Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

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Addiction is an indiscriminate condition affecting families and people from all backgrounds. Addiction costs the US government $740 annually due to lost work, low productivity, crime, and healthcare costs. Understanding the signs and symptoms of addiction goes a long way in providing an appropriate recovery plan for a patient.

Initial Signs and Symptoms

What are the warning signs that your loved one is about to get addicted? What are the red flags?

Early signs of addiction vary from one individual to another. It also depends on the addicting substance or behavior you are indulging in. In the early stages, most people grappling with addiction tend to disregard essential things in their life to quench cravings.

The onset of addiction is marked by an insatiable urge to use the addicting substance no matter the negative consequences. Also, the affected begin to get ‘high’ on work and spend more time on drug dens than usual.

Some of the initial signs of addiction include:

  • Change of routines
  • Social withdrawal
  • Episodes of binging with no expression of remorse whatsoever
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Decline in school/work performance
  • Increased tardiness
  • Engagement in high-risk behaviors without any concern
  • Start of frequent relationship conflicts
  • Increased tolerance

People struggling with substance will often start changing their peer cycles. They get drawn to friends; they engage in similar activities. When someone has become so much dependent on a drug or behavior that he can’t get rid of it, more signs and symptoms begin to show. We classify these symptoms as psychosocial, physical, and behavioral.

Psychosocial Symptoms

Psychosocial theories seek to answer questions like; why do others refuse to do drugs while giving in? Why are some people susceptible to peer influence than others? What are the odds for someone living in a dysfunctional family to suffer from substance abuse disorder?

Addiction affects both the psychological and social life of an individual. Psychosocial risk factors include the presence of a psychiatric disorder, family support, environmental factors, and an individual’s personality. Some of the psychosocial symptoms that manifest as a result of substance abuse disorder or behavioral.

Addiction include:

  • Wanting to quit using a substance but unable to
  • Continued use of harmful substances or engagement in risk behaviors despite full knowledge of negative consequences
  • Overdependence on drugs. Individual unable to perform usual activities without indulging on a substance/behavior
  • Tolerance to the addicting substance. Someone has to use more of the content to achieve the pleasurable feeling
  • Giving up on hobbies and routines to get time to spend on using a substance or engagement in behavior
  • Sacrificing one’s time, money, friends and other things
  • Lying to friends, workmates and family members
  • Doing everything possible to ensure a constant supply of the addicting substance.
  • Becoming secretive and withdrawing from social life
  • Occasional overdoses that can lead to hospitalization
  • Giving preference to addicting substance or behavior over activities that usually gives one joy
  • Frequent altercation with law enforcers
  • Financial difficulties as addicted persons use much of their money to satisfy cravings

When addiction takes over your life or someone you know, you find engaging yourself in activities and behaviors you never expected to do. You find yourself engulfed in psychological and social issues that seem impossible.

Physical Symptoms

As addiction begins to enter a full-blown stage in an individual’s life, physical signs and symptoms become imminent. Some of these physical symptoms include:

  • Change in sleep patterns or insomnia
  • Poor body hygiene
  • Poor coordination and memory problems
  • Changes in appetite
  • Unexplained change in weight
  • Shaking and body tremors
  • Intoxication
  • Excessive sniffing and running nose not attributed to cold
  • Looking undernourished
  • Dilated pupils. Sometimes accompanied by red eyes.
  • Presence of diseases such as lung cancer due to excessive smoking or liver cirrhosis due to alcoholism

People with substance abuse disorders or behavioral addictions may show few or many of these physical symptoms depending on the addicting substance and level of addiction.

Behavioral Symptoms

Behavioral sciences articulate that people adopt certain behaviors based on their immediate environment. People struggling with addiction can espouse behaviors that are distinct and unusual. Some of the behaviors that show signs of addiction include:

  • Increased aggression and irritability
  • Depression
  • Laziness
  • Dramatic changes in priorities
  • Changes in personality
  • Shifting addiction blame to others or things
  • Irrational and unusual behavior
  • Defensiveness and denial
  • Strained relationships
  • Mood swings
  • Failure to meet obligations e.g., bills, family events, and work

Some of these symptoms may not necessarily be a result of addiction. So, it is vital to visit a physician for diagnosis. Let’s now discuss the difference between drug and behavioral addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse Disorders

When people become dependent on addictive substances, we term as substance abuse or drug addiction. We have various classes of these substances ranging from hallucinogens, caffeine, stimulants, alcohol, inhalants, opiates to depressants.

Alcohol Addiction

Someone intoxicated or addicted to alcohol can show several symptoms, including clumsiness, memory problems, extreme mood swings, change of appearance, low productivity, and hungover feelings when not drinking.

Long-term use of alcohol can lead to medical conditions such as depression, liver cirrhosis, hand tremors, nervous system problems, gastritis, and other alcohol-related mental and psychological conditions.

Alcoholism can also result in non-medical effects such as financial problems, legal issues, obsessive thoughts about drinking, and relationship issues.

Opiate Addiction

Painkillers such as hydrocodone, fentanyl, and morphine are in the same category as heroin — opiate abuse results when you take more significant amounts than prescribed, which then spirals into an addiction problem.

Some of the symptoms of addiction to opioids include needle marks on arms and legs, constricted pupils, itchy skin, impulsive actions, frequent engagement in risky activities, decreased libido, lack of hygiene, and sleeping problems.

Immediate side effects of opioids abuse include blurred vision, euphoria, false confidence, lightheadedness, vomiting, nausea, constipation, and impaired judgment.

Stimulants Addiction

These are substances that increase the activity of the central nervous system. Stimulants, including cocaine, crack and meth, and ADHD medication, are often abused for their euphoric and feeling ‘high’ effects. Severe negative consequences of stimulant addiction include cardiac arrest, stroke, and cardiac arrhythmia.

Some of the signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction include drowsiness, seizures, hair loss, twitching, cardiac arrest, increased breathing rate, headaches, sweating, nausea, and fever. Long-term use of stimulants can lead to anxiety, psychotic behavior, lung disease, kidney disease, stroke and high-

Blood pressure.

Sedatives/Depressants Addiction

Sedatives such as tranquilizers and barbiturates are drugs that can induce a state of relaxation, calmness, and serenity. Signs and symptoms that show one is struggling with hypnotic use disorder include:

  • Decreased coordination
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Drop-in blood pressure
  • Impaired judgment and memory problems
  • Paranoia and depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Respiratory problems

Inhalant Addiction

From paint thinner to glue, inhalants provide instant feelings of relaxation. Immediate side effects of inhalants include lightheadedness, dizziness, and slurred speech. Inhalants are central nervous system depressants you can identify by the following signs and symptoms:

  • Belligerent behavior
  • Poor motor control
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sores around the mouth
  • Sniffing and running nose
  • Apathy and anhedonia
  • Poor judgment
  • Mood swings
  • Poor coordination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Red eyes

Hallucinogen Addiction

These are a group of drugs used to enhance mood, perceptions, and emotions. It is a misconception that these drugs cause hallucinations. In reality, hallucinogens are mood changers and false perception inducers. Hallucinogens include peyote, LSD, PCP, and ketamine (or Special K), among others.

People suffering from hallucinogen use disorders can show some or many of the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of detachment (perceptions of your mind living the body
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • Mood swings
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Numbness, weakness, and tremors
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased heart rates
  • Coordination problems
  • Panic attacks

Behavioral Addiction

Similar to substance addiction, behavioral addiction involves change of the brain’s frontal cortex that regulates the reward and motivation system — this type of addiction characterized by repetitive and compulsive involvement in rewarding non-substance related behavior.

Some of the examples of behavioral addiction include gambling, technology (internet, videogames, and internet), sex, exercise, and shopping.

Signs and symptoms of behavioral addiction include:

  • Preference to addicting behavior over the usual pleasurable activities
  • Ratelessness when attempting to quit the addicting behavior
  • Unsuccessful attempts to reduce frequency, abstain or control time spent indulging in addictivebehavior
  • Engagement in addicting behavior to avoid stressors
  • Erratic and unusual behavior such as lying
  • Low productivity at school or work
  • Financial problems which were not present before the addiction

Behavioral addiction such as gambling and internet addiction is similar to drug addiction, but the physical signs present in drug addiction are not familiar with behavioral addiction.

Regardless of your type of addiction, soon as you realize you are becoming addicted or someone close to you is, seek treatment. The good news is that each substance abuse disorder or behavioral addiction is reversible. All you have to do is seek professional medical help to get tailored treatment for your specific condition.

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