Addiction Warning Signs

How Can You Tell If A Loved One Has An Addiction?

There are several signs and symptoms of substance abuse. However, these also can be typical young adult behavior. These are also an indication of mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.  Ask your loved one if they have been offered drugs or if they have been using drugs or alcohol.

Addiction Warning Signs

Changes in Personality

It is natural for personality changes to occur during the young adult era. At this time, individuals develop their own individuality. It is vital to search for peculiar, unexplained personality changes that don’t make sense from out of character withdrawal, hyperactivity, and overexcitement, boisterous, loud behavior, losing conscience or inhibitions, sudden lack of motivation.


The Onset of Health Problems

Common health-related symptoms that arise from substance abuse are constant sickness, excessive thirstiness, memory loss, headaches, seizures, vomiting, recurrent nosebleeds, erratic sleeping habits, unexplained exhaustion/tiredness.

Alcohol and Drug Use

Usually there are physical symptoms of alcohol and drug use on an individual’s body. This can include different smells on clothing, to tooth decay and/or gum problems, eyes that appear irritated, redness on the face, or the appearance of irritated skin, facial or hand burns, bruises or cuts, peculiar body sores, and also unexplained weight gain or weight loss.

Unstable Emotions

Stimulants and depressants are created to help improve the emotions of individuals. Often, alcohol and drugs can activate challenges in handling anger, mood swings, and depression.

Mental Instability

Drugs tend to also cause an imbalance psychologically from the individual losing their ability to concentrate or focus, act compulsively, perform paranoia-spurred actions, as well as hearing voices.

Changes Seen in the Home

Addiction red-flags in the house include prescription medications, alcoholic drinks that are missing, household cleaners and other products, much use of perfumes or air fresheners/odor-neutralizers, and doors that are locked.

Troubles at School

Warning signs for addiction include complaints and problems reported by teachers or peers, unexplained absences, and lateness.

Possession Changes

When looking at their living space or their possessions, be concerned if the individual has improvised drug apparatuses, steals, and sells personal belongings for cash.


Acceptance for new friends is a common motive for young individuals to begin using drugs or drinking. With relationships, look out for new friends they refuse to have you meet, a quick separation of long-term ties with their friends and family members, and increased flirtatious or promiscuous behavior.


Substance abuse is often the highlight of life for addicts, overpowering their previous hobbies. Changes that warrant attention include disappearances, breaking promises, or making excuses, and lost interest in most or all of their favorite activities.

Sources: CDC, The Partnership for a Drug Free America

Individuals who show these 10 warning signs of addiction may be suffering from a drug or alcohol problem. If you think a loved one requires help, please call Sobertec today.


How Do I Know If My Loved One has a problem with substance use?

  • Does the individual want to decrease or stop using the drug but is unable to?
  • Does the person take the drug in larger amounts or for a longer period of time than was meant to?
  • Does the person have cravings and urges to use the drug?
  • Does the individual spend a large time amount getting, using, or recovering from the drug?
  • Does the person continue to use, even when they know they have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the drug?
  • Is the person unable to manage their responsibilities at work, home, or school, because of the drug use?
  • Does he or she give up important social, recreational or work-related activities because of drug use?
  • Does he or she continue to use a drug, even when it causes problems in their relationships?
  • Does he or she use drugs continually, even when it puts him or her in danger?
  • Has he or she developed withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the drug? (Some withdrawal symptoms can be clear, while others can be more subtle, such as nervousness or irritability).
  • Does the person take more of the drug to get the effect he or she wants?

If the answer is yes to some or all of these problems, your loved one may have a substance use problem.  Substance abuse affects people of all socioeconomic statuses, backgrounds, and ages.

DSM-5 Substance Use Disorder

To be diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder, the patient must meet at least 2 of the 11 criteria for the diagnosis. A patient that meets 2-3 of the criteria indicates mild substance use disorder, while a patient meeting 4-5 criteria is indicative of moderate, and 6-7 of the criteria is indicative of severe (APA, 2013).  The criteria are very similar to those outlined in DSM-IV for abuse and dependence combined.

Regarding Substance Use Disorder, this is the most current DSM version.  DSM-5 was released in May 2013.  In this version of the DSM, Substance Use Disorder is the singular diagnosis which combines Substance Dependence and Substance Abuse.

Diagnostic Criteria:

  • Having cravings or a strong desire to use drugs
  • Consistent use of drugs despite acknowledgment of persistent or recurrent psychological or physical difficulties from using drugs
  • Stopping or lessening important social, occupational, or recreational activities due to drug use
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from using drugs
  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to decrease or control drug use
  • Using larger amounts or using over a longer time period than intended
  • Withdrawal that comes from either characteristic syndrome or the substance is used to avoid withdrawal
  • Tolerance that is defined by either a need for markedly increased amounts to achieve intoxication or desired effect or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount
  • Continued use despite persistent or continual social or interpersonal problems caused or made worse by drug use
  • Recurrent use of drugs in physically hazardous situations
  • Repeatedly unable to fulfill major obligations at school, work, or home due to drug use
  • Continuing to use drugs despite negative personal consequences
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