The 10 Most Common Signs of Drug Addiction

In 2017, 19.7 million American people aged 12 years and older battled a substance use disorder, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

In the same year in Spain, there were 68,297 high-risk opioid users. 

Drug abuse is a global, ever-growing problem in modern-day society. What often starts as recreational use in social situations can quickly lead to a dependency problem, and before too long, we can fall victim to drugs, letting them take control of our lives. 

This is a common story to be told. In 2017, the New York Times released an article depicting the life of Peter, a high-functioning Attorney who lost his life to drug dependency.

It was a sad but sobering story to be told, and it shed light on how difficult it is to recognise and acknowledge the signs of drug use. 

In this blog, we share the 10 most common signs of drug addiction, and what you can do if you recognise them in yourself. 

1. You can’t stop yourself, even if you want to

Drug addiction

The tragedy with Peter’s story is that his ex-wife – the author of the article – failed to spot any signs that Peter was a drug addict.

In fact, Peter’s entire world failed to see him as anything more than a successful Attorney with children to feed.

While the feeling that you can’t stop yourself even if you want is an obvious sign, it is often only a sign that the addict themselves can see.

Unfortunately, it’s therefore up to the addict alone to face up to signs of addiction and seek help

2. You’re apathetic to the things you once loved

Apathy and drug addiction

Gardening, sports, your family… whatever it is that wakes you up in the morning and gets your fires burning, if you’re feeling apathetic and neglecting these once-loved aspects of your life, it might be time to do something about your drug dependency. 

Try hard to recognise when you’re feeling more reclusive and less motivated to get out and about in life.

As substance abuse tightens its grip, it’s oftentimes the only thing to think about. As a consequence, other aspects of life – the aspects that offer balance – are neglected. 

3. You feel worse sober and better on drugs

sadness and depression treatment

A sure-fire sign of addiction is when the tables turn, and you begin to feel better on drugs than you do when you’re sober.

Sure, prescriptions play a vital role in helping us overcome hard and trying times, but if you’re better and still using them because you need them, it’s time to take action and seek help. 

Drugs allow us to escape our pains and avoid our hardship, they make us feel euphoric at times and remove us from ourselves.

But, when we take drugs by way of escaping, we’re no longer dealing with or overcoming our troubles, but ignoring them altogether. 

If you take anything from this article, it’s this: Life is just as testing for the person next to you as it is for you.

While you might feel alone, we’re in this together – everyone has ‘life’ to deal with, and people are there to help.

All it takes is a little gumption on your end to make it so.

4. You’re committing crime to pay for drugs

camino recovery spain silence

Drug-related arrests across America have been rising steadily since 2016.

In fact, last year, there were 1.65 million drug-related arrests in the country, and while many of these arrests are for possession, a high percentage were for other crimes caused by those looking for ways to buy drugs. 

We all have a moral compass, but in times of desperation, it can be easy to blur the lines between right and wrong for the sake of personal gain.

If you find yourself pushing your own personal boundaries to pay for your drug habit, it’s time to do something about it. Whether it’s borrowing money from unreliable and dangerous sources, shoplifting, stealing cars or illegally gambling, it will inevitably create more problems than it solves, and eventually, someone will come to collect.

5. You’re befriending the wrong types of people

emotional intelligence Camino recovery Spain

Another sign of drug addiction is a change in social circles.

Substance abuse is very much a lifestyle, and when one turns to using, they often begin associating themselves with people who understand what it’s like – after all, we want to feel related to. 

This sign is easy for everyone to spot. If you feel yourself neglecting your loved ones – or you feel your loved ones neglecting you – it might be time to start asking why. 

Five more signs of drug addiction

Many of the above drug addiction signs are hard to spot in other people because they’re mental changes, rather than physical. But there are many physical changes that occur in a person addicted to substances.

Here are five more obvious signs to watch for. 

6. Someone’s physical appearance is changing

Peter and his daughter. Photo Illustration by David Brandon Geeting for The New York Times

A loved one might show signs of use in their physical appearance.

They might have constantly bloodshot eyes; they might begin to neglect personal hygiene; they might show drastic weight fluctuations or experience regular nosebleeds… there are many appearance changes that might signal someone to ask: ‘is that person taking drugs?’.

7. Attitude changes

Addiction often causes a change in attitude, too. Co-occurring disorders can begin to emerge, and a person might experience severe depression or apathy; they might be short-tempered and angry when they’re sober; and they might show signs of severe anxiousness, too.

8. Lying and deception

Drug use is often a lonesome pursuit, and for fear of judgement, and the addict will likely try to hide their habits.

If you feel like someone is consistently lying or deceiving you, it might be worth investigating.

9. Sex life

Sexual habits are a great indicator that someone might be addicted to drugs. If you find that your loved one suddenly loses their drive for sex, or they’re struggling to perform, it might be time to open up the conversation of drug use and begin trying to seek help. 

10. Like sex, sleeping

Sleepiness and addiction

Sleeping habits are also a good sign of imbalance, struggle and substance abuse. If a person’s sleeping habits change, there’s a chance it’s because of something like substance abuse. 

How to treat substance addiction

Denial is the first and hardest step to overcoming a substance abuse problem.

Treating addiction

It’s easy to begin justifying a change in behaviour and belittling your habit as ‘something you do sometimes’ or ‘something you have under control’. The reality, however, is very different. 

Peter (from the New York Times story) would keep a record of his dosages on scraps of paper, which were later found by police when investigating his death.

They showed a log of his drug usage, and how he ‘managed’ his addiction. It gave Peter a sense of control, but unfortunately, Peter’s addiction got the best of him. 

If you feel like you’re experiencing any of these signs, or you think a loved one might be addicted to drugs, we encourage you to begin the process of seeking help.

Whether it’s through a family intervention, a detoxification process or a tailored drug treatment program, Camino offers expert treatment to help you overcome the adversity of drug abuse and helps you get back on track. 

David Scourfield

David Scourfield is a Camino Recovery team member since 2017, focused on facilitating communication with Clinical and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive understanding of Camino's program.

Combining his marketing skills and lived experiences, he joined Camino in 2017, contributing to external publications and the Camino website. With a strong belief in solidarity during the recovery process, David helps clients build support networks by connecting them with others in recovery.

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