Drug Addiction Warning Signs

If you’ve never dealt with someone battling drug addiction, it can be challenging to recognize the signs of it. Some of the signs are subtle while others can be symptoms of a variety of issues. Drug addiction takes a toll on your loved one, and you can expect to see physical, behavioral and psychological changes as their addiction grows. 

If you can recognize the signs of drug addiction early, you may be able to help your loved one seek help battling this disease. Here’s a look at some of the most common physical, behavioral and psychological signs of drug addiction.

Physical Signs of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is marked by physical changes to the user’s body. Some signs are readily apparent while others can be disguised by the person battling the disease. Here’s a list of the most common physical signs:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Sudden changes in weight
  • Varying changes in eating habits and appetite
  • Problems sleeping on a regular schedule
  • Scars on the skin
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Frequent runny nose 
  • Seizures or Tremors
  • Poor physical coordination
  • Extreme lethargy or lacking energy
  • Chemical odor on breath or clothes
  • Tiny pupils

Sudden changes in weight

One of the most common signs of drug addiction is excessive weight changes, and this can be either an increase or a decrease in weight. Whether the user loses or gains weight directly relates to the type of drug abused. For example, marijuana and similar substances causes an increase in appetite that fuels weight gains while drugs, such as cocaine, cause the metabolism to speed up and the user to lose weight. If you notice a sudden change in weight in your loved one, you should watch for other signs.

Problems sleeping on a regular schedule

Many people with drug addiction have problems maintaining a normal sleep schedule. The user may experience interrupted sleep patterns, insomnia, or hypersomnia. You may find your loved one sleeping at odd times during the day or pacing your home in the late hours of the night. During their treatment for drug addiction, your loved one may need to address their sleeping problems during rehab to be able to return to a normal sleep schedule and pattern. 

Bloodshot eyes

While alcohol and various types of drugs have a wide variety of physical effects on the user’s body, the one physical symptom that almost all alcoholics and abusers of drugs have in common is changed to the eyes. These changes may be the pinpoint pupil or bloodshot eyes, depending on the type of drug the user abuses and the amount. The constriction of the pupil is a condition known as miosis. 

Poor personal hygiene

If your loved one has always be perfectly groomed, then one of the first signs of drug addiction that you might notice is poor personal hygiene. Many drug users and alcoholics begin to neglect their personal hygiene. It’s hard to continue daily functions, such as brushing your teeth or washing clothes, when the drug user is high or has a hangover from drinking too much. This can also include subtle changes in a person’s overall appearance and grooming habits.

Changes in the skin

You may notice changes in your loved one’s skin if they’re using drugs. It could be changes to the color or elasticity of the skin. You may even notice marks or scars on the skin if the person is using injectable drugs, such as heroin. These are commonly called track marks. It’s also a good idea to look out for scabs and bruises too. Your loved one’s skin might even begin to appear jaundiced as the drug and alcohol use affects their liver. 

Behavioral Signs of Drug Addiction

In addition to physical signs of drug addiction, a user will display behavior changes. You may notice changes in your loved one’s behavior before you notice physical signs. Here are some common behavioral changes:

  • Begins to lie more often and display signs of dishonesty or deceit
  • Legal issues
  • Secretive behavior
  • Isolating themselves from others
  • Forgetting or neglecting responsibilities
  • Problems with money and managing bills
  • Changes in activities or hobbies
  • Changes in social circles; making new friends you don’t approve of
  • Fails to take part in family activities
  • Failing performance at work or school

Isolating themselves from others

In an effort to ward off questions about their appearance and unusual behavior, many drug and alcohol users may isolate themselves from family and friends. This can be a gradual process or occur rapidly. A loved one facing drug addiction will stop going out with friends and spending time with family. They’ll isolate themselves in an effort to avoid confrontation about their drug use. 

Problems with money and managing bills

Depending on the type of drug and frequency of usage, drug addiction can be an expensive habit. However, if your loved one is battling an addiction, they will ignore their bills and strip their bank accounts clean to pay for the drugs that they crave. Your first sign of an issue may be finding out that their bank account is overdrawn or their power is cut off due to non-payment. You may notice the person asking to borrow money frequently or selling items that once belonged to them to get the money needed to buy drugs. 

Secretive behavior

Your loved one may realize in the back of their mind that they have a problem; however, for the most part, they’re addicted and must get high to satisfy their craving. They will try to hide their drug addiction and or alcohol abuse, and this creates secretive behavior. As the become withdrawn from family and friends, a drug user may begin to lie about their whereabouts and activities to cover up their drug use.

Forgetting or neglecting responsibilities

When getting high or drinking, a person with a drug addiction will begin to forget and neglect their primary responsibilities, even things they’re used to doing every day.  This can include things such as school and work. If the your loved one has children, they may forget to pick the kids up from school or take them to extracurricular activities. Your loved one would rather get high than to live up to these responsibilities, and it’s a part of the addiction that they can’t help, but it’s an obvious warning sign for you. 

Psychological Signs of Drug Abuse

Drug addictions can cause many changes to your loved one. Behavioral and physical changes are warning flags but psychological signs can be frightening when you see how your loved views the world in different ways and responds to it. Here are some psychological signs to look for:

  • Emotional withdrawal from family and friends
  • Lack of motivation for most tasks
  • Seems disinterested in most hobbies and activities
  • Changes in personality traits
  • Mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder
  • Feelings of paranoia, fear, or obsessive thoughts
  • Poor self-image
  • Bleak outlook on or attitude toward life and the future


It’s common among drug users to feel a level of paranoia. As they become secretive and try to hide their drug or alcohol abuse, they begin to distrust those closest to them, including family and friends. In many cases, the drug user believes unreasonable motives behind things that those closest to them are doing. Paranoia is one issue that’s addressed during the recovery process.


Increased and volatile irritability is a common sign of drug addiction. If your normal, happy, go-lucky loved one suddenly starts snapping at everyone, it’s a sign that something is off. irritability can flair up when the drug user is in between fixes and begins to feel the initial pains of withdrawal. This pain may cause them to become testier than they normally are. This is another behavioral issue that your loved one will work on during the recovery process.

Sudden Mood Swings

You don’t know what happened. One minute, you and your loved one were laughing and having a good time, and the next, they were yelling, punching the wall, and storming out. These sudden mood swings can be a sign of drug addiction. These mood swings can also lead your loved one to a more euphoric mood, where they’re all loving and have a positive attitude. 

Lack of Motivation

Most drug users know that they have a problem and may try to stop using it by themselves. They might attempt to stop and begin to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. This sense of hopelessness leads to a lack of motivation. Your loved one may get to the point where they no longer feel motivated to even try and stop using drugs. This lack of motivation will show through in other parts of their lives. As they work through recovery, a sense of accomplishment will help with the motivational issues.

At Fairwinds Treatment Center, we understand the difficulties you and your loved one face. We’re ready to help your loved one recognize their drug addiction and do the work necessary to recover from it. We know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method, and we tailor our program to your loved one’s needs. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help. 



If you are ready to discuss treatment for yourself or a loved one, the Fairwinds admissions team is here to help.

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