What Are the Warning Signs of Addiction?

Many factors determine why an individual is afflicted by addiction and others are not. Studies show that the reasons are partly genetic predisposition and partly due to unsatisfactory coping skills. Whatever the reasons, there are many warning signs when an individual descends into addiction, such as unexpected changes in appearance or behavior. Read on to learn more about how to spot the signs.

What is an Addiction?

Modern diagnosis defines addiction as a ‘compulsive need for and use of a habit forming substance’. Such a need is also coupled with a tolerance for the substance and clear physiological symptoms upon withdrawal from the substance. For an individual’s behavior to be considered an ‘addiction’, it requires two specific characteristics:

  • The behavior is counterproductive and undermines the individual’s ability to function normally in day to day life; and
  • The behavior is persistent enough to continually engage the individual.

Recurring substance use can, over time, change an individual’s brain function. Addiction is a real medical disorder, and as such can be treated successfully.

What are some Addictive Substances?

An addictive substance can range from everyday materials like sleeping pills, alcohol and cigarettes, even coffee and junk food, to recreational stimulants like marijuana and cocaine to harder drugs. If one finds suspicious looking powders or liquids, or syringes and rolled up pieces of paper in a loved one’s belongings, chances are that addictive substances are being used.

Spot the Warning Signs

The warning signs of addiction can be physical, behavioral or psychological.

Physical Signs

  • Deteriorated personal grooming habits
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Drastic change in appearance
  • Noticeable weight loss or weight gain
  • Impaired coordination, slurred speech
  • Bodily tremors
  • Radical changes in sleep patterns

Behavioral Signs

  • Associating with a different or new social circle
  • Decreased attendance or participation at school or work
  • Money troubles, possible stealing
  • Getting into fights or illegal activities
  • Repeated unexplained outings
  • Secretive behavior, accompanied by lying

Psychological Signs

  • Abrupt mood swings or angry outbursts
  • Unmotivated
  • Extreme energy changes, either very tired or very energetic
  • Appearing anxious or paranoid
  • Change personality or attitude

Be aware that multiple warning signs need to occur repeatedly in order to identify the probability that an individual has an addiction, and is not just having a bad day. However, close observation can be helpful in detecting the signs of addiction early on.

Next Steps

Armed with a better understanding of what signs to look for, the next step is finding help for the individual in question. Loved ones play an immensely important role in the recovery process, however it is not an easy role to undertake. Know that there are many options for support to guide one through the process of helping an individual with addiction it doesn’t have to be a lonely road.


Recovery is hard work but you don’t have to do it alone. Call The Villa to find out how we can support your goals for sober living.