Addiction, which is referred to clinically as a substance use disorder, is a progressive and potentially fatal condition.
People who struggle with addiction may experience significant distress in all areas of their lives. In the absence of proper care, the effects of addiction can be devastating. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has documented many of the ways addiction can undermine a person’s ability to live a healthy and satisfying life.
Thankfully, with the right help, people can learn to manage the symptoms of substance use disorders and regain control of their thoughts and actions.
Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of addiction can be an important step on the path to improved health and successful recovery.
Signs of Addiction
The signs of addiction can vary widely from person to person. Some people demonstrate multiple signs of addiction, while others show fewer signs or hide them more effectively. In general, the following are common warning signs that a person may be struggling with addiction:
- Having unexplained financial problems or frequently attempting to borrow or steal money
- Lying or being secretive about activities and whereabouts
- Frequently missing school or work or otherwise failing to meet their responsibilities
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Undergoing a change in appearance, including weight loss or gain and apparent lack of attention to grooming or hygiene
- Using substances when it is clearly unsafe to do so, such as when driving
- Continuing to use substances even after experiencing negative effects directly related to prior use
- Displaying uncharacteristic mood swings, outbursts of anger, or reckless behaviors
Anyone who demonstrates the warning signs of addiction may be in grave danger and should consult with a qualified healthcare provider. Completing a thorough assessment and receiving an accurate diagnosis of a substance use disorder are essential steps on the path to recovery from addiction.
Symptoms of Addiction
In addition to demonstrating certain warning signs of addiction, people who struggle with substance use disorders may also experience a variety of additional addiction symptoms. Common addiction symptoms include:
- Having powerful cravings for substances
- Experiencing physical or emotional distress when unable to use substances
- Having problems with coordination, focus, and judgment
- Needing to use substances to experience joy or to deal with stress
- Needing to use substances to wake up, go to sleep, or otherwise alter their energy level
- Hiding the amount and frequency of their substance use from family and friends
- Trying but failing to end their substance use
The symptoms of addiction can be sources of significant distress, and they can put a person at risk for devastating consequences. However, when a person who experiences the symptoms of addiction gets appropriate professional help, they can learn to manage these symptoms and achieve successful long-term recovery.
Common Causes & Risk Factors of Addiction
No single definitive cause of addiction has been identified. But researchers have noted multiple risk factors that can increase the likelihood that a person will develop a substance use disorder. Common causes and risk factors of addiction include:
- Family history of substance use or addiction
- Poor coping skills
- Experiencing elevated levels of stress
- Peer influence
- Presence of certain mental health concerns
The following addiction statistics were reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
- In 2018, researchers estimated that more than 20 million Americans met the criteria for a diagnosis of a substance use disorder.
- About 2.7 million Americans struggle with addiction to both alcohol and another drug.
- In an average year, about 15% of adults ages 18-25 struggle with addiction.
- Among adults age 26 and older, the past-year prevalence of addiction is about 6.6%.
Potential Effects of Addiction
People who struggle with addiction may experience a wide range of negative outcomes. The potential effects of addiction include physical, emotional, financial, and social harm.
Possible effects of addiction include:
- Discord within the family
- Strained or ruined relationships with friends and colleagues
- Academic failure, job loss, and unemployment
- Physical injuries due to behaviors undertaken while under the influence of substances
- Medical problems, including damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys
- Onset or worsening of mental health concerns
- Legal problems, including being arrested, fined, and incarcerated
- Financial devastation
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Loss of hope for the future
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
When you get the professional help you need, you can minimize your risk for future harm. Professional assistance can also help you begin to heal from any effects of addiction you’ve already experienced.
What Happens If I Relapse?
Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process. When you get professional help for a substance use disorder, you’ll learn to manage the symptoms of addiction, and you’ll develop skills and strategies for resisting relapse. You’ll also learn how to respond in the healthiest and most productive manner if you do experience a setback on your recovery journey.
If you have a relapse, what’s most important is preventing this temporary obstacle from becoming a long-term problem. Possible responses include attending additional support group meetings, reaching out to a trusted friend or family member, scheduling a session with a counselor, or reentering a program to receive further professional care.
One of the essential lessons you can learn while you’re receiving care for addiction is that you are not alone. Relapse doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, and there is no shame in asking for help when you need it.
Common Underlying or Co-Occurring Disorders
People who struggle with addiction may also have an elevated risk for developing certain mental health concerns. In clinical terminology, these mental health concerns may be referred to as co-occurring disorders.
When you seek professional assistance for addiction, it’s important to select a provider who can assess the full scope of your needs and, if necessary, provide the comprehensive care that will address your addiction concerns as well as any co-occurring disorders.
Failing to receive proper care for co-occurring disorders can undermine your ability to experience successful long-term recovery from addiction.
When you choose Tower Behavioral Health, you can rest assured that you will receive the comprehensive, personalized care that will help you achieve improved health and remain on the path to lifelong recovery from addiction.
This content was written on behalf of and reviewed by the clinical staff at Tower Behavioral Health.