coming with me to do a painting. Now I know the other possible reason. I cannot jump to conclusions though. I will observe a little more and once confirmed, I will take him to the professional for an assessment.

  8. My cousin wants to be clean and be able to find a decent job. It was explained here that recovery from addiction is a long process. Furthermore, it’s recommended to go to trusted health professionals for quality addiction services.

  9. If the things that you mentioned, the one that caught my eye was the fact that a drug addict uses a larger dosage of the drugs than they originally planned even if they promised themselves they wouldn’t. My friend mentioned that to me a while ago, and he said that it is worrying him. He wanted to stop but didn’t know how. Maybe a professional will be able to provide a treatment plan for him.

  10. I thought that it was interesting that you explained that substance abuse is a greater challenge to overcome that simply by using the sheer force of will power. I have seen a loved one struggle with substance abuse and wasn’t sure exactly how to help him. I will be sure to help him receive the professional help that he needs in order to fully overcome this addiction.

  11. It stood out to me when you discussed how addiction can cause people to withdraw from the things they once enjoyed, like hobbies or going out with friends. I’ve noticed that behavior from my sister and have started to grow worried about her well-being. I’m grateful that you shared this article and motivated me to talk with her about drug addiction and her possible need for recovery services.

  12. It is a useful post.Keep writing this kind of post. i really love 10 signs and symptoms you have mentioned in the post

  13. Millions of people are affected by drug abuse and alcohol addiction. If you find these symptoms you need to consult before ruining your life and committing dui or other drug charges.

  14. Thank you, this is such a great resource for everyone it could help others to know the symptoms when someone is getting the hook in addiction. Good job sharing it with us!

  15. The best drug rehab is that which addresses the individual needs of individual patients. Drug addiction is an intensely personal disease, one that never afflicts any two victims in quite the same way.why counseling is important

  16. It caught my attention when you said that agitation or irritability when engaging in common social interactions and abandoning activities that used to be enjoyed are signs of substance abuse. With this in mind, I will be sure to convince my son to see a professional for therapy sessions. Since he lost his wife due to a car accident more than a year ago, he has been keeping himself locked in his room. He does not work out and joins running activities anymore, and the amount of weight that he has lost is very visible.

  17. It made sense to me when you said that abandoning activities that used to be enjoyable is a sign of substance abuse. With this in mind, I will convince my brother to see a professional for counseling services. He stopped attending his classes and seeing his friends since August, and we saw signs of drug use in his room.

  18. Symptoms such as denial are almost always present in addicts and are primarily the reason why they do not seek help. In such a case, the duty of helping them find help falls on their friends and family. Other symptoms such as depression and violence need special psychiatric help which can be found in rehab centers.

  19. It caught my attention when you said that one of the symptoms of substance abuse is irritability when engaging in common social interactions. With this in mind, I will ask my sister to convince her husband to undergo drug rehab as soon as possible. He has been isolating himself since his girlfriend of 8 years left him 5 months ago. Also, he has been always picking fights since the problem started.

  20. It got my attention when you said that you must be suffering from substance abuse if you have been dealing with mood swings, depression, and other major problems. With this in mind, I will be sure to see a counseling expert who can help my son. He has been showing signs of substance abuse since he lost his wife due to an auto accident more than 4 months ago. Since then, he has been locking himself in his room and using substances that could numb him.

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