Signs of Addiction (Physical & Mental): Drugs & Alcohol

Last Updated: September 22, 2023

Addiction is the popular term for a substance use disorder, the clinical diagnosis given to a person seeking addiction treatment. Unfortunately, addiction is widespread. Data from 2020 showed that 40.3 million people had a substance use disorder within the past year. Of those, 28.3 million had an alcohol use disorder, 18.4 million had a drug use disorder and 6.5 million had both.

If you are concerned about someone in your life, knowing the signs of addiction can help you determine when it’s time to reach out and offer assistance.

What Does Addiction Look Like?

Everyone likely has an image in their mind of what addiction looks like to them. It might be the guy on the street corner with his cardboard sign asking for spare change. It could be the woman arrested last week. Sometimes it’s the kid who skips school and gets bad grades.

But other times, it’s the mom who walks her son to the bus stop every morning before taking a few of his Adderall, a middle class father of two who never quite gave up his leisurely marijuana habit, or a lawyer who finds that the workday is far more bearable with prescription opioid pain relievers on hand.

Even doctors might fall victim to substance misuse, with one recent study showing that 12.9% of male doctors and 21.4% of female doctors met the criteria for alcohol addiction. It can be concluded that you cannot identify addiction based on one look or demographic, as it can impact anyone.

Who Does Addiction Affect?

Certain individuals are at a higher risk of addiction than the general population. If your mother or father had an addiction, you have a significantly higher risk of developing an addiction yourself. One reason for this is the genetics of addiction. According to recent research:

Additional risk factors for developing an addiction can include a history of abuse/neglect, friendships with peers who use drugs, peer pressure and bullying. These factors contribute to the development of substance use disorders among teens.

Other factors associated with addiction include:

  • Mental health disorders:  Studies have shown that about half of people with a substance use disorder will experience a co-occurring mental health condition at some point. More specifically, individuals with a history of mental health conditions like ADHD and depression are at increased risk of developing an addiction.
  • Demographic factors: Government research shows that drug addiction is highest among those who identify as being of two or more races, with 5.0% of this population experiencing an addiction. Furthermore, people who experience addiction include:
  • 4.8% of those who identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native
  • 3.4% of those who identify as Black or African American
  • 2.8% of those who are Hispanic/Latino
  • 2.9% of those who are White
  • 1.3% of those who are Asians
  • Age: Young adults, particularly college students, are at risk of developing drug or alcohol problems. Young adults enrolled in college are more likely to binge drink compared to their agemates not in college. In fact, 33% of college students reported binge drinking in the previous two weeks, compared to 22% of young adults not in college.

Furthermore, 5.6% of college students reported using cocaine in the past year, and 43% used marijuana. As of 2019, 47% of college students had used any illegal drug, and 17% had used illegal drugs aside from marijuana.

  • Being a parent: People may assume that individuals who have children are immune to addiction, but this isn’t the case. According to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 8.7 million children live with at least one parent who has a substance use disorder.

Initial Signs of Addiction

A substance use disorder, the clinical term for an addiction, can be mild, moderate or severe. Individuals with a severe addiction show six or more signs, whereas those with a mild substance use disorder only have to show two or three signs. In the early stages of addiction, a person may show only a few symptoms, but if the addiction is untreated, it can become more severe.

Some initial signs of an addiction or substance use disorder could include withdrawing from usual activities, spending less time with friends and family or beginning to miss work or other obligations. These signs suggest that drug use is becoming more important than other areas of life.

Behavioral Signs of Addiction

When someone develops an addiction, you are likely to notice a change in behaviors because drug and alcohol use becomes compulsive and begins to interfere with other areas of life.

Some behavioral warning signs of addiction include:

  • Continuing to use drugs, despite a conflict in important relationships
  • Neglecting duties at work, school or home
  • Using larger quantities of drugs than in the past due to building a tolerance
  • Spending a significant amount of time looking for or using drugs, to the point that drug use becomes a fixation
  • Being unable to stop using drugs
  • Using drugs specifically to prevent uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms
  • Giving up other hobbies and interests or changing friends because of drug use
  • Engaging in secretive behavior, getting in legal trouble or stealing money
  • Using drugs even when it is dangerous or causes physical or mental health problems

All of these behavioral signs of addiction suggest that a person has lost control of their substance use, and they continue to use despite significant consequences.

Physical Signs of Addiction

Drugs can take a toll on a person’s health and cause physical changes. While the physical effects can vary based on the drug a person is using, some common physical signs of addiction are:

  • Changes in weight
  • Lack of grooming/personal hygiene
  • Changes in appetite
  • Reduced or increased sleep
  • Frequent runny nose from snorting
  • Strange odors on the body
  • Tremors or coordination problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Either very large or very small pupils

Drug Specific Signs of Addiction

See All Drugs of Addiction

Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Addiction in Florida

When you recognize that it’s time to get help for addiction, several options are available. Orlando Recovery Center offers a range of options if you’re looking for addiction treatment in Florida.

Our treatment options include medical detox, inpatient and outpatient care, intensive outpatient programming, partial hospitalization services, aftercare and teletherapy. Our 93-bed inpatient facility offers numerous amenities, including yoga, volleyball courts, a swimming pool and meditation classes.

If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, Orlando Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to begin the admissions process and start your recovery journey.


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Atlas Blog. “Alcohol Flush Reaction: Do You Have Alcohol Intolerance?” December 1, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2022.

Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. “Alcohol Allergy.” 2019. Accessed June 16, 2022.

National Organization for Rare Disorders. “NIH GARD Information: Acute alcohol sensitivity.” Accessed June 16, 2022.

Soghoian, Samara. “Disulfiram Toxicity.” Medscape, May 16, 2022. Accessed June 16, 2022.

Bryant, Andrew J.; Newman, John H. “Alcohol intolerance associated with Hodgkin lymphoma.” Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 14, 2013. Accessed June 16, 2022.

Medscape. “Metronidazole (Rx).” Accessed June 16, 2022.

YorkTest. “Alcohol Intolerance.” Accessed June 16, 2022.

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