Addiction has touched thousands of families, and it seems like it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Addiction is not limited by demographics or geographical location. It can affect anyone anywhere. Fortunately, there are drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers all over the United States that are committed to helping people who are struggling to overcome a substance use disorder (SUD).

However, sometimes the lines between “one too many” and addiction can be difficult to discern.

Especially in the early stages, it can be difficult to tell if addiction treatment is really necessary for you or a loved one.

However, catching an SUD early often leads to more favorable outcomes. Plus, the less time you spend in active addiction, the less likely you are to experience severe consequences like infectious diseases, legal issues, and health concerns. If you or someone you know is using prescription drugs, alcohol, or illicit drugs excessively, it’s worth knowing the signs of addiction.

Addiction treatment that employs evidence-based therapies is the safest and most effective way for someone with a substance use disorder to achieve long-term sobriety and recovery. Learn more about the signs and symptoms that might reveal a need for addiction treatment services.


Substance use disorders are officially defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is the handbook that helps doctors and psychiatric professionals identify and diagnose mental health issues.

Before 2013, drug abuse and substance dependence were in two separate categories. From a biological standpoint, this separation makes sense. Dependence is a term that describes a chemical imbalance in the brain whereas abuse doesn’t necessarily point to anything biological.

However, in the fifth edition of the DSM, abuse and dependency were combined into substance abuse disorders (SUD).The disorder can be broken up into specific categories like opioid use disorder or alcohol use disorder. SUDs can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on a set of criteria.

If you use alcohol excessively, to the point of binge drinking or if you use medication or an illicit drug recreationally, it can be considered substance abuse. You may also be abusing a substance if you use them to self-medicate outside of a doctor’s recommendation. Abuse without dependence may be considered a mild SUD, but it still should be addressed as soon as possible.


If you have been using a chemical substance like alcohol, prescriptions, or illicit drugs, there are a number of signs that may be able to tell you that you need addiction treatment. The first sign that a drug is starting to cause changes in your brain and body is tolerance. It’s often a point of pride in social drinking to be able to handle more alcohol than other people.

However, it means that your central nervous system is starting to become used to the foreign substance in your system. As tolerance builds, your brain is producing chemicals to counteract the effects of the drug to balance brain chemistry.

Some drugs will cause tolerance to quickly grow into dependence, which is the next sign that you might be developing a substance use disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “dependence develops when the neurons adapt to the repeated drug exposure and only function normally in the presence of the drug.”

That means your body grows to rely on the drug to maintain normalcy. You will notice an emerging dependence if you miss a dose or try to stop using. When your body stops receiving as much of the drug as it used to, your nervous system will become unbalanced, causing painful or uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms can be mild, but if you stop abruptly, they can become more severe. However, the severity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on the type of drug you were taking, the dosage that you were used to, and the length of time you were taking the drug. They also will be affected by whether you were using the drug with other substances at the same time.The next sign that you may need addiction recovery is when a chemical dependence leads to a deeper addiction. Though they are often used interchangeably, addiction and dependence have some distinctions. Addiction is defined by the continued, compulsive use of a drug despite serious consequences as a result of drug use. This could refer to failing health, problems in your relationships, or job loss. If you are compelled to use a substance even when you know it will do more harm than good, you may be closer to the severe end of the substance use disorder spectrum.


In many cases, friends and family members realize that a loved one is struggling with a SUD even before they do. Again, recognizing the signs of a SUD early can help avoid some of the more costly consequences of addiction. In the very early stages, addiction or substance abuse might be hard to recognize in another person.

They may be able to hide it for a time, but eventually, it will be difficult to keep a secret. Addiction will manifest in other areas of a person’s life, from failing work and school performance to exhibiting physical symptoms. If you think a friend or family member might be struggling with a particular substance, look for these symptoms:

  • Loss of control
  • Reckless behavior
  • Obsessive thoughts and actions
  • Lying about drug or alcohol use
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Legal trouble
  • Physical changes
  • Delusions


Drug use is going to affect everyone differently, but there are physical signs to be aware of in yourself or a loved one. Whatever the reason a person starts using drugs, an addiction can develop before someone realizes it. Unfortunately, all socioeconomic statuses can be affected, and it can lead to an array of problems. Some of the most recognizable symptoms of substance abuse are physical. Some of the most common physical changes include:

  • Bloodshot or hazy eyes
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Changes in hygiene
  • Dirty clothes
  • Poor physical conditions
  • Disturbing body odors
  • Abrupt changes in weight


Drug use tends to alter behaviors and habits, and it can impair the brain’s ability to focus and think clearly. Some of the most common behavioral changes in someone who needs drug treatment include:

  • Depressive tendencies
  • Lethargy
  • Increasingly aggressive or irritable
  • Changes in social network (such as new friends in the wrong crowd)
  • Changes in daily habits (having different priorities)
  • Criminal activity


If you feel someone you love has become addicted to drugs, speak up and voice your concerns to the person in question. Be supportive, and try not to pass judgment, but you can’t wait for them to hit rock bottom. You must take care of yourself—don’t get caught up in someone else’s drug problem. That is a recipe for disaster. Lastly, you must avoid self-blame. You have the option to support someone to enter treatment, but you cannot control their decisions.


Professional addiction treatment often starts with medical detoxification. In cases where there is a clear medical or psychological condition that needs to be addressed with highly intensive care, medical detox is the best option.

Drugs such as benzodiazepines or alcohol, which suppress the central nervous system, can cause potentially deadly symptoms during withdrawal require medical interventions to ensure a safe detox. Other drugs, like opioids, are less likely to be fatal in withdrawal, but they can cause extremely uncomfortable flu-like symptoms and dehydration, which can be dangerous.

In detox, you will receive 24-hour care for about a week. During that time, medical professionals will ensure you are safe as you go through detox, and they will do their best to minimize and uncomfortable symptoms. After detox, clinicians will work with you to find the best addiction treatment options for continued addiction treatment.

Addiction treatment is a complex, individualized process designed to help you get to the bottom of the underlying issues that lead to your addiction. Through this process, you will learn coping strategies to prevent relapse and any co-occurring mental health issues will be addressed. Your treatment may include a variety of therapy options that are designed to help you reach your goals.

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