Even with access to endless information, articles, and self-help guides, the warning signs of addiction are not always clear. For one, addiction is a chronic and complex brain disease that often affects every individual differently, making it difficult to ascertain when casual drinking evolves into alcohol use disorder, or when pain medication is misused. In some instances, drug or alcohol issues are immediately apparent. In most cases, drug use is gradual, and as tolerance levels increase, addiction can come about insidiously. 

Spotting early warning signs of addiction can help save countless lives. While drug addiction is a chronic disease, it is treatable through effective evidence based practices. Don’t wait, call today at 720-650-8055.

Those suffering from drug addiction usually experience compulsive, sometimes uncontrollable, cravings for a drug of their choice. Generally, they will continue to seek and use drugs despite negative experiences, consequences, and health issues that result from usage. How is long-term drug use defined? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction is a relapsing disorder characterized by:

  • Compulsive drug-seeking behaviors
  • Continued use despite harmful consequences
  • Long-lasting changes to the brain’s chemistry

As the drug epidemic transforms communities across the nation, treatment specialists and even family members evaluate the warning signs of substance abuse. More specifically, many are attempting to spot the downward spiral that occurs as a result of substance dependency. Early detection of the disease and proper treatment has proven to help people overcome drug and alcohol misuse.   

signs of drug abuse

High Functioning Substance Abuse

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes substance abuse as a spectrum of symptoms, making it nearly impossible to define the warning signs of addiction. Given that alcohol and drug use are multifaceted issues, individuals often experience varying levels of interactions with certain drugs. 

High functioning addiction is a more common trait among users. An estimated 10% to 14% of the U.S. population is addicted to a substance. Many of those affected, including nearly 20% of all alcoholics, do not fit the stereotypical images of a drug addict. In fact, tens of thousands of individuals suffering from substance use disorder (SUD) can maintain their job, support family life and structure, and even enjoy busy social lives. Unfortunately, high functioning professionals are also less likely to seek treatment for their addiction, often convinced that they can balance SUD’s chaos with everyday life expectations.

High-functioning users usually break stereotypes. These individuals are skilled at masking their struggles and hiding their habits from friends and loved ones. For example, rather than face homelessness, these individuals are more likely to achieve professional success or maintain active social lives, yet still battle through short- and long-term impacts of drug use. 

Warning signs of addiction for high-functioning drug users:

  • Making excuses for behavior
  • Drinking or doing more drugs than intended
  • Losing interest in hobbies
  • Deteriorating appearance
  • Isolation
  • Seeking enabling relationships
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Failing memory
  • Unexplained financial issues
  • Neglecting responsibilities

Even for highly functioning adults with SUD, drug use can still be negatively impactful. 

Rates of Substance Abuse

Every year, more and more people die due to drug overdoses. Over 95,000 Americans lose their lives annually from alcohol related causes. More concerningly, amid COVID-19 quarantine shutdowns, Nielsen research found that alcohol purchases are surging across the country with off-premise sales up 23%. 

A 17% increase in drug overdoses from March to May 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, suggests a strong correlation between substance abuse and mental health. –Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP)

According to the CDC, in 2019, drug overdoses excluding alcohol accounted for almost 72,000 deaths. More than 40 states reported a gradual increase in opioid-related deaths, as well. Many of the same states were simultaneously discovering trends revolving around mental health as a co-occurring disorder. 

warning signs of addiction

Increases in Drug and Alcohol Tolerance Levels

Tolerance is a key symptom associated with substance use disorder (SUD). When a drug tolerance begins to build, a person may feel the need to increase the dosage or frequency of use to achieve the desired effects. For prescriptions, patients must use medicine as directed by their physician. Monitoring usage can help identify when substance use is becoming problematic, and it can also be an indication among the warning signs of addiction.

All drugs carry the potential to cause dependency, but the potency has a massive impact on how quickly someone can experience SUD. Other factors to consider include:

  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression
  • Age at onset of drug use
  • Administration method

When a person cannot abstain from using or has higher tolerance levels, it can be among the sure warning signs of addiction. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the pursuit of rewards found in drug use becomes pathological when:

  • Reward-seeking becomes compulsive or impulsive
  • Behavior ceases to be pleasurable
  • Behavior no longer provides relief

At this point, a person may spiral downward as the substance begins to cause extensive damage to the body and brain. At this point, erratic behavior and other drug use signs may be more prevalent. 

Warning Signs of Addiction & Treatment Plans

Treating substance dependency with a one-size-fits-all approach is counterproductive to rehabilitation and can even cause relapse among drug users. Instead, it’s important to evaluate the history of drug use, possible underlying mental health conditions and assess habit-forming behavior levels and frequency. Substance use disorders range in severity, duration, and complexity. 

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), research shows that the most effective way to help someone with substance abuse problems who may be at risk for developing a substance use disorder is to intervene early, prior to the condition progressing. 

Early warning signs of addiction include:

  • Not being able to recall events while drinking, also called blackouts
  • Repeated conflicts with family members, friends, or co-workers
  • Using alcohol regularly to relax, improve mood, sleep, etc.
  • Neglecting schoolwork or other responsibilities
  • Using drugs accompanied by risky behavior like driving while intoxicated
  • Running into legal issues caused by substance use
  • Facing relationship conflicts

Tolerance and dependence on alcohol or drugs can sometimes develop before a user even realizes it’s happening. Once a full-blown substance use disorder develops, it can be extremely difficult to stop using drugs without professional treatment. Not only does drug use wreak havoc on the body and mind, but many substances, including alcohol–although legal nationwide–can isolate a person and cause an incredible amount of shame.

Behavioral Signs of Drug Abuse

Drug abuse tends to significantly alter a person’s behavior and habits. Some drugs impair the brain’s ability to focus and think clearly. Changes in behavior and other warning signs associated with addiction include:

  • Increased aggression or irritability
  • Changes in attitude or personality
  • Lethargy
  • Depression or other co-occurring disorders
  • Sudden changes in social groups or friends 
  • Dramatic changes in habits or priorities
  • Involvement in criminal activity

Treatment Options for Substance Dependency

As a parent, friend, family member, or coworker, it’s difficult to watch substance abuse problems ravage a person you care about. When warning signs of addiction are spotted, an online outpatient rehab program can offer effective methods for addressing substance use disorders. Virtual telehealth services help participants create personalized and flexible rehab schedules. They receive the help they need in recovery, maintaining sobriety while attending to other obligations. 

drug addiction warning signs

AspenRidge REACH Online Drug Treatment

Early detection of substance use disorder is important, and AspenRidge can assist. We’ve helped thousands discover skills and tools to maintain a sober lifestyle through our various treatment programs. Through AspenRidge REACH, an exclusive online drug treatment program, more people can find access to evidence-based care geared toward relief from ongoing drug dependency.

As an intensive outpatient program, REACH provides care through virtual systems that incorporate individualized and group sessions. Through video conferencing, AspenRidge can securely assist those struggling with ongoing drug and alcohol misuse. 

Our programs offered include:

These twelve and six-week courses are designed to address substance abuse according to the severity and complexity of the symptoms. Each program offers flexibility and support through individual and group counseling, plus family counseling. 

For more information on our virtual programs, go here. Contact us today for more information on care and enrollment, or to verify your insurance – call 720-650-8055.