Early Signs of Addiction by Morningside Recovery

Addiction can be a tricky foe. Often, a person doesn't even know she's become dependent on a substance until it's nearly impossible to quit. But the sooner she gets help, the greater her chances for a successful recovery. While early stages of addiction can be hard to recognize, there are a few telltale signs that can help you identify potential substance abuse in either yourself or those you love:

Physical Changes:

  • An increase or decrease in appetite, sleep, weight, and hygiene - A decrease in appetite and weight, coupled with an increase in drowsiness or time spent sleeping, are hallmarks of opiate addiction. But a decrease in appetite and weight, coupled with less time spent sleeping, could be signs of an addiction to stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine.
  • Altered psychomotor skills - Slurred speech and lack of coordination are common symptoms of alcohol abuse. In someone using stimulants, however, you tend to see almost the opposite effect: agitation, such as rapid speech or the inability to sit still. Also, pay close attention to the person's breathing and heart rate; if his breathing is very shallow, very slow, or very rapid, seek medical help immediately.
  • Visible changes in the eyes - Someone's pupils are also a good indicator of what type of drug is being abused. In general, very small, pinpoint pupils are a sign of opiate or alcohol use, whereas large, dilated pupils can be a sign that someone is using a hallucinogen or a stimulant.

Behavioral Changes:

According to the American Psychological Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the criteria for diagnosing of substance abuse are:

  • Decreased performance at school or work, or neglecting responsibilities at home - This can include: taking too many sick days, failing grades at school, or not being able to maintain a household.
  • Using drugs or alcohol when it is dangerous to do so - This can include: driving a car or operating heavy machinery while under the influence.
  • Substance-related legal issues - These can include driving under the influence or being arrested for disorderly conduct.
  • Continued substance abuse, even when it causes physical, mental-health, or relationship problems

Additionally, smaller behavioral changes can lead to one or more of the criteria above: Stealing money to buy drugs will ultimately disrupt interpersonal relationships, for example, while fist-fights can cause legal issues if someone presses charges for assault and battery.

Psychological and Emotional Changes:

  • Rapid mood swings - Illicit drug use often results in a cycle of emotions that is hard to break: A person feels depressed so they use drugs, causing mania or euphoria or manic. The after effects of using the drugs then causes more depression, and the cycle continues.
  • Symptoms of mental illness - For example, you may see increased anxiety and paranoia in a cocaine abuser, or hallucinations in someone using LSD.
  • Personality changes - Angry outbursts, sudden lack of motivation, or other drastic alterations in temperament that seem out of character

If you suspect you or a loved one may have a problem with drugs, the most important thing you can do is get help as early as possible. The sooner someone receives treatment, the better his chances to stop the cycle of addiction.


Morningside Recovery is a world-class recovery facility dedicated to providing the excellent care for individuals who are chemically dependent or suffering from co-occurring disorders. Visit MorningsideRecovery.com to learn more more about Morningside Recovery's mental illness, addiction, or other treatment options.

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