Have you suddenly noticed behavior or physical changes affecting someone you love and you are concerned? If you’re reading this, chances are you’re concerned about someone you care about deeply who might be struggling with addiction. First and foremost, taking the initiative to recognize the early signs of addiction and seek help for your loved one or someone close to you may ultimately save their life. 

Recognizing the early signs of addiction is crucial in providing the support and intervention that your loved one needs. In this guide, I will walk you through recognizing the 7 early signs of addiction and address some key indicators to watch for. This guide is intended to offer insights into what specific behaviors and changes you should be attentive to if you suspect your loved one may be suffering from an addiction.

Changes in Behavior

One of the most telling signs of addiction is a noticeable shift in behavior. Although behavior changes are one of the simplest signs to detect, they can be the most difficult to understand if the behavior change is related to a possible addiction. The top 3 key behavior changes that may indicate an alcohol or drug addiction problem are: 

  1. Sudden Mood Swings
  2. Extreme Irritability
  3. Unexplained Agitation

People who are battling an alcohol or drug addiction may also become increasingly secretive or withdrawn and isolate themselves from friends and family. Pay attention to any significant changes in their demeanor or personality, as addiction often alters a person’s behavior in noticeable ways.

Physical Symptoms

Just as changes in behavior may shift, substance abuse also often leaves physical traces that can be observed by those closest to the individual. Symptoms such as dilated or constricted pupils, bloodshot eyes, or tremors in the hands are common indicators of alcohol or drug addiction. These physical symptoms most generally occur at the same time and the combination of them can be a strong indicator of an addiction problem. You might also notice slurred speech, impaired coordination, or changes in appetite and weight. These physical signs can be indicative of ongoing substance abuse and should not be ignored.

Social and Occupational Impact 

Addiction can take a toll on a person’s social and occupational functioning as they become dependent on substances and begin to suffer from some of the behavior and physical symptoms above. Take note if your loved one begins to neglect their responsibilities at work or school, showing a decline in performance or attendance. This is especially important to note if the neglect and decline in performance are outside of their typical characteristics.  

They may also lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and begin to prioritize substance use over other obligations. Disruptions in their social relationships or significant changes in their social circle are also strong indicators as they may form a new social circle of people who are engaging in similar substance use activities. 

Financial Difficulties

Substance abuse often leads to financial strain as individuals prioritize obtaining and using drugs or alcohol over other expenses. Watch for signs of financial instability, such as frequent borrowing or stealing money, unexplained expenses, or difficulty managing finances. Your loved one may also sell their personal belongings or engage in illegal activities to support their addiction.

Relationship Problems 

Addiction can cause significant strain on relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners. Take note if your loved one experiences frequent conflicts or tension within relationships, exhibits defensive or hostile behavior when confronted about their substance use, or withdraws from social interactions altogether. These relational changes can be indicative of underlying issues related to addiction.

Changes in Routine

Substance abuse often disrupts a person’s daily routine and habits. If your loved one starts staying out late without explanation, sleeping at irregular hours, or exhibiting erratic behavior; this could be a sign of an addiction problem. They may also lose interest in previously important commitments or activities, prioritizing substance use over other responsibilities.

Physical and Psychological Dependence 

If your loved one is expressing some of the indicators above, but you are unsure if those behaviors are related to addiction or another outside stressor, the strongest indicator is that of a physical or psychological dependence. As their addiction progresses, your loved one may develop a physical and psychological dependence on the substance. Watch for signs of withdrawal when they attempt to cut back or stop using alcohol or drugs.  

The 4 most common withdrawal signs are: 

  1. Nausea 
  2. Headaches
  3. Anxiety
  4. Insomnia 

They may also express a persistent craving or preoccupation with obtaining and using the substance, indicating a deeper reliance on it to cope with life’s challenges. Although you may be afraid of approaching your loved one with your concerns, it’s important to approach these signs with empathy, compassion, and a willingness to seek help. 

Addiction is a complex and challenging journey for both the person suffering from the addiction and their loved ones. With the right support and intervention, recovery is possible. If your loved one is experiencing one or more of the 7 Early Signs of Addiction, it may be time to seek help from a licensed interventionist to help you navigate options to approach your loved one and get them the appropriate help towards recovery. Here at Living Recovery Interventions I’m a professional intervention specialist in Billings, Montana, and provide tailored services to families and individuals that are experiencing alcohol and drug addictions nationwide.  With my expertise and compassionate approach, I can guide your loved one towards the path of healing and recovery, wherever you are located. 

Lastly, it is important to remember that you are not alone in this journey. Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or support groups for assistance and guidance. Together, this support group can provide the love, support, and understanding that your loved one needs to overcome addiction and reclaim their life.