Identifying Addiction

How can you tell the difference between regular drug use and a drug problem? We review the basics of identifying addiction here.

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Q: How to identify alcoholism?

A: Medical doctors or licensed psychologists diagnose alcoholism.

This process usually involves a physical and psychological examination – doctors will usually ask specific questions about their patient’s alcohol use to determine if they have a problem. But even then, alcoholics may not tell the entire truth. Fortunately, there are few common signs to help identify if a person is addicted to alcohol:

  • a “need” for alcohol to function or get through a day
  • alcohol withdrawal symptoms when a person does not drink for some time
  • avoiding activities and situations that don’t involve alcohol
  • failed attempts to quit drink despite the problems it causes
  • family, work, school, or legal problems caused by alcohol
  • hiding alcohol use
  • increased tolerance to alcohol
  • mood swings
  • making excuses to drink

More on the signs and signals of alcohol problems here:

Q: How to identify drug abuse

A: There are a number of physical and behavioral signs that can indicate that a person is struggling with drug abuse.

Some of the most common signs are listed below.

  • anxiety and irritability
  • changes in attitude or friends with no identifiable cause or reason
  • confusion
  • constant need for money
  • hyperactivity or lethargy
  • mood swings
  • needle marks
  • physical withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug
  • poor work or school performance
  • preoccupation with doing or obtaining drugs
  • problems with coordination
  • red eyes
  • runny nose
  • tremors and shakiness
  • unusual weight loss or weight gain

More on identifying drug problems here:

Q: How to identify a drug addict?

A: Identifying drug users and drug addicts can be obvious.

But sometimes it isn’t that easy to distinguish use from abuse, and you may have to look hard for signs. Fortunately, there are a number of signs you can watch for, both physical and behavioral. The list below contains some of the signs to help you tell if someone is a drug user or drug addict.

  • bloodshot eyes
  • dilated or constricted pupils for short time
  • needle marks and similar evidence on the body
  • frequent absenteeism or tardiness to school or work
  • frequent confusion
  • hostility when confronted about drug use
  • lackadaisical attitude toward personal hygiene
  • mood swings
  • preoccupation with using or finding drugs
  • shakiness or tremors
  • spends the majority of their time using or recovering from the effects of drugs
  • unable or unwilling to quit using drugs despite financial, family, health and legal problems

More on who needs to see help for drug problems here:

Q: How to identify prescription drug addict?

A: Prescription drug addiction may be difficult to spot at first, but it’s important to identify it early.

Treating this addiction in the early stages increases the chances of a successful recovery, and minimizes the damage that addicts can do to themselves and others. However, there are some common signs of a prescription drug addict, listed below:

  • defensive actions when confronted about drug usage
  • doctor shopping, frequent trips to emergency rooms, claims of lost or stolen prescriptions and similar drug-seeking behavior
  • exaggerating symptoms to get more of the drug
  • inability to cut back on or quit using the drug
  • inability to perform daily tasks or participate in activities due to drug usage
  • mood swings
  • preoccupation with obtaining the drug
  • taking prescription medications at higher doses or more frequently than necessary
  • withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not taken

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About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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