Signs and symptoms of addiction

The signs and symptoms of substance misuse and addiction can vary widely depending upon a host of factors, including the type of substance that you have been misusing, the length of time that you have been misusing it and whether or not you have been misusing multiple substances.

Addiction to both legal and illicit drugs is an unfortunately widespread problem across the UK. Commonly misused substances include:

Misusing any of these drugs can expose you to significant physical and psychological harm. This can also lead to the development of addiction. Sometimes referred to as ‘dependence’, addiction can have a devastating impact on virtually all aspects of your life.

When you become addicted to alcohol or another drug, you will begin to lose the ability to control how much of the substance you use and how frequently you use it. You will develop tolerance, which means you will need to consume larger and larger amounts of the substance in order to experience the desired effects. And when you cannot acquire the drug, or when you try to stop using it, you may experience unpleasant symptoms, which is known as withdrawal.

 If you become dependent on alcohol, cocaine, cannabis or another addictive substance, you will continue to misuse the substance despite the negative physical and psychological impacts. When you are dependent upon a substance, even damaging experiences such as relationship problems, losing your job or even being arrested will not be enough to stop continued substance abuse.

Signs and symptoms of substance misuse and addiction

The following are among the more common signs and symptoms of substance misuse and addiction:

Behavioural symptoms:

  • Using the substance even when it is obviously dangerous to do so, such as when driving a car
  • Continuing to use the substance even after having experienced negative effects from prior use
  • Trying but failing to reduce or stop misusing the substance • Lying or being deceptive about actions or whereabouts
  • Attempting to borrow or steal money, prescription medications or items that can be sold or exchanged for drugs
  • Losing interest in important events or activities

Physical symptoms:

  • Unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Disrupted sleep patterns (including hypersomnia or insomnia)
  • Impaired co-ordination
  • Watery or glassy eyes
  • Apparent lack of attention to grooming and/or hygiene
  • Dramatic changes in energy level
  • Powerful cravings for alcohol or other drugs

Mental symptoms:

  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Uncharacteristic periods of hyper-focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Memory problems

Social symptoms:

  • Dramatic changes in mood
  • Uncharacteristic outbursts of anger
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal from family and friends

Effects of substance misuse and addiction

The following are among the many negative effects that can result from continued substance misuse and untreated addiction:

  • Family breakdown
  • Strained or ruined relationships
  • Various forms of physical harm, both from the substances themselves and from injuries sustained while under the influence of drugs
  • Poor performance in school or at work
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Legal problems, including arrest and imprisonment
  • Financial distress
  • Diminished self-esteem and self-worth
  • Pervasive sense of hopelessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviours

It is important to note that in addition to preventing you from experiencing the negative effects described above, getting professional treatment can also help you to repair past damage and to heal from any effects that you have already experienced.

For further details on how Priory can provide you with further assistance regarding the signs and symptoms of addiction, please call 0800 840 3219. Or complete our free addiction assessment. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here.