Signs of Drug Addiction

Many people are perfectly fine using drugs recreationally. Others are not so fortunate and may enter a harmful addiction cycle. Here are some of the signs to indicate drug use has become harmful.

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Signs of Drug Addiction

Many people are perfectly fine using drugs recreationally. Others are not so fortunate and may enter a harmful addiction cycle. Here are some of the signs to indicate drug use has become harmful.


Many people are perfectly fine using drugs recreationally. They may never have a problem or suffer an addiction. Others are not so fortunate. According to American Addiction Centers, the following facts are true of drug addiction:

  • Almost 20 million adults in America battled a substance abuse disorder in 2017.
  • Thirty-eight percent of those adults battled an illicit drug use disorder, while 74 percent battled an alcohol use disorder.
  • Of those 20 million adults that battled a substance abuse disorder, about 8.5 million also suffered a mental health disorder.
  • Genetics are believed to account for as much as 40-60 percent of a person’s risk of addiction.
  • If you add the genetic factor to a chaotic home environment, drug use by parents, poor academic achievement, and negative peer influences, the likelihood of addiction risk goes up significantly.

The Four Stages of Drug Addiction

There are four basic stages of drug addiction. The first is experimentation. Experimentation encompasses the voluntary use of drugs where no negative legal or social consequences are encountered. Experimentation is a way to have fun, usually with peers, and for many people, there will be no dependence or addiction resulting from this experimentation. For others, the next stage ensues—regular use. Experimentation gradually becomes regular use, and even at this stage, addiction and dependence have not really set in. Unfortunately, regular use can cause other risky behaviors like driving under the influence, sex with strangers, or violence. Depression and anxiety may also accompany the regular use of drugs.

The next stage is risky use or abuse. There is a relatively thin line between “regular use,” and “risky use or abuse.” Essentially, risky use or abuse of a drug continues despite severe social or legal consequences. A temporary form of escape from reality can lead to much more serious problems. The warning signs of addiction may begin to be noticeable to loved ones or close friends at this point. There may be serious cravings for the drug, as well as fatigue, depression when the drug is not used. At the point of risky use or abuse, the individual may have a preoccupation with the drug.

Stage four is full-blown drug addiction and dependency. Physical dependence on the drug is a component of addiction. There can be severe withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped, or compulsive use of the drug even when that use comes with negative consequences to work, finances, physical health, and personal relationships. Even when criminal charges come into play, a person addicted to a drug may not be able to stop without professional drug addiction treatment.

How Can You Identify Drug Addiction?

While every person is different, below are some of the general signs of drug addiction:

  • Significant changes in physical appearance; lack of grooming, wearing inappropriate or dirty clothing
  • Disinterest in school, or school-related activities, along with declining grades (for teens)
  • Being chronically late for work, receiving poor performance reviews, poor overall work performance, ignoring work duties
  • Altered behaviors including a sudden increased need for privacy
  • Changes in relationships
  • A noticeable lack of energy
  • Failing to pay bills on time
  • Weight loss, coupled with a decrease in appetite
  • Defensiveness when asked about drug use
  • Asking to borrow money

If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of addiction, it could be time to seek professional help.

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