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Signs of Drug Addiction in Adults

symptoms of drug addictionSigns and Symptoms of Drug Misuse in Adults

It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of drug addiction. Alcohol or drug addiction changes the way a person looks, acts and feels. The symptoms of substance use disorders are linked to changes in the body, behavior and emotions. Thankfully, you can discover when a friend or family member has become addicted to drugs by observing the following signs of substance use disorder in adults.

Common Warning Signs of Drug Use in Adults

Physical Signs

Common physical signs of drug use or alcohol addiction are:

  • Bloodshot eyes: Anyone who is addicted to heroin usually has constricted pupils, also known as miosis. They may also have bloodshot eyes.
  • Sudden weight loss: People who are addicted to cocaine, ecstasy or methamphetamine may lose their appetite and subsequently lose weight quickly.
  • Interrupted sleep patterns: Common signs of substance misuse include insomnia (difficulty sleeping at night) or hypersomnia (sleeping for too long).
  • Change in complexion: Repeated drug use can lead to acne, paleness and jaundice. There may also be scabs, scars, bruises and track marks on the body.
  • Poor personal hygiene: Bathing, brushing teeth and physical cleanliness may decline in anyone who is drug dependent

Changes in Behavior

In addition to physical changes, a person who is misusing alcohol or drugs may act abnormally. Some of the significant behavioral signs of substance abuse in adults include:

  • Secretive behavior: The person withdraws from friends and family and constantly looks for a private place to use drugs.
  • Ignoring responsibilities: Becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol can make a person avoid their daily responsibilities such as work, school or taking care of the home.
  • Financial distress: Most illicit drugs are very expensive, so a person using drugs may need to keep borrowing money without a reason. They may also sell their belongings to get money for drugs.

Psychological Symptoms

When someone misuses drugs, they may experience changes in their feelings, which will also affect their behavior. Some common psychological signs include:

  • Depression and anxiety: You may notice signs of depression and anxiety where they never existed before, including your loved one losing interest in things they used to love, sleeping too little or too much or gaining or losing dramatic amounts of weight, to name a few.
  • Low self-esteem: Individuals with drug addictions may demonstrate a marked lack of confidence in their abilities, intelligence, looks or other aspects of their life.
  • Poor motivation: You may notice that people demonstrating substance misuse symptoms set extravagant goals, but have no motivation to achieve them.
  • Irritability and mood swings: Another symptom of drug use can manifest as sudden agitation and unpredictable temperament.

Changes in Performance

Substance use disorders in adults can also affect job performance, which can lead to illegal behavior as they run out of funds to fuel their addiction. What are the signs of drug use regarding on-the-job behavior? Some of the job-related symptoms of drug use might include:

  • Absenteeism: Upwards of 10% of drug users have missed work at some point because of a hangover.
  • Poor decision making: People addicted to drugs may have difficulty making decisions because they become preoccupied with obtaining and using substances.
  • Increased conflict: Another symptom of drug addiction in adults is a higher frequency of arguments and insubordination in the workplace.
  • Theft: Drug addiction may lead individuals to steal from their workplace to fund their addiction. This act can lead to other criminal behavior because it may cost them their jobs and income.

Sex and Gender Differences

The warning signs of substance misuse may vary between men and women. The physical, behavioral and emotional responses can vary dramatically between the two genders. Symptoms of drug use for men might include:

  • Shrinkage in the testes and fertility issues.
  • Severe manifestations of certain addictions, like marijuana use disorder.
  • Increased likelihood of using drugs to enhance positive moods.

On the other side of the coin, symptoms of drug use for women might include:

  • Uncharacteristic body hair growth and male-pattern baldness.
  • Dramatic weight loss with some specific categories of drugs.
  • Higher likelihood of experiencing panic attacks with certain substances.


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Assisting Someone in Need

If you’ve observed some of these addiction warning signs and symptoms of drug use in a friend or loved one, you might feel uncertain about addressing the issue. It can be difficult to communicate your concern, especially if you are worried it might result in a conflict. Still, it is crucial to reach out. Here are a few steps you can take to create an intervention plan:

  • Work with a professional interventionist. Their entire purpose is to help you plan an intervention in the best and safest way possible.
  • Invite close friends and family.
  • Plan and practice what you’ll say.

Once you’ve taken action and hosted an intervention, you can discuss your options. In most cases, you’ll have three to choose from:

  • Outpatient detox, where your friend or loved one can detox at home with professional help.
  • Inpatient detox, where your friend or loved one gets the help they need under round-the-clock supervision at a medical facility.
  • Medical detox, which is a medically supervised withdrawal program that can be carried out under outpatient or inpatient supervision.
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Get Help for Drug Misuse in Adults

When you observe any of these changes in appearance, behavior or feeling in your loved one, do your best to get them professional help immediately.
Gateway has been providing evidence-based treatment for drug abuse for the past 50 years. Call our 24-hour helpline at 877-377-2027 for a confidential consultation or send a message through our contact page today.