What are the Signs of Alcohol and Drug Addiction?

It is vital to address problems of addiction as soon as possible to ensure the best chance for recovery. This means it is important to be able to recognise the early signs of addiction in others, so you can offer help immediately. Around 50% of people with addiction problems are left untreated. One way to improve this proportion is early detection.

Signs of Addiction and Common Traits of Compulsive Behaviours 

  • Prioritising drug and alcohol use: If the person’s life revolves around obtaining and consuming drugs and alcohol, and recovering from episodes of substance use, then this is a sign that they have an unhealthy relationship with substances

  • Cravings: The person experiences strong, uncontrollable impulses to drink alcohol, or take drugs

  • Secrecy: The person becomes increasingly secretive, for example, refusing to disclose who they were with, or where they were.

  • Changes in their circle of friends, or places they spend time

  • Changes in their appearance: Particularly appearing more dishevelled, pale, or tired.

  • Experiencing financial difficulties: If someone is becoming more concerned about their spending, or frequently asking for money, this is a sign that they may have an addiction problem

  • Unease: Appearing uncomfortable in social situations where they do not have access to alcohol or drugs

  • Effort: the person goes to a lot of effort to obtain alcohol or drugs, for example, travelling a long distance to obtain drugs

There are some additional signs exclusive to those suffering from alcohol addiction:

  • Drinking in the mornings or during the day

  • Drinking frequently by themselves, in greater quantities than is socially acceptable. For example, arriving at social functions already smelling of alcohol or appearing intoxicated.

  • Increased reports of blacking out after episodes of drinking, or drinking more than is socially acceptable at functions.

  • Marked changes in personality and behaviour such as depression, anxiety, lack of self-esteem, and isolating themselves from their usual social circle.

More symptoms of alcohol and drug addiction

Concealing evidence of their alcohol and drug use

Addicted people generally go to great lengths to hide evidence of their addictive behaviour from others. This denial stems from the deep shame surrounding addiction, and causes the individual to deny their addiction to others and even to themselves.

Failed attempts to stop using alcohol or drugs

People suffering from drug and alcohol addiction make frequent attempts to decrease or stop their alcohol or drug use. When it comes to alcohol, they may try to stick to a low alcohol drink such as cider, or only drink on certain days of the week. These attempts may be successful in the short term, but the addicted person will eventually return to their normal pattern of drinking or drug taking behaviour.

Reducing social contact

The person may cease to take care of their appearance, and reduce contact with their normal circle of friends and family.

Experiencing work related issues

  • Arriving late to work
  • Being unreliable
  • Smelling of alcohol in the workplace
  • Missing work appointments or meetings due to incapacitation
  • Drinking alcohol at lunchtime
  • Erratic and unpredictable behaviour
  • Taking unnecessary risks

Continued drinking despite health problems

The person carries on drinking or taking drugs despite experiencing health problems that were either caused or exacerbated by this behaviour.

Developing tolerance to alcohol or drugs

Long-term, heavy drug use causes the user to build up a tolerance to drugs and alcohol. This means that they must take more drugs or drink alcohol, more frequently, to achieve the same level of intoxication.

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