How to Spot Early Signs of Addiction

Addiction, like any disease, does more damage the longer it festers. The sooner you identify a problem and begin treating it, the sooner the affected people can get on the road to recovery.

Here are a few of the early tell-tale signs that can help you spot a person battling addiction and get them the help they need.


Look for Shifts in Personality

When someone begins experimenting with addictive drugs regularly, their behavior will likely change. This change happens for a few different reasons.

To start, those dealing with addiction typically try to hide their substance use from the people that care about them. If you notice a family member acting in suspicious or unusual ways, take note of this. Do they disappear for periods and provide no reason? Are they spending substantial amounts of money that they can’t explain to you? Are they unusually hyper, fatigued, or exhibiting erratic mood swings?

Additionally, illicit substances themselves can have significant effects on personality. If someone shows a lack of care for important aspects of their life, like friendships, family obligations, or career, this is a sign that they may be fixating on a substance.

If these symptoms sound familiar, it may be time to look at programs with or other addiction recovery centers. That way, you’ll have the knowledge you need when the time comes to intervene.

Notice Changes in Health

Over 70,000 Americans died from a drug-related overdose in 2019 alone, and evidence suggests that more and more of those deaths are due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. As the access to dangerous, highly addictive drugs like fentanyl continues to rise, it is more important now than ever to know the warning signs of addiction.

Some of the major changes you’ll notice are in a person’s health. Key physical characteristics of drug use include sudden changes in weight, bloodshot eyes, and unhealthy-looking hair, teeth, nails, or skin. If someone has unexplained injuries or appears to get sick frequently, this can also point to substance use.

You may also observe trembling, sweating, or vomiting if a person is experiencing withdrawal from a substance. If an addiction has escalated to this point, compassionately support that person in seeking professional help. Never place blame or shame on the person for their addiction in the process.

Know the Risk Factors

Addiction typically does not come out of nowhere. It is often a response to other circumstances in someone’s life. To proactively support a family member or someone in your community who may be at risk of developing an addiction, you need to understand the risk factors.

A family history of drug use or severe trauma experienced in childhood are major risk factors. The use of illicit drugs is not specific to one demographic of the population. Still, there is statistical evidence that some groups use illicit substances more than others, particularly men between the ages of 16-34. The more you know, the better chance you’ll be able to step in and offer support before things get out of hand.


Addiction is a dangerous disease that merits the same support and compassionate approach to healing as any other disease. If you can spot the signs early, you can increase the likelihood of a smooth recovery.

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