Substance AbuseSigns & Symptoms


Substance Use Disorders occur when an individual continues using the substance, whether it’s alcohol, cocaine, prescription pain pills or other drugs, despite significant substance related problems. A person who has a moderate or severe substance use disorder may put substance use before family, relationships and career. He or she will continue to drink or use drugs, even if it's causing problems.

It can be hard to recognize when you or someone in your life has a substance use disorder. Denial is common, but addiction can be devastating. Understanding the signs of drug addiction can help you decide if it’s time to seek help for yourself or a loved one.

Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism

Alcohol abuse can mean binge drinking, continuing to drink even after it has disrupted your life or having an unhealthy focus on alcohol.

You may be at higher risk for abusing alcohol if you:

  • Have easy access to alcohol
  • Smoke or use drugs
  • Suffer from depression and anxiety
  • Are male, especially if you have a father or brother who abused alcohol

Signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Problems at work, school or home due to drinking
  • Risking physical safety
  • Trouble with the law, often due to drinking and driving
  • Continuing to drink despite alcohol-related problems

Alcohol abuse can lead to alcoholism. This means the body becomes physically dependent on alcohol.

Symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Craving a drink regularly
  • Being unable to stop or limit drinking
  • Needing greater amounts of alcohol to feel the same effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, like nausea, sweating, shaking, anxiety, increased blood pressure or seizures
  • Giving up activities to drink or to recover from a hangover
  • Drinking even after it causes health problems
  • Not being able to stop drinking

Drug Abuse & Addiction

People who abuse drugs may be using cocaine, heroin, morphine, LSD, marijuana, sedatives, speed, PCP, ecstasy, prescription pills and other substances.

You may be at higher risk for drug abuse if you:

  • Suffer from social and peer pressure, depression or panic disorders
  • Have access to drugs
  • Spend time with people who take drugs
  • Have family members who abuse drugs
  • Are male

Signs of drug abuse include:

  • Problems at work, school or home
  • Using drugs even if it risks physical safety
  • Trouble with law enforcement that stems from drug use
  • Continuing to use drugs even though using them causes problems

Drug dependence sets in after long-term, compulsive drug use. That’s because your body starts to need higher doses of drugs in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

You may be dependent on drugs if you:

  • Crave drugs
  • Are unable to stop or limit drug use
  • Take greater amounts of drugs to feel the same effect
  • Have withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug
  • Spend a lot of time getting drugs and recovering from their effects
  • Give up activities so you can use drugs or recover from use
  • Use drugs even after they cause health or psychological problems
  • Want to stop but can’t

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