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Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Everyone is unique, therefore, the signs and symptoms of addiction will vary from person to person and can even change from day to day. Addictions are medical conditions that have strong psychological and biological components. People may become addicted to substances (e.g. alcohol and nicotine) or behaviors (e.g. gambling and shopping).

Physical signs and symptoms of addiction

Changes in energy level

Depending on whether the substance is a stimulant (i.e. nicotine) or a depressant (i.e. alcohol), it can alter the body’s level of consciousness. Stimulants can make people appear to be hyperactive or energetic, but can also become anxious or aggressive. High doses of stimulants can cause heart palpitations, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure.

In contrast, depressants dull the mind and senses. People taking depressants may seem sluggish, sleepy, or clumsy. High doses of depressants can lead to drowsiness, vomiting and loss of consciousness, while overdosing on depressants can have fatal results.

Altered speech patterns

Stimulants may cause a person to speak quickly and in a somewhat disorganized or unrestrained manner. With depressants, a person may have slow or slurred speech.

Eye and vision changes

Narcotics and opioids can constrict (narrow) the pupils. High doses or overdoses of these can cause pin-point pupils, which do not respond to light.

Other substances like cocaine, hallucinogens, ketamine, and many others will cause dilation may cause pupil dilation (widening) at high doses.

Alcohol intoxication is known to cause blurry vision. Inhalants, solvents, and marijuana may cause eye watering and redness. Meanwhile, those taking meth or amphetamines can experience rapid eye movements known as nystagmus.

Jitters or tremors

Jitters, tremors, or shakiness may be caused by stimulant drugs or long-term substance abuse. It is also a common symptom of withdrawal.

Weight-loss or malnourishment

Over time, an addiction may consume much of a person’s time and energy. They may become so focused on their addiction that they do not eat properly. Money for food may be spent on the addiction instead.

On the other hand, substances like marijuana are known to increase appetite and may cause weight-gain over time.

Behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms of addiction

signs and symptoms of addiction

Insomnia or abnormal sleep patterns

People who have an addiction may lose sleep over it. Additionally, the substance itself may prevent them from sleeping. Trying to stop the addiction can trigger withdrawal symptoms which can also disturb sleep.

Alternatively, substances like marijuana and alcohol can cause relaxation and drowsiness instead of insomnia. However, alcohol-induced sleep is typically disrupted or of low quality.


One of the signs and symptoms of addiction are irritability or aggressiveness. These may be a symptom of substance use or withdrawal. In addition, lack of sleep and proper meals can contribute to irritability.

Impulsiveness or lack of self-control

Intoxication and addiction can cloud a person’s judgement or make them feel impulsive. An addiction may make someone forget what is considered socially acceptable or appropriate. In addition, substances can also affect how a person behaves in society.

They may have disregard for the law, despite the potential consequences. The addiction may drive them to do crimes like stealing or driving under the influence.

Loss of interest

Addictions tend to preoccupy the mind. For someone with an addiction, much of their thoughts revolve around chasing the “high” that the substance or behavior brings. Because of this, they lose interest in things and people they used to enjoy. This can also result in financial problems, as a person may neglect their professional responsibilities or reroute all of their resources in favor of the addiction.


People with addictions may become more secretive or distant from those that they are close to. One reason for this is they could be distancing themselves from others due to the negative thoughts and emotions they experience

This can lead to strains in one’s personal relationships. As a result, loved ones and acquaintances may stop reaching out. However, this can make a person’s addiction worse.

signs and symptoms of addiction

Denial and defensiveness

Oftentimes, the person with an addiction may not realize or acknowledge that they have an addiction. Friends and family members may try to share their concerns and observations. However, someone with an addiction may initially deny it.

Anxiety or depression

Lastly, anxiety and depression may be an underlying cause of substance, or a consequence of addiction. It is important to note that the psychological aspects of addiction require a more holistic approach to treatment.

Key takeaways

In summary, the common signs and symptoms of addiction are cravings, loss of control, and continued use of a certain substance despite the negative effects. Additionally, each sign and symptom may vary between people and the type of addiction they have. If you or someone you know is experiencing these signs and symptoms, it is best to seek professional help from mental health experts.

Learn more about Addiction here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Dealing with addiction https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/addictions.html Accessed January 14, 2021

Addiction: what is it? https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/addiction-what-is-it/ Accessed January 14, 2021

Signs and symptoms of addiction https://www.marrinc.org/signs-and-symptoms/ Accessed January 14, 2021

How to tell if someone is on drugs: opiates, marijuana, and more https://americanaddictioncenters.org/adult-addiction-treatment-programs/know-is-someone-on-drugs Accessed January 14, 2021

How to identify substance use disorder & addiction https://drugfree.org/article/how-to-identify-substance-use-disorder-addiction/ Accessed January 14, 2021

Stimulants https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/stimulants/ Accessed January 14, 2021

Depressants https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/depressants/ Accessed January 14, 2021

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Written by Stephanie Nicole Nera, RPh, PharmD Updated May 26