Drug & Alcohol Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Rolling Hills Hospital helps individuals struggling with drug & alcohol addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Ada, near Oklahoma City, Rolling Hills Hospital is the premier provider of mental health & addiction treatment for adolescents, adults & seniors.

Understanding Drug Addiction

Learn about drug addiction and substance abuse

Substance abuse is characterized by the continued use of drugs and/or alcohol, despite the presence of negative consequences that are occur as a result. More specifically, it is defined as the use of illicit drugs, prescription pills, or alcohol for purposes other than those for which they are intended, or in a way other than directed. Substance abuse is a serious problem and without proper treatment can lead to a number of health consequences, including overdose, as well as a number of other effects in other areas of a person’s life. For example, those who abuse drugs and alcohol may be unable to hold down a job, succeed academically, maintain meaningful relationships, and be productive members of society. However, there are treatment options available that can help people overcome a substance abuse problem. For people who are struggling with a substance abuse problem or addiction, receiving treatment can provide them with the necessary coping skills for managing cravings, offer ongoing support, and can also treat the presence of another mental health condition. With proper treatment, individuals who have substance abuse problems can avoid the harmful, long-term effects and can instead lead happy, healthy lives.


Drug addiction statistics

Accounting for almost 24 million Americans in the United States, researchers estimate that over nine percent of the total population has used or abused substances at some point in their lifetimes. This statistic includes children, adolescents, and adults, and, according to researchers, this number is expected to continue to rise.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for drug addiction

There are a number of different factors to consider when trying to determine why some individuals will go on to develop substance abuse problems while others do not. It is important to take into account a person’s genetics, physiological makeup, and outside environmental influences. Some of the most common theories include:

Genetic: Extensive research on addiction has concluded that a genetic predisposition to addiction does, indeed, exist. If an individual has a family history of substance abuse, addiction, or dependence, he or she is at a higher risk for developing a substance abuse problem him or herself. That risk is even higher for those individuals who have a first-degree relative with a substance abuse problem.

Physical: It is known that drugs and alcohol influence brain functioning and prolonged, chronic use can lead to physical changes in the brain. These physical changes can lead to a number of irreversible effects that can hamper functioning and lead to the onset of other detrimental health risks.

Environmental: Certain environmental factors are known to influence an individual to use drugs or alcohol, eventually leading to addiction. For example, growing up exposed drugs and alcohol can set the stage for an individual to begin using later in life as they have learned that substances are a way to cope with stressful situations. Additionally, being the victim of abuse and lacking the necessary support system to help one through such traumatic experiences can render a person more susceptible to developing a problem with substance abuse.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse problems or mental health problems
  • Personal history of mental health disorders
  • Exposure to trauma
  • Lack of caregiver involvement or poor parenting
  • Lack of appropriate coping skills
  • Low self-esteem or self-worth
  • Lack of employment
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Exposure to violence
  • Suffering through traumatic experiences
  • Peer pressure
  • Exposure to chaos
  • Easy access to substances

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of drug addiction

The signs and symptoms of substance abuse are going to vary depending on the type of drug that is being abused. Below are some of the most common behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms that may be displayed by someone who actively abusing substances:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Lethargy
  • Increased conflict with others
  • Missing school or work
  • Not fulfilling roles or responsibilities
  • Lack of participation in things once enjoyed
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Change in group of friends
  • Unwarranted outbursts of varying emotions
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Lack of coordination

Physical symptoms:

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Headaches
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Sweating

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Inability to reason
  • Poor concentration
  • Impaired memory
  • Detachment from reality
  • Impaired decision-making
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Delayed thinking

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Changes in temperament
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Drastic mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Inability to experience pleasure


Effects of drug addiction

There are a number of effects that can occur when an individual habitually abuses drugs and/or alcohol. If a person who abuses drugs or alcohol does not seek the treatment they need, it can lead to a number of devastating effects, including:

  • Development of a mental health condition
  • Exacerbation of symptoms associated with a mental health condition
  • Damage to the central nervous system
  • Compromised immune system
  • Possibility of exposure to viruses, such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS
  • Damage to the heart
  • Heart failure
  • Addiction
  • Dependence
  • Discord among friends and loved ones
  • Academic failure
  • Inability to acquire or maintain employment
  • Financial problems
  • Homelessness
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Malnutrition
  • Memory loss
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideation and attempts
  • Elevated risk for certain cancers
  • Overdose
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Drug addiction and co-occurring disorders

The presence of a substance abuse problem may indicate the presence of another mental health condition. For some, the abuse of drugs or alcohol is an attempt to cope with the unpleasant symptoms of a mental health disorder. The following mental disorders are common among abusers of substances and can be diagnosed in addition to a substance use disorder:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Polysubstance use

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of drug withdrawal and overdose

Prolonged use of drugs or alcohol can change the body’s chemistry over time and will lead to physical dependence. When this is the case, and a person stops using substances, withdrawal will occur. Depending on the substance that is being abused, the symptoms of withdrawal can vary. For some substances, medical attention is often required to monitor withdrawal, as some symptoms can be life-threatening. Some of the most common signs of withdrawal include:

  • Vomiting
  • Intense cravings to use drugs and/or alcohol
  • Chills
  • Tremors
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Elevated levels of anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pain
  • Bone pain
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal ideation

When an individual consumes a substance to the point where the body is not able to metabolize it, overdose can occur. Due to the development of tolerance to a drug, users frequently require more and more of a substance in order to experience the same effects. If you suspect an overdose, it is imperative to seek emergency medical attention. Common signs include:

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Chest pains
  • Labored breathing
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Passing out
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Dizziness
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Death

I couldn't ask for better help when I needed it most and I will forever be thankful to the treatment team.

– Former Patient