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Drug Addiction: Signs and Symptoms, Interventions, Causes, Risk Factors, & Treatments

While there is a huge stigma around substance use disorder, more commonly referred to as drug addiction, the truth is this condition is a disease that affects an individual’s mental state and behavior when it comes to the use of medications or drugs. It’s important to note, marijuana, nicotine, as well as alcohol are also considered drugs that people are addicted to, where individuals will continue to use these substances regardless of the known health causes.

For some, drug addiction begins with the experimental use of substances, which becomes more frequent; for others, drug addiction starts with prescribed medications, especially when it comes to opioids.

Drug addiction risk and how quickly some become addicted depends on the substances; for example, painkillers like opioids are highly addictive and individuals tend to rely on these types of drugs at a quicker time pace, the same can be said for drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Still, drug abuse in general starts off with occasional use, then use becomes more frequent, then it feels as if a person needs to the drug to simply feel good, or not have to go through body withdrawal symptoms.

Below are some signs and symptoms of drug addiction, interventions, causes, risk factors, and treatments.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of drug addiction include:

  • A feeling of ‘needing’ to use said drug daily, sometimes several times each day.
  • Wanting the drug and partaking in usage occupies thoughts daily
  • Needing more of the substance to feel the same effect as the first time you used, becomes a reoccurring thing
  • Intake of larger amounts over a longer period of time then intended
  • Ensuring you have a good supply of said substance on hand at all times
  • Spending money you may not have on the drug
  • Not meeting work responsibilities or obligations because of the drug
  • Cutting back on social activities because of drug use
  • Continuing to use the substance, despite knowing that it is creating issues in your life
  • Doing things you normally wouldn’t do to score your drug of choice (i.e. stealing)
  • Most of your days are spent gaining access to the substance, using it, and recovering from the drug
  • Feeling withdrawal symptoms when you try and stop taking the substance

Signs and symptoms of drug abuse that you can see within friends or family members include:

Issues At School: If your friend or family member attends high school or college, frequently missing school, with disinterest in homework and other school activities can be a sign of a drug abuse issue, especially if you see a drop in grades.

Issues At Work: for those who go to work and are not in school anymore, missing a vast amount of work days, and a drop in work performance can be a sign that there is a substance abuse issue lingering.

Health Issues: Lack of motivation, energy, weight loss (or gain), as well as red eyes are all symptoms around this condition.

Appearance: Lacks interest in their grooming, appearance, and overall look.

Behavioral Changes: Extreme efforts around not allowing friends or family to enter their rooms or living spaces, being secretive, or drastic changes when it comes to family and social relationships.

Money Issues: When friends or family suddenly ask for money without giving a reasonable explanation, or they are constantly behind in their bills. You may also notice money had been stolen from your home or that money has disappeared.


Those who have a drug addiction often have use issues when it comes to seeking help. An intervention is when someone close to the addict offers a structured meeting to help them get treatment before things get worse in their life, due to the addiction

An intervention is carefully planned and can be done by friends and family together with a doctor, drug and alcohol counselor, or by an interventional professional. Family, friends, and anyone who cares about the person dealing with addiction gather together to have direct conversations with said abuser to talk about the consequences of the use and request that they accept treatment help.


There are many underlying causes to substance abuse, which include:

Environment: Factors like your peer group and family values around acceptance of drug use can be a factor when it comes to addiction.

Genetics: Once a person starts using drugs, their addiction development might be shaped by some inherited traits and genetics that can speed up the addiction and delay treatment.

Risk factors

Risk factors around drug addiction include:

Family History: Drug addiction simply runs in some families, this is often due to genetic predisposition.

Mental Health: Those with mental health disorders – i.e. attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, post-traumatic stress disorder – are likelier to become addicted to drugs, as substances can act as a venue to cope with hard feelings like depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Sadly though, while some think the drugs can make them feel better, they only end up feeling worse, thanks to the substance.

Peer Pressure: This is a strong factor when it comes to drug use, especially for younger adults.

Family: Some family situations can be difficult, and those with a lack of family bond with siblings or parents increase their chances around addiction.

Early Use: Using substances at a younger age can create changes in one’s brain, increasing the likelihood of drug addiction.


While there is no cure for substance abuse, treatments can help a person overcome their addiction. Treatment options depend on the type of drug used, and other factors like mental health issues and medical conditions.

Below are some treatments when it comes to drug addiction:

Chemical Dependence Treatment Programs

Programs such as these offer patients: family, individual or group therapy sessions; an increased understanding when it comes to the root of addiction and becoming drug-free (and avoiding relapse); as well as levels of care when it comes to the differing needs of patients, including residential, inpatient, and outpatient programs.


As referred to as ‘detox’ the goal of this therapy is to have the patient stop taking the drug as safely and quickly as possible. While some people may be able to detox via an outpatient program, others might require checking into a residential treatment center or hospital to help with detoxification.

Behavior Therapy

This therapy works hand-in-hand with a drug treatment program and is performed by a psychiatrist or psychologist as a form of psychotherapy. This type of counselling and therapy can be done in a group setting, individual, or with family.

Self-Help Groups

The support around knowing you aren’t alone in your addiction journey is a powerful thing and helps to counter off any feelings of isolation or shame that is often linked to substance abuse disorders. The main message of a self-help support group is that relapse is always a danger and around the corner.