Signs & Symptoms:

The following are guidelines to help identify signs that you or a loved one may have an addiction or dependence to drugs, alcohol or other substances:

Physical Symptoms:

  • Change in appearance.
  • Weight gain or loss.
  • Bad breath.
  • Bruises on body where drugs would be administered.
  • Infection.
  • Nausea, sweating,headaches.
  • Bloodshot eyes and recurring bloody noses.
  • Trembling, shivering or the shakes.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Looking drowsy or sleepy. 
  • Indifferent to personal hygiene.

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Legal troubles.
  • Financial problems.
  • Unable to get along with co -workers, friends or family members.
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, school etc.
  • Driving while under the influence.
  • Irritability/ mood swings/argumentative behavior.
  • Depression or feelings of anxiety.
  • Engagement in criminal activity.
  • Overall disinterest in activities.
  • Feelings of helplessness.


*Even if you feel you aren't ready, starting addiction treatment early can lead to better results.

Should I Seek Help?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Addiction is defined as "a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors."  You may have a serious problem and need treatment if:

  • Using drugs or alcohol is the primary focus, surpassing anything else being done throughout the day.
  • Ongoing desire or unsuccessful efforts to reduce use.
  • Increased cravings for the substance.
  • Increased tolerance to drug and alcohol consumption; feeling less effect from the substance from continued use.
  • Significant deal of time spent to obtain, use or recover the substance.
  • Inability to perform or fulfill obligations at work, school or social settings due to continued use.
  • Lack of concern for where drugs are used; using in dangerous environments.
  • Continued use despite ongoing physical or mental health problems cause or worsened by use.
  • Continued use despite ongoing relationship problems caused or worsened by use.
  • Taking substance longer than needed.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after reducing use.

These are serious signs that, if not addressed, can lead to an overdose, which can cause a coma and even death. Get help immediately if any of these signs resonate with you.

Stages of Substance Abuse:


There are stages of substance abuse that are determined when someone is being diagnosed. It is important to understand the meaning of these terms as they are often misconstrued to mean the same thing when in fact, they are very different. For example, a person can have a tolerance or dependence to a substance without being addicted to it.

  •  Addiction: Is a disease; compulsively using a substance of choice repeatedly, even to one's own detriment or harm.
  • Dependence: The body begins to require the substance to feel functional or normal. Symptoms of withdrawal appear without it and they can be very severe, depending on the type of substance.
  • Tolerance: The body has become used to the substance so higher quantities, different methods of ingestion or higher quality are needed to feel the "high" they felt the first time they ever used.


People with a mild drug or alcohol problem (sometimes called substance abuse) may benefit from a brief intervention or treatment in an outpatient setting.

People with a moderate to severe drug or alcohol problem (sometimes called substance dependence or addiction) may benefit from more intensive outpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, residential treatment or hospital inpatient care.

People who are addicted to opioids (such as heroin or prescription painkillers), alcohol or nicotine may also benefit from medication to treat their addiction.