Drug addiction is also called substance use disorder  that affects a person’s brain and behavior leading to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or even medications.

Substances includes such as alcohol, nicotine ,marijuana , heroin, pain killers, ice, mushrooms etc.

When you have addicted to some drug, you may continue using the drug despite the fact,  its harming your physical as well as social life.

Drug addiction often start with experimental use of a recreational drug  and  for some people, the drug use becomes more frequent to escape from hardships of life.

For some , particularly with opioids, drug addiction often begins with exposure to prescribed medications for pain relief or management of some disease.

The risk of addiction and how quick someone  becomes addicted varies by drug class.Drugs like opioid painkillers have much higher risk and cause addiction more quickly than others.

As time passes, you may need larger doses of the same drug to get feeling of being high. As your drug use increases, you may find that it’s increasingly difficult to go without the drug. Attempts to stop drug use may cause intense cravings and make you feel physically ill (withdrawal symptoms).

You might need help from your doctor, family, friends, support groups to overcome your drug addiction and stay drug-free life.


Drug addiction symptom include :

  • Feelings that you have to use the drug daily or even several times a day
  • Having intense cravings for drug that may block out any other thoughts
  • Needing more amount of the drug to get the same effect
  • Making sure that you maintain a supply of the drug
  • Spending most of money on the drug even though you can’t afford it
  • Not maintaining obligations of family and work responsibilities, or cutting back on recreational or social activities because of drug use.
  • Continuous use of drug even though you know it’s causing many problems in your life or causing physical or psychological harm
  • Doing things such as stealing or fights, to get the drug that you normally will not do
  • Reckless driving or doing other risky stuff such as involving in fights etc, when you’re under the influence
  • Spending a good amount of time getting the drug, using the drug or recovering from the effects of the drug
  • Repeatedly failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
  • Having severe withdrawal symptoms, when you attempt to stop taking the drug

Recognizing  drug use in friends or family members

Sometimes it becomes difficult to distinguish normal teenage mood swings or angst from signs of drug use.

Possible indications :

  • Problems at school/work: frequently missing school or work, a sudden disinterest in school activities or work, or a drop in grades or work performance
  • Physical health issues: lack of motivation or energy , sudden weight loss or gain, or frequent red eyes
  • Neglected self-care: lack of interest in maintaining clothing or grooming
  • Changes in behaviour: efforts to control family members from entering personal space such as room or being secretive about where he or she goes with friends, or sudden changes in behavior such as mood swings or anger outbursts
  • Financial issues: repeated requests for money without a reasonable explanation; or discovering that money is missing or has been stolen or  from your home.

Recognizing early signs of drug use or intoxication

Signs  of drug use or intoxication varies, depending on the type of drug.

Marijuana, hashish and other cannabis-containing substances

People use cannabis by smoking or inhaling a vaporized form of the drug. Cannabis  is often the first drug tried.

Signs and symptoms of recent use can include:

  • Sense of euphoria or being feeling “high”
  • Heightened sense of auditory and taste perception
  • Increased heart rate
  • Frequent Red eyes
  • Frequent Dry mouth
  • Impaired coordination
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Slowed, reaction time
  • Anxiety or paranoid thinking about friends or family
  • Cannabis odour on clothes or yellow fingertips
  • Exaggerated cravings for certain foods at unusual times

Long-term (chronic) use is often associated with:

  • Low mental sharpness
  • Decline in performance at school / work
  • Limiting number of friends and interests

Alcohol Addiction :

Moderate alcohol use may offer some health benefits, heavy drinking and  binge drinking has no health benefits.

Heavy or high-risk drinking is defined as more than 3 to 4 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks a week for men or women.

Binge drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks within two hours for both men or women.

Excessive drinking can increase your risk of serious health problems, including:

  • It increases the risk of cancer, including breast, mouth, throat, esophagus or pancreas.
  • Pancreatitis , a life threatening disease, often associated with it.
  • Sudden death if you already have cardiovascular disease
  • Heart related issues (alcoholic cardiomyopathy) leading to heart failure
  • Stroke or High blood pressure
  • Liver disease
  • It increases Suicidal thoughts and also due to disinhibtory effect , risk of suicide increases many folds
  • Accidental serious injury or death due to driving under the influence
  • Brain damage and other problems in an unborn child
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome, life threatening condition of remains untreated includes hyperthermia , arrhythmia and seizures.

Barbiturates, benzodiazepines and hypnotics (Sleep Medications)

Drugs such as barbiturates, benzodiazepines and hypnotics are prescribed to treat sleeping related issues .

They’re frequently used and misused in search for a sense of relaxation or to forget stress-related thoughts.

  • Barbiturates: include phenobarbital and secobarbital (Seconal).
  • Benzodiazepines: include sedatives, such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin) .These are frequently misused drugs.
  • Hypnotics: include medications such as zolpidem (Ambien) and zaleplon (Sonata).

Signs and symptoms of recent use can include:

  • Increased Drowsiness
  • Obvious Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination
  • Irritability or severe changes in mood
  • Difficulty in concentrating or thinking clearly
  • Memory related problems
  • Slowed breathing and reduced blood pressure
  • Frequent Falls or accidents
  • Dizziness

Meth, cocaine and other stimulants

Stimulant includes amphetamines, meth (methamphetamine), cocaine, methyl-phenidate (Ritalin) etc

They are often used and misused in order to boost energy, to improve performance at work or school or even to lose weight .

Signs and symptoms  include:

  • Feeling of excess confidence
  • Feeling alert at the start of drug intake
  • Increased energy levels and restlessness
  • Sudden Behaviour changes or aggression
  • Rapid speech
  • Dilated pupils
  • Confusion or hallucinations
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Sudden changes in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
  • Nausea or vomiting plus weight loss
  • Impaired judgment
  • Nasal congestion
  • Mouth sores, and tooth decay from smoking drugs (“meth mouth”)
  • Insomnia, unable to sleep for 24hrs or even more
  • Downer (Depression as the drug wears off)

Club drugs

Club drugs are mostly  used at clubs, concerts and rave parties. Examples include ecstasy or molly (MDMA), gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) or  flunitrazepam ( roofie) and ketamine.

These drugs don’t include in the same category, but they share some similar effects.

Because GHB and flunitrazepam  causes sedation, muscle relaxation, confusion and memory loss, the potential for sexual misconduct or sexual assault is increased with the use of these drugs.

Signs and symptoms  include:

  • Detailed Hallucinations
  • Extreme Paranoia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Chills and sweating
  • Involuntary shaking (tremors)
  • Behavior changes , anger outbursts or acting weird
  • Muscle cramping and teeth clenching
  • Muscle relaxation, poor coordination
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Heightened or altered sense of sight, sound and taste
  • Poor judgment
  • Memory problems or loss of memory
  • Impaired consciousness
  • Increased or decreased heart rate and blood pressure


Use of hallucinogens can produce different signs and symptoms, depending on the drug. The most common hallucinogens are lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) etc

LSD use causes:

  • Hallucinations
  • Vivid kr false perception of reality, for example, interpreting input from one of your senses as another, such as hearing colors
  • Impulsive behavior
    • Rapid shifts in emotions
    • Permanent mental changes in perception
    • Rapid heart rate and high blood pressure
    • Tremors
    • Flashbacks, a re-experience of the hallucinations — even years later
    InhalantsSigns and symptoms of varies depending on the substance.Commonly inhaled substances include glue, paint thinners, correction fluid, felt tip marker fluid, gasoline, cleaning fluids.Due to the toxic nature , users can develop brain damage or sudden death.Signs and symptoms of use include:
    • Possessing an inhalant substance without a reasonable explanation
    • Euphoria or intoxication
    • Decreased inhibition
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Involuntary eye movements
    • Intoxicated with slurred speech or poor coordination
    • Irregular heartbeats
    • Tremors
    • Odour of inhalant material from clothes or room
    • Rash around the nose and mouth
    Opioid use and opioid  painkillersOpioids are narcotic and painkilling drugs produced from opium or made synthetically.This class of drugs includes heroin (illegal street drug), nelbine,  morphine (used in pain management of severe diseases such as surgeries and cancer etc ), codeine, methadone and oxycodone (are used in cough suppressants ).Signs and symptoms can include:
    • Reduced sense of pain
    • Drowsiness or sedation
    • Slurred speech
    • Problems with attention and memory
    • Constricted pupils
    • Lack of awareness or inattention to surrounding people .
    • Impaired coordination
    • Depression
    • Confusion
    • Constipation or diarrhea
    • Runny nose (if snorting drugs)
    • Needle marks (if injecting drugs)
    When to seek emergency helpSeek emergency help if you or someone you know following signs or symptoms:
    • Feeling or having appearance of overdosed
    • Shows changes in consciousness levels
    • Trouble breathing
    • Seizures or convulsions
    • Signs of a possible heart attack, such as sharp chest pain or pressure
    • Other physical or psychological reaction to use of the drug
    Staging an interventionPeople struggling with addiction problem usually deny that their drug use is problematic and always reluctant to seek any help.An intervention should be planned carefully and might be done by family and friends in consultation with a doctor.CausesLike other mental health disorders, several factors may contribute to drug addiction.The main factors are:
    • Environmental factors including your family’s or friend’s  beliefs and attitudes
    • Once you’ve started using a drug, progression into addiction can be influenced by inherited (genetic) traits, which may delay or speed up the course.
    Changes in the brainPhysical addiction mostly appears to occur after repeated use of a drug, it  changes the way your brain feels pleasure. The drug causes physical changes to some nerve cells (neurons) and neurotransmitters levels,  in your brain.Risk factorsPeople belonging to any age, sex or economic status, can become addicted to a drug.Certain factors increase the  likelihood and speed of developing an addiction:
    • Family history of addiction.Drug addiction is more common in some families and likely involves genetic predisposition.
    • Mental health disorder.If you are suffering from a mental health disorder such as depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or post-traumatic stress disorder, you’re more likely to become addicted to drugs.
    • Using drugs can become a way of coping with painful feelings, such as anxiety, depression etc.
    • Peer pressure.Peer pressure is a strongest factor in start of  drugs use,  particularly in young people.
    • Lack of family involvement.
    Difficult family situations or lack of a bond with your parents or siblings may increase the risk of addiction.
    • Early use.Using drugs at an relatively early age can cause changes in the developing brain and increase  the likelihood of progressing to drug addiction.
     Life-changing complicationsDependence on drugs can create a number of dangerous life altering  complications, including:
    • Getting a communicable disease.Getting an infectious disease, such as HIV, either through unsafe sex or by sharing needles.
    • Mental issues: Drug induced mental disorders such as Drug Induced Mania/ Psychosis (odd behviours, seeing or hearing thing or being violent, talking to self ) even after the effect of taken substance, has gone.
    • Addicted persons are more  prone to accidents or do other dangerous activities while under the influence.
    • Addicted persons die by suicide more often than others.
    • Family problems.Behavioral changes may cause marital or family conflicts.
    • Work issues.Drug use  causes decline in performance at work .
    • Problems at school.Drug use affects negatively affect academic performance and motivation to excel in school.
    • Legal issues.Legal problems are common for drug users such as encounters with police for having illegal drugs or violence.
    • Financial problems.Spending most of  money to support drug use  could lead to debt, and can lead to illegal or unethical behaviours such as stealing or prostitution.
    PreventionThe best and easiest way to prevent an addiction to a drug is not to sit in company of friends who take it or see psychiatrist in case of depression or anxiety etc.If your doctor prescribes a drug with the potential for addiction, use it care and follow the instructions provided by your doctor.Preventing drug misuse in teenagers and adults Take these steps to help prevent drug misuse :
    • Communicate: Educate and talk to your children about the risks of drug use and misuse.
    • Listen:Become a good listener, when your children talk about peer pressure, and be supportive.
    • Set a good example: Children of parents who misuse drugs are at greater risk of drug addiction. So set a good example.
    TreatmentFirst step: Detoxification and Rehabilitation:This includes admitting in drug rehabilitation centre .The stay time varies on the nature of addictive substance , quantity and duration of drug usage .Medications:Managing withdrawals:Further treatment is to manage the withdrawal symptoms depending on the nature of drug use .Most commonly includes mood changes , anger outbursts, sleep disturbance , appetite related changes such as nausea, vomiting  or body pains, shivering etcThese signs and symptoms are  treated symptomatically .Patients are given pain killers , sleep medications or mood stabilizers and even small amounts of antipsychotics .Psychotherapy:This includes regular psychotherapy sessions while being admitted and later on after discharge, from the facility.1.Developing Insight: Patient is made aware of the fact , he or she needs treatment and suffering from a disease called addiction.2.Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Patients are engaged in daily psychotherapy sessions to change patterns of thinking and consequently, their behaviours.3.Relaxation and Physical Exercises:This includes deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation techniques to help patients relax.4.Anger Management Therapy: This aims to help patient controlling his anger related issues  such as physical or verbal abuse.5.Stress Coping and Problem Solving Techniques: This helps patients to solve the problems in life which are main reasons to use drugs.6.Relapse Prevention: In this patients are  made aware, how to cope with the triggers of drug use and minimize the chances of relapse by sticking to treatment plan as advised by psychiatrist and psychotherapist.FAQ’sIs Addiction even a disease or can it be cured?Mostly people ,who are using drugs or theirs families often ask, is it even a problem? .Yes , it is far worse problem than they think as it involves decline not only in their lives but also in their families involving personal relationships, financial issues and occupation.But good news is this, it is curable and people can turn back to living a normal life.